Web site to post British colonial slave records online

Published April 28, 2007

LONDON - A genealogy Web site said Friday that it will post 3-million names of slaves held across the British Empire in the early 19th century, putting hundreds of thousands of pages of searchable information online to help slaves' descendants research their past.

The project will use registers that the British government created between 1813 and 1834 in an effort to stamp out the slave trade by ensuring plantation owners did not buy new slaves. Britain abolished the trade in 1807. Slavery itself was outlawed in the colonies 17 years later.

The 1834 Barbados Slave Register, one of the most exhaustive documents, was posted online by the site Friday.

Slaves generally left few written records, making it difficult for their descendants to reconstruct their lives, said Simon Ziviani, a spokesman for Ancestry.co.uk.

The site could help those outside Britain carry out research that might not have been possible otherwise, said Mia Morris, founder of www.blackhistory-month.co.uk.

Censuses of slaves and their owners, conducted every three years, were kept on site and copies submitted to the Office for the Registry of Colonial Slaves. After the office was disbanded, some 200, 000 pages of names were placed in the National Archives in Kew, in west London.

Researchers estimate tens of millions of African men, women and children were enslaved and shipped to the Caribbean and the Americas. Many were sent to British-controlled islands such as Barbados, Jamaica and the Bahamas, where they were forced to work in plantations.

Fast Facts:

On the Web

Ancestry.co.uk is part of a global network of genealogy sites providing over 5-billion records to the public. While some of its services are provided for free, members usually have to pay for access to census records.