TRINIDAD SLAVE REGISTERS
For the many people of slave descent in Trinidad, researching the slave registers may add to the family history. The registers
provide useful personal information on the enslaved people. From the Triennial Returns, the researcher learns whether the
individual is a personal slave, lives in Port-of Spain, etc or works on a named plantation. The enslaved person’s tribe or
country of origin, eg Ibo or Mandingo, or Creole of Martinique is also listed.
In March 1812 an Order in Council introduced the compulsory registration of all enslaved people in Trinidad, the first
registration ending in December 1813. The Order stated that the legal ownership of an enslaved person was dependent on
prior registration. Any subsequent changes, as a result of sale, manumission, birth or death, etc were to be recorded in the
owner’s subsequent returns. The Order in Council stated that the registrar of slaves should not own any slaves; however,
this stipulation was not strictly enforced. Duplicates of the Trinidad Slave Registers were forwarded to the Slave Registry in
London. These are now deposited at the National Archives, Kew.
In 1813 the majority of enslaved people in Trinidad were born in Africa. Most free people, including the free 'blacks' and free
'coloureds', owned at least one enslaved person as a servant, sometimes a relative. The average slave owner had only
seven slaves. It has been reported that, in the same year, 25% of all Trinidad's enslaved people lived in Port of Spain.
The Returns indicate when the individuals are part of a family, listing any brothers and sisters. Mothers are noted in the
returns but fathers are rarely recorded. The nature of the enslaved person’s employment, eg carpenter, mason or servant, is
given along with their age, height and whether they have any distinctive features or marks.
Following the initial Return, there is a section on Corrections, which is found in all the subsequent Triennial Returns. This
notes any increases in the numbers of enslaved people through births, inheritance and purchases or decreases through
deaths, bequests, sales and manumissions. Importantly, the name of an enslaved person who died since the previous
Return is listed.
Although, the Returns list the names of the slave owners, they do not provide the personal data as with the enslaved people.
Additional clues on slave and free coloured ancestry may be found, particularly, in the registers of Trinity Cathedral and the
Some of the original, hard copy Trinidad slave registers are held at the National Archives of Trinidad & Tobago (NATT).
However, it is impossible to tell from the NATT website its specific holdings of either the personal or plantation slave
registers. Consequently, T 71/504 (Trinidad Slave Register 1813 Personal Slaves Index to Slaves & Owners) and T 71/505
(Trinidad Slave Register 1813 Plantation Slaves Index), may or may not be available. The latter contains the first surname
index of slaves and an alphabetic list of plantation names, giving the first Folio Number.
Contrary to the NATT website, there was no break in the registration from 1816 to 1819 and the Protector of Slaves was not
the creator. It was the Registrar of Slaves, acting for the Registry of Colonial Slaves.
Microfilms of most Trinidad slave registers, except T 71/504 & T 71/505 (both critical) are also held at the
West Indiana Library (UWI), St. Augustine, under the entry:
At the National Archives, Kew, UK (NA, Kew) there is a complete, duplicate set of the original Trinidad slave registers. They
cover the years 1813-1834 and are listed under reference T71/501 to T71/519.
The above National Archives, Kew reference numbers and register titles, obtained from the NA Kew website, give little help
in deciding how to proceed. The term 'index' gives no indication of what has been indexed. In most of the volumes, there is a
surname index for each owner, giving his or her full name and also that of the enslaved people, but only where there has
been a correction to the previous Triennial Return. These indexes do not give the names of either all owners or all enslaved
people during a particular year when the Returns were being compiled.
For further information, see:
Trinidad Slave Registers Research
There has been little detailed comprehensive research on the Trinidad slave registers by historians, and their value for family
history research also remains largely undiscovered.
Most Returns from the Caribbean colonies list slaves by gender and then by age, but some, such as St Lucia and Trinidad list
enslaved people in families (usually headed by the mother) and often record the relationship with other family members if
they are on the same Return. However, it has been reported that some of the Trinidad Slave Register Returns give the name
of the father of a child.
Trinidad Slave Registration: The Historical Context
If you wish to learn more of the historical conext of slave registration in Trinidad, it is suggested you read pages 19-39 of
chapter 2 (The Process of Slave Registration) in Noel Titus’ excellent research.
Trinidad Slave Registers Online
If you have managed to trace back to slavery days, ie prior to 1834, you should check out the website of Ancestry, UK which
states that it has digitised all the Trinidad Slave Registers. The National Archives, Kew microfilms were used for the
digitisation process. Unfortunately, it has been reported that a poor quality microfilm image, in a number of instances, has
inevitably resulted in some unreadable digital images, when it is known that the original page, in the hard copy volume, is
Ancestry, UK, at the present time, does not use the National Archives, Kew reference numbers to identify which pieces are
online. Only the Trinidad pieces below appear to be ‘fully’ online and they are not accessible in the same manner as the
original volumes and microfilm copies. This can be problematic for historians who wish to access the slave registers by T71
number and in the way in which they were compiled.
It appears from the Public Record Office’ (National Archives, Kew) Slip on the far right of the second half of the Image that, in
respect of 1813 Personal Slaves, T 71/504, (Index to Slaves & Owners) is NOT online. Similarly, NOT online is the 1813
Plantation Slaves, T 71/505, the first Index volume containing
a) an introductory surname index of plantation slaves in 1813;
b) an alphabetic list of plantation names, giving the first Folio Number, and
c) a list of new plantations.