30 December 2013

Slaves were used as collateral with banks and were sometimes insured; invaluable records when extant

Recently on the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) members list there was a discussion about how slaves had been used as collateral with banks prior to the civil war.

This discussion also included reference to the insuring of slaves by their owners for damage to them or their death.

Though it is painful to be reminded that those who were enslaved were considered property, when you are researching ancestors who were enslaved or the families who owned these slaves, every bit of documentation can be invaluable to learning more about our ancestors.

I was familiar with slaves being insured and that some of the records are available to researchers which document this practice.  I was not familiar with slaves being used as collateral until I read this article Chase apologizes over use of slaves as collateral  (published in 2005). You can search on slaves + collateral + banks and you will find similar published statements from Wachovia (now Wells Fargo) and other banks as well as other financial institutions (e.g. Lehman Brothers).  Though there are some registries of information about insured slaves (see below), I have not identified any databases for slaves used as collateral.

Learn more about how to use the Slave Era Policies (AAIS via Viewpoint Magazine, 2012) to benefit your research.

Some resources for pursuing these records are:
+ Slavery Era Insurance Registry [California] – represents records from many insurance companies and slave owners from the bulk (if not all) of slaveholding states. Gives information on location, owner, policy type and company providing insurance.
+ Slavery Era Insurance Policies Registry [Illinois] – similar scope as the CA registry. I saw that some entries actually give a date of death for an enslaved individual as well as information on occupation, slave holder and location.
+ Report on Slavery Era Insurance [Iowa] – no data registry appears to have been created
+ Slavery Era Insurance Policy Report [Maryland] – no data registry appears to have been created
+ Slave Life Insurance in Virginia and North Carolina (via JSTOR) -- an article that you can access for free if you register for My JSTOR
+ [Virginia] Unknown No Longer (search results slave life insurance policies)
+ [North Carolina] Third Annual Report of the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company (1849) (search on slave & a few claims are listed)
+ Digital Library on American Slavery (subject = slave insurance)

Have you used these registries?

What did you learn?

Are you aware of other such resources?  If so, please share!

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