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Using the Ancestry 1860 slave census images and index.

(This information is for Ancestry subscribers only. If you are not an Ancestry subscriber, you will not be able to view the images or use the index)


On October 6, 2004, Ancestry made available to its online subscribers an excellent resource for searching the 1860 slave census schedules. Ancestry subscribers can access the resource by selecting US census from the main search screen and then selecting 1860 slave. This resource has three functions.


The first function is a browser with images of the actual 1860 slave census schedules. Sixteen States are included plus the District of Columbia. After selecting the State and County, a page is shown with links to the first page of whatever township or other subdivisions were indicated on the census and/or possibly a link for pages where no subdivision was stated. The slave schedules previously were browseable, but not with subdivision links.


The second function is a slaveholder [“slave owner”]search, with an option for either “exact matches” (which actually includes surname soundex and wildcard options) or “best matches ranked” (which does not include a soundex or wildcard option). The fields available on the slaveholder search are first and last name, State, County and Township. There are no advanced search options available for this type of search. What is especially helpful on this search is that the names on the search result page are also links to a page listing the age, gender and race of each slave, and there is also a link to an image of the actual census page. Since the link to the actual image is so readily available, a researcher should look at the actual image to verify the name of the slaveholder and the information provided about the slaves, and to see what other information is included such as number of slave houses, names and status of any joint holders or employers, incompetence of any slaves or other information such as any plantation name, slave occupations and names of senior slaves.


The third function is totally new. It is a slave search. The fields available are slaveholder first and last names, either exact match or best matches ranked, with the same name search options as on the slaveholder search, slave age (with no age range option), gender and race. The slave search also includes the State, County and Township fields, which are accessed by selecting advanced search options. The results page shows any resulting slaveholder names as links which produce the same information as they do on the slaveholder search. An age range option would have saved some search steps, and searchers also need to be aware that some younger slave ages included fractional months, such as 1 6/12 for an 18 month old. Reported slave ages are notoriously inaccurate; also some slave census entries actually included slaves in a group on one line, such as 10 males black age 25.


Being a new resource, some links may not be working, but should be corrected when the broken links are reported. There also certainly are some transcribing errors and omissions. As with all indexes, these index searches should be used as an aid, rather than as an absolute answer.