In researching the history of estate ownership in the British Caribbean slave-colonies between 1763 and 1833, LBS has drawn on numerous fragmented sources, in contrast to the first phase of the project on compensation, which was based on a single large corpus of documents at The National Archives in Kew, the papers of the Slave Compensation Commission in the T71 series. As a result of the nature of the sources on compensation, we could make claims for the completeness of our data in the first phase of our work: in the second phase of work, focused on the estates, we cannot make those claims. Our histories of the estates are necessarily incomplete and will remain so even as we add new data in coming years. Again, the compensation records provided a single uniform source for all the colonies and allowed us to take a consistent approach across the Caribbean: in our recent work, the information for each colony is based on sources that differ colony to colony, and the quality and completeness of our data therefore varies from colony to colony.
However, the information we have captured is not random. We have set out below for each colony the key sources we have used, together with a brief discussion of the limitations of each of those sources. The consistent start-point for our work in all colonies has been the ‘Slave Registers’, the triennial censuses of enslaved people in each colony established at the insistence of the abolitionists to monitor illegal slave-trading after the abolition of Britain’s transatlantic slave-trade in 1807 (trading of enslaved people between colonies was subject to progressive restrictions in the course of the 1810s and 1820s). These Registers of the enslaved people - which are also held at TNA in Kew in the same T71 series as the compensation records - are limited but invaluable sources on the enslaved people, whose histories are otherwise in many cases completely lost. The Registers differ from colony to colony but at a minimum provide in the first Register in the series a list of the enslaved people by the names given to them in captivity, some indication of the place in which they were held, and a record of the person who made the registration. Subsequent Registers then generally show the changes in the numbers of the enslaved in each location, through births and deaths and through sales and purchases of enslaved individuals.
There is a very useful guide to the Slave Registers prepared by the National Archives and available at the UK Government Web Archive. You can read it here.
Before the period of the Registers of the enslaved people, we have necessarily relied on different primary and secondary sources to build histories of the estates, including details of land sales after 1763, periodic local censuses, and the wills of individuals: Jamaica had an additional series of documents not available for other colonies.
Overall, therefore, we have a series of discontinuous histories for the ownership of estates at specific dates within the period 1763-1833, rather than a continuous development of ownership for each estate over the full 70 year period. It is also important to recognise that in our work we have used a cut-off of 15 enslaved people: in other words, except where noted below for specific colonies, we have sought to capture all cases in which owners held 15 or more enslaved people. Around 80% of enslaved people were held in groups of 15 or more; and probably about 20% of the owners held such groups. We have treated all these groups of 15 or more as ‘estates’ in our current record-keeping: we will go through in future to try to identify where these were actually estates in the sense of land to which the enslaved people were attached, and where these instead were either groups of unattached enslaved fieldworkers, hired out as labour gangs, or groups of enslaved people working in industry and commerce, as skilled labourers or as servants, often in the urban economy.
Users of the LBS site who are working on the histories of their own family are likely to find especially helpful a guide by Guy Grannum of The National Archives, Tracing your Caribbean Ancestors (revised 3rd edition, 2012), on which we have drawn for the colony-by-colony summary backgrounds below.
Source discussions for Bahamas and Bermuda will be added shortly. To date, we have not analysed slave-ownership in Honduras, a non-estate economy oriented towards logging, especially of mahogany.
Below are notes on sources for the following colonies: click on the name to go to the relevant part:
Anguilla; Antigua; Barbados; British Guiana; Dominica; Grenada; Jamaica; Montserrat; Nevis; St Kitts (St Christopher); St Lucia; St Vincent and the Grenadines; Tobago; Trinidad; Virgin Islands
The northern most Leeward Island in the lesser Antilles, Anguilla had been possessed by the British since the 17th century (with only a brief incursion by the French). It is a small island on which absentee ownership was not common.
The island’s slave registers cover the years 1827 to 1834 (TNA T71/261-T71/263). The first and last registers provide a full census of the enslaved with the two returns in the middle only providing increase and decrease. All have alphabetised indexes.
In each return, there are between 45 and 50 estates in which 15 or more enslaved people listed (out of a total of just over 200 entries). Most of these are for small groups of enslaved people; for instance, in the 1827 return only eight entries were for estates of 50 or more people. The last return was submitted in September of 1835 and provides the name and description of the person making the return, names of enslaved people, their ‘sex’ and ‘colour’, reputed age on 20 July 1834, reputed country, usual employment since 28 August 1832, and class. The heading under class includes praedial attached, non-praedial, praedial unattached, absent with leave, and absent without leave.
