Slave Births, 1804-1848

RECORD GROUP: County Clerk
SERIES: Slave Births, 1804-1848
DATES: 1804-1848
VOLUME: 0.5 cubic feet (one manuscript box of loose papers and one book)


Last entry in “Black Birth Book A” for the birth of Charles Hartshorn Johnson,
son of Silpha Beldow, Negro slave owned by Catherine & Ellener Taylor, February 23, 1839

*** Search/view the Slave Births document images***

This series of documents consists of 662 birth records of children born to slaves in Monmouth County from 1804-1848. In includes 495 written notifications by slave owners, and additional entries from Black Birth Book A. This series is called Slave Births because it does not include births of free Blacks or births of other races. Some slave birth records are noted as Mulatto.

By the Act of February 11, 1804, owners of slaves in New Jersey were required to report all births of children of slaves to be recorded by the County Clerks in books specifically kept for that purpose. The Act stipulated that all children born of slaves after July 4, 1804, would be declared free after they reached maturity. These children would gain their freedom when the male reached his 25th birthday or the female reached her 22nd birthday.

Slave owners were required to send written notification (loose papers) to the County Clerk announcing the birth of the child of the slave. The County Clerk would record the information from the slave owner’s written notifications into a ledger called Black Birth Book A. Birth statistics include date, location, name of child, name of parents, and slave owner. Not all information is included on every birth record. In 1848, the law required all births in the state of New Jersey to be registered; the separate book for Black births was discontinued.

In 1989, Monmouth County Clerk Jane G. Clayton