African American Resource Center
New Orleans Public Library

African American Genealogical Research in New Orleans
Slave Records

For African Americans who were enslaved in Louisiana prior to the Civil War, the search for ancestry is difficult, but not impossible. When conducting research in this period, a crucial part of your research will be the name or names of the family or families who owned your ancestors and relatives. Once you have identified such families, look up legal and financial information on them such as wills, marriage contracts, power of attorney, inventories of estates, and slave sales and purchases. Comb through this information for references on family-owned slaves. Information such as name of the enslaved, age, color, occupation, and family relations can be found in these documents. These records can be found in the parish courthouses in places where your ancestors and their owners lived as well as various archives and libraries. Many of these records have been microfilmed and can be found in the Louisiana Division of the NOPL.

Probate or succession records, wills and inventories of estates, usually list slaves as property. NOPL's Louisiana Division has microfilm copies of estate inventories and some wills from 1805-1895 (Estate inventories and sales after 1865 do not include slave property.)

Conveyance records are written instruments in which property is bought, sold, conveyed, etc. Slaves were considered property and slave sales were indexed like property. These records are indexed by vendor (seller) and vendee (buyer). The slave sale usually contains the names of the slave buyer, seller, and the name, age, and color of the slave. Sometimes the previous owner or owners and occupation are listed. These conveyance records can be found in the basement of the Civil Courts building.

Across the hall from the conveyance offices is the Notarial Archives, the repository for all notary records for Orleans Parish from 1769-present. The Notarial Archives contains wills, property transactions, slave sales, emancipation records of slaves, marriage contracts, partnerships, power of attorney, etc. Usually the conveyance books will indicate the notary’s act of the slave sale, which is the original record.

Go to Slave Manifests
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