Antigua was first colonised by Britain in 1632, and experienced a continuous period of two centuries of British rule as a slave-colony, punctuated only by a brief interlude of French control in 1666-1667. It formed the seat of government for the Leeward Islands throughout the 18th century, and its records embrace Barbuda as well as Antigua.
The Slave Registers represent five successive reports of 1817-18 (2 vols.), 1821 (2 vols.), 1824, 1828 and 1832, at The National Archives under T71/244-250. The registers identify each estate by name, and generally provide both the capacity of the person making the registration and the ‘proprietor’ of the enslaved people. We have captured data only for named estates for Antigua: in other words we have not loaded onto the database details of the ownership of groups of more than 15 enslaved people where no estate name is given. These details will be subject to a subsequent phase of investigation to determine whether the enslaved people were in fact attached to land or were unattached fieldworkers, artisans, industrial workers etc.
For the period prior to the Slave Registers, Vere Langford Oliver’s History of Antigua (1894) (3 vols.) provides a significant resource. Organised by family, it presents both genealogies and summaries of key source documents, not only wills but also indentures governing the sale or mortgage of many estates from the 17th and 18th centuries.
In 1625 an English ship arrived in what was then an uninhabited island. The ship’s captain, John Powell, claimed it in the name of King James I. From 1627 the first permanent settlers arrived and Barbados became an English colony. It remained under continuous English, then British, control until independence in 1966.
By the 1640s sugar had largely replaced the cultivation of tobacco, cotton and indigo and from then on the large-scale importing of enslaved people from Africa developed. The first ‘slave code’ of the Caribbean was drawn up in Barbados in 1661. Though of relatively declining importance in sugar production in the period of enslavement as other larger colonies like Jamaica and British Guiana expanded their production, it nonetheless remained an important colony and one in which there was an unusually high proportion of resident owners, albeit with close economic, cultural and political ties to Britain.
There are 39 volumes (excluding Index volumes) of Slave Registers for Barbados between 1817 and 1834. The volumes are for the following years, with the number of volumes per year in ( ): 1817 (3); 1820 (4); 1823 (4); 1826 (5); 1829 (6); 1832 (5); 1834 (12). They can be found at The National Archives at T71/520-565. Each volume orders the information by parish and then by a (usually) very rough alphabetical order by the name of the owner. The information in them is variable. The name of the owner is given as are the names of those where there is joint ownership. Also given is the name of the person making the return and usually, though not always, the capacity in which they were doing so such as Attorney or Executor. In many cases the name of the estate or plantation is not given though it is generally possible to trace the name by matching the return for one year to that of another where the name was given.
Information about the enslaved is given as follows. Complete lists of the names of the enslaved are given in 1817, 1820 and 1834. In 1823, 1826, 1829 and 1832 only the increases (such as births or purchases) and decreases (such as deaths or sales) are given. For every year except 1820 a total is usually given at the end of each entry and in 1823-1834 the number given at the previous registration is also given. In all years the Sex, Age, Colour (‘Black’ or ‘Coloured’), and Country (Barbados or ‘African’) are given. In 1817 and 1820 Employment is included with the names of specific occupations. In 1834 Employment is given but only in that the enslaved are marked as being ‘Domestics’ or ‘Labourers’.
Other than the Slave Registers an invaluable source of information about plantation ownership is the Hughes-Queree Index of Plantations in the Barbados Department of Archives. These are notes based on deeds, wills and other records compiled by Ronald Hughes and added to by Cecil Queree. The Archives also holds a number of inventories of slave-owners as well as other sources. Unfortunately these materials are only available in the Department of Archives which has no online catalogue. There is also material available in the Library of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society. For an excellent guide to the Archives and the Library and other sources of information see Geraldine Lane, Tracing Ancestors in Barbados. A Practical Guide (Baltimore, Genealogical Publishing, 2006). For genealogical information there is a wealth of information compiled by James C. Brandow, Genealogies of Barbados families: from Caribbeana and the Journal of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society (Baltimore, Genealogical Publishing, 1983). John Poyer, The History of Barbados (London, 1808) and Sir Robert H. Schomburgk, The History of Barbados (London, 1848) have some scattered data about plantation ownership as do more recent secondary sources.
