Slave Insurance Registry

It is said anything can be insured for the right premium. Well, this was the case even for slaveholders of the southern states in the first half of the 19th century. Recently several of the archives from the old established insurance companies from the 1800s have been discovered by present-day insurance companies. In these archives was documentation of insurance coverage for slave owners for any damage to or death of their slaves – their property. The information gathered has been put into a searchable database.

?Such a treasure of information this represents for researchers of former slaves and for the descendants of former slave owners. There are a couple methods to research names. One is using the surname of a slave owner. All of it is in alphabetical order. First listing is the slave owner’s last name, then any givens names. Sometimes, there was several names (such as a family) or a business name provided. Next in the database was the county and state where the owner lived. Then in the column was the name (generally just one or two given names) of the slave being insured, both men and women. Several do have full names, some even different than the owner’s surname. Following in the next column would be where the slave lived, which was usually the same county and state, but occasionally it was in another county.

The fifth column provides some very interesting information. Here was additional identifying facts such as what position the slave held – like house servant, cook, field laborer, wheelwright, carpenter, or miner. In this same column some listings have the date of the policy, the age of the slave and how long they had been with that owner. A few notes have if a policy was paid due to the death of a slave, giving also the death date.

The last column was the name of the insurance company who submitted the database details. The states covered in the database range from Kentucky, Virginia, Arkansas, the Carolinas, Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama, Missouri and even the District of Columbia.

Another method to search is by a slave’s name. These columns have the same information just organized with slaves’ names.

These records do not include every slave because first there would have to be an insurance policy on them. Plus not all records were saved, many must have been lost or destroyed over the decades.

Besides online, the information can be saved as a PDF file.

Just for the historical review alone, this database is fascinating to read over, and makes you realize how at one time a human being was considered property – worthy of being insured.

Photo: Cotton field worker in Georgia.

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