10 January 2017

In the mid-1800s, Slaves Were Insured – Were Your Ancestors?


In the mid-1800s, Slaves Were Insured – Were Your Ancestors?
Though we cannot rewrite history nor go back and abolish the slave trade that existed, documentation about slaves before emancipation can prove a gold mine for descendants as they research their enslaved ancestors.

We’ve frequently talked about the records of the Freedmen’s Bureau as a traditionally much-underutilized resource that exists for the immediate post-Civil War time period with frequent mentions of “owners” and “slaves.” We’ve also in the past talked about the concept of slaves being insured and/or used as collateral -- Slaves were used as collateral with banks and were sometimes insured; invaluable records when extant (Dec 2013).

I was reminded of the latter when reading Insurance Policies on Slaves: New York life’s Complicated Past (The New York Times).

Just a reminder to check out these types of records.  Do recognize that many insurance companies came and went (often decades if not a century ago) and so not all records do survive.  For example, I’ve found a paucity of records for NC insurance companies of the time, though newspaper advertisements make it clear that the companies were offering policies on slaves.  The Upfront with NGS article from 2013 lists all the registries and related that I have identified and the list appears to be unchanged.









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