Prior to its independence in 1966, Guyana was known as British Guiana, comprising the territories of Berbice, Essequibo and Demerara, which had originally been settled by the Dutch in the late 16th century. Britain captured these territories in 1796, restored them to the Dutch in 1802, recaptured them in 1803 and formalised its control of them in 1814. For administrative purposes, Britain combined Demerara and Essequibo in 1812, and in 1831 in turn merged Berbice with Demerara and Essequibo to form British Guiana.
Although its period as a British slave-colony was thus relatively short, the territories that made up British Guiana were an important component of Britain’s late slave-empire, generating new wealth in the period immediately before and after the end of the slave-trade in 1807. British capital and British individuals had penetrated these territories from the mid-18th century, before formal British involvement, drawn in increasingly by a cotton boom in the 1790s before under a shift towards a sugar monoculture under British rule, and the structure of slave-ownership in the early 19th century combined older Dutch patterns of sophisticated financial investment with newer mercantile capital from Britain.
The Slave Registers for Demerara and Essequibo covering 1817, 1820, 1823, 1826, 1829 and 1832 are at The National Archives under T71/396-436, and those for Berbice separately covering 1818, 1819, 1822, 1825, 1828, 1831 and 1834 are under T71/437-446. The Registers identify estates by name and generally show both the capacity of the person who registered the enslaved people and the name of the owner. To date, we have extracted ownership details for Demerara and Essequibo from the 1817, 1823, 1826 and 1832 Registers and for Berbice from the 1818, 1825, 1828 and 1831 Registers. We have captured data only for named estates for Berbice and Demerara/Essequibo: in other words we have not loaded onto the database details of the ownership of groups of more than 15 enslaved people where no estate name is given. These details will be subject to a subsequent phase of investigation to determine whether the enslaved people were in fact attached to land or were unattached fieldworkers, artisans, industrial workers etc. For the period prior to the Slave Registers, we have drawn on records from archives in the Netherlands, including for Berbice Paul Koulen’s transcription of the Naam-Lyst der Bestierders, officieren, bediendens en plantagien op de colonie de Berbice (Amsterdam, 1794); for Demerara Carte Generale...Demerarie 'Liste des habitations...’  (University of Amsterdam Library). (For the catalogue entry click here). David Alston’s Slaves & Highlanders project is pioneering work which we have also drawn on.
Dominica was settled by the French in the 1630s, although its possession by Caribs was formally confirmed in 1748. The British captured the island in 1761 and acceded to possession in 1763. It changed hands once more between Britain and France in 1778-1783 before Britain re-asserted its control. The majority of the owners of enslaved people on the island continued to be settlers of French descent, but progressively British individuals and British capital came to dominate the larger estates. Two-thirds of the compensation claims for estates of 100 or more enslaved people in the 1830s were made by British owners and mortgagees.
The triennial returns between 1817 and 1832 (T71/346 – T71/363) include alphabetical indexes and are grouped by Parish. Estate names are often given; when this is the case the entry is usually listed by the name of the estate. Those without estate names are listed by the surname of the owner. It is rare for both to be given. Starting with the 1820 return it was common to state the name of the mother of children who had been born since the previous return.
Surveys of estate ownership were undertaken in 1765 and 1773 by John Byres, resulting in a detailed plan of the island which was accompanied by References to the Plan of the Island of Dominica as surveyed from the Year 1765 to 1773 (London, 1777) (available from Google books here). This gives information about the island’s estates. Provided are a lot number, the name of the original purchaser, the size of the estate in acres, and the name of the owner in 1773. Unfortunately, estate names are not included.
Some of the extensive work on Dominica by the historian Lennox Honychurch is carried on his website, the ‘A to Z of Dominica Heritage’, and further information for the late 1820s is given online in the "Return of produce given in under the General Tax bill of 1827 with the number of items attached to each Estate according to the last triennial return [from the Dominica Almanac 1828]”, Généalogie et Histoire de la Caraïbe.
Grenada was captured by British forces from the French in 1762 and formally ceded to Britain in 1763. France recaptured the island in 1779 and the island was again ceded to Britain in 1783.
Ownership information for slave register entries for groups of 15 or more enslaved people has been included in the LBS database for the years 1817, 1820, 1823, 1826, 1829 and 1832. All individual slave-owners, executors, attorneys and guardians have been added where they appear in the slave registers. Some limited biographical work has been done to identify these individuals.
A map of Grenada published in 1780 with information on estate ownership in 1763 and 1780 has been added. We are in the process of adding information from a census record of 1770. Estates on the 1780 map are identified by number rather than by the estate name. Very few of these estates have so far been linked to named estates in the slave registers.
Ownership information for all slave register entries for groups of 15 or more enslaved people has been included in the LBS database for the years 1817, 1820, 1823, 1826, 1829 and 1832, with the exception of the parishes of St Andrew, St Thomas-in-the-Vale, St Thomas-in-the-East and St Catherine which have been partially added but not yet completed. The names of individual slave-owners, executors, attorneys and guardians have been added where they appear in the slave registers. Most of the slave register entries do not include the name of the estate, so entries from the Jamaican almanac have been added between 1812 and 1840 to supply this missing information. Almanac entries have not been comprehensively included.
Summaries of the ownership information from the Accounts Produce have been added to the database for volumes 1-29 and 31-32 and 37-38. These cover the years 1740-1802 and 1808-1809. The Account Produce were compiled for absentee-owned estates as well as those in the hands of trustees and executors. Work is underway to link individuals named in the Accounts Produce but is only one-quarter complete so far.
All 819 of the sugar estates on James Robertson’s map of 1804 have been plotted on our Jamaican maps page and linked to estates in the database. Work is underway to link pens and smaller plantations on the 1804 map. Copies of the slave register documents themselves have been added for 30 estates so far.
Montserrat was first colonised by English and Irish from St Kitts in 1632, and Irish settlers retained a prominent role among the island’s slave-owners. French invasions in 1664 1667 1712 and 1782 punctuated the period of British rule.
The five returns (‘Slave Registers’) between 1817 and 1831 (T71/447–T71/451) provide estate names – sometimes alone and sometimes along with the name of the owner. The owner’s name is most often prioritised over the name of the estate, which is not found systematically throughout all the volumes.
An 1832 Rough Plan of Montserrat, the original of which is held at the John Carter Library at Brown University, shows the location of some key estates.
You can download a pdf copy of the map here.
An 1867 map Surveyed by Staff-Commander J. Parsons, R.N., and others, and available at the National Archives at Kew, shows the location of the island’s estates. The layout of some estates is also shown. The Poll Tax Acts, held by the archives in Montserrat, provide the names of slave-owners and numbers of enslaved people annually from 1810 to 1833 while the 1833 Tax Act schedule gives estate names and/or name of slave-owner along with the number of enslaved people. Mr Neil How in Montserrat is working to compile data on lle states between 1632 and 1982.
Nevis is an old sugar colony which was settled by English planters from St. Kitts in 1628. It was administratively linked with St Kitts, Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands from 1806.
There are six slave registers for Nevis between 1817 and 1834 (T71/364 to T71/369). Although labelled as triennial returns, they were not always provided within three years. Names of estates and their owners are provided in the registers.
No surviving maps showing the island’s estates and owners prior to 1834 have been traced. Only a few individual plans for that period have been found. A 1772 list of owners taken after a hurricane providing the parish, name of the owner, name of estate/ area of the island, and the damage to the property was published as An Account of the late dreadful Hurricane, which happened on the 31st of August, 1772. Also the damage done on that day in the Islands of St. Christopher and Nevis, attempted to be ascertained. To date we have not systematically linked this information to that found in the registers: estate names are not given and the names of owners had frequently changed by 1817.
Post-emancipation plans from the 1870s and 1880s for specific estates, created under the Court of the Commission for the Sale of Encumbered Estates in the West Indies, provide information about the estates during slavery. An 1871 map by Edward Stanford 1871 map by Edward Stanford shows the location of many of the estates.
St. Kitts is one of the oldest sugar colonies. Settled simultaneously the British and French in the early 17th century, the island was still at that time home to native Caribbean peoples. The island became solely British by 1713 and the former French lands were parcelled out by the British state. Apart from a brief period of French occupation in 1782-1782, the island remained in Britain’s hands until independence in 1983.
St. Kitts had six triennial returns between 1817 and 1834 although the gap between them was not always precisely at three-year intervals. These are spread over 8 volumes (T 71/253 – T 71/260). In the index agricultural estates are identified separately from other entries under the letter E. The exceptions are 1822 - where estate owners are listed by their surname in the index but are listed first along with the name of the estate, where given, found in parenthesis after the owners name; and 1831 for which there appears to be no index. From 1828 to 1834 estates are for the most part grouped together at the beginning of the volume. Between 109 and 112 estates appear in each of the later volumes.
Other sources of information about slave-owners on St. Kitts include: Baker’s 1753 map (available from the US Library of Congress), provides the names of the estate owners within each parish; a 1772 list of owners taken after a hurricane providing the parish, name of the owner, name of estate/ area of the island, and the damage to the property, An Account of the late dreadful Hurricane, which happened on the 31st of August, 1772. Also the damage done on that day in the Islands of St. Christopher and Nevis, attempted to be ascertained; and an 1828 map by surveyor William McMahon which shows the location and size of the islands plantations. This includes a key arranged by parish showing the name of the owner, amount of land used to grow sugar cane, uncultivated land (including buildings such as the ‘works’ and houses of the enslaved) and the total amount of land. The map shows 164 discrete ‘estates’, of which we believe some 50 had no enslaved people attached to them. A digitised copy is available from the American Geographical Society Library. Deed books, held at the National Archives of St. Kitts provide information about estates that were sold and mortgaged. We have not consulted surviving almanacs, which include one for 1798 at the New York Public Library and for 1806 at Brown University.
The first Europeans to settle St. Lucia were the French in the seventh century. Shortly after this, the British took possession of the island for a short period of time. The island would be passed between the two powers frequently over the next century, coming under British control in 1814. There are several registers for St. Lucia between 1815 and 1834. ‘Plantation slaves’ and ‘personal slaves’ are recorded in separate volumes. We have focused on the volumes of ‘plantation slaves’ (1815 T71/379; 1818 T71/381; 1822 T71/383; 1825 T71/385; 1828 T71/387; 1831 T71/388; 1834 T71/390). Even here, our choice to focus on recording groups of enslaved people of 15 and above means we have missed some enslaved people who were attached to plantations.
The majority of the owners listed in the registers were of French origin and most of the entries are written in French. A few returns are written in English, most of which are for British owners. For instance, of the 152 entries we recorded from the 1834 register, 23 were written in English.
A 1787 map of St. Lucia by M de Latour (TNA: CO700/ST. LUCIA2) is accompanied by a list of owners which is written in French. It provides the names of owners, size of the plantation in carres and the agricultural produce of each plantation. Estate names are not given.
A small number of deeds for 1833 and 1834 are available at the St. Lucia National Archives. Many of the relevant entries resulted from the provisions outlined an 1832 Act tabled to provide relief for planters due a recent hurricane.
Although sovereignty over the St Vincent was contested between France and Britain between 1672 and 1748, the island remained the domain of one of the most resilient indigenous populations in the Caribbean until captured by Britain in 1762, ceded to her in 1763 and settled thereafter, as the British government sold off land on the island to European purchasers. A further series of grants of land was made under an Act of 1804 after the final defeat and dispossession of the Carib islanders by the British.
The Slave Registers of 1817 [T71/493 and T71/494] and 1834 [T71/500] identify estates by name and carry basic information on ownership. Between those dates [1822, 1825, 1827/8 and 1830/31, T71/495-T71/499], estates are named but ownership is not always given. Charles Shephard’s An historical account of the Island of St Vincent (1831, available in reprint) provides for each estate in 1827, 1828 and 1829 the proprietor, owner, acreage, crop and production of rum, sugar and molasses for each estate by name. For earlier periods, Shephard included [Appendix XX] a summary of the References in Byres’ Plan of the Island of 1776, showing Lot number, original purchaser, acreage and the name of the ‘present estate’ by parish; he also included [Appendix XVI] the Apportionment of Carib lands by Governor Henry William Bentinck, showing original occupants, acreage and ‘present estate’ (these land grants were confirmed only after prolonged contestation with Thomas Browne, to whom the whole acreage was awarded by a new Governor). Finally, Shephard included [Appendix XVII] details of the £25,000 awarded by the British state after the volcanic eruption of 1812, to many of the same grantees in Appendix XVI. To date we have not analysed the details of ownership in the mid-1790s contained in the ‘Report of the Committee of Legislature, appointed to investigate and ascertain Losses suffered in consequence of the Rebellion and Invasion of the Charaibs and French’, 21 February 1797, TNA T1/4389.
The Endangered Archives Programme of the British Library has recently undertaken a project, EAP 688, led by Kenneth Morgan, to digitise the Deed Books for St Vincent in the slavery era, 1763-1838. This resource, which has not yet been tapped by us, is available online through the British Library website.
The Slave Registers and compensation awards for St Vincent have been the object of extended analysis by Dr Simon D. Smith: some of the highlights of his research are included in his chapter ‘Slavery’s Heritage Footprint’ in M. Dresser and A. Hann (eds.), Slavery and the British Country House (2013), which indicates the depth and rigour of his work on St Vincent slave-ownership in the period 1814-1834.
Tobago was one of the Ceded or Neutral islands that Britain took from France in 1763. The British government then sold off the land on the island to purchasers between 1765 and 1767. Tobago subsequently changed hands several more times, being captured by France in 1781 and ceded to her in 1783, recaptured by Britain in 1793 but restored to France in 1802, and captured once more by Britain in 1803 and formally ceded to her in 1814.
The Slave Registers for Tobago were (unusually) annual rather than triennial returns between 1819 and Jan. 1834, each annual set comprising two separate volumes of ‘Plantation Slaves’ and ‘Unattached Slaves’, and running between T71/461-T71/492 at TNA in Kew. Each estate is identified by name, but in most cases ownership information is limited or non-existent: the name and sometimes the capacity [i.e. as attorney] of the person registering has been recorded, but the beneficial ownership is not shown. The compensation records indicate that almost all the 100 or so Tobago estates were owned by absentees in Britain by 1834.
For the early purchasers of land after the British seizure in 1763, there are two main sources. Henry Iles Woodcock, A History of Tobago (Ayr: Smith and Grant, 1867; new impression London: Frank Cass and Company Limited, 1971) contains 'Tables showing the Lots in each Parish, numbered as originally granted - the original Grantee - the name of the Lot, or lots, if one has been acquired, and the present Possessor where there is one', which gives by parish the name of the buyer of the original Lot or Lots, the later name of the estate and the person in possession c. 1867; and 'A Table, showing the Estates in cultivation in 1832, and their Owners, in 1832, copied from the list appended to Byres' map of that date, with those in cultivation in 1862', which gives the names of the owners in 1832 for 75 estates.
John Fowler, A summary account of the present flourishing state of the respectable colony of Tobago in the British West Indies illustrated with a map of the island and a plan of its settlement, agreeably to the sales by his Majesty’s Commissioners (London: A Grant, 1774) gives by the same Lot numbers as used by Woodcock the date of purchase, the original purchaser, the acreage, and the ‘present [i.e. .c 1772] proprietors’. Fowler uses district names [e.g. Barbados Bay Division] rather than the later parish names [e.g. St George].
The sources used thus give a beginning picture c. 1765/7-1772 and an end picture in 1834. Relatively few of the estates were in the same hands in 1834 as at the beginning of British control in 1763, but the process by which individual estates changed hands in the intervening period has not yet been traced.
Britain seized Trinidad from Spain in 1797, and the patterns of slave-ownership in the early 19th century under British rule continued to reflect the long period of Spanish control since the 16th century, as well as the more recent arrival of French settlers encouraged to the island by the Spaniards in the late 18th century. Trinidad was governed directly from Britain without a local representative Assembly, although retaining Spanish civil law, and occupied a special place in the mind of British abolitionists as place of actual or potential experimentation with new forms of labour-organisation.
Trinidad was the first colony for which Slave Registers were compiled, and nine series for 1813, 1815, 1816, 1819, 1822, 1825, 1828, 1831 and 1834 are at The National Archives under T71/501-519, with paired volumes for each year of ‘Plantation Slaves’ and ‘Personal Slaves.’ To date we have extracted ownership information from the ‘Plantation Slaves’ volumes for 1813, 1819, 1822, 1825, 1828, 1831 and 1834 Registers. We have captured data only for named estates for Trinidad: in other words we have not loaded onto the database details of the ownership of groups of more than 15 enslaved people where no estate name is given. These details will be subject to a subsequent phase of investigation to determine whether the enslaved people were in fact attached to land or were unattached fieldworkers, artisans, industrial workers etc. To date we have not developed the history of ownership from sources prior to the first Slave Register of 1813.
Britain seized Tortola from the Dutch in 1672, having taken many of the other islands a few years earlier. There were six returns from 1818 to 1834 (T 71370 – T 71/375). Ownership cannot be confirmed using the register alone as the designation of the registrant is listed as ‘belonging to or possessed by’, so those listed include those leasing estates even though this is not always made clear.
A Plan of Tortola from actual survey by George King (London, Robt. Wilkinson, 1 June 1798; re-published with additions and corrections by William Darton, 3 June 1826), shows the location of estates, which are numbered and can be matched to the names of owners using the reference found on the map: estate names are not included. The map is available at the National Archives, CO700/VIRGIN ISLANDS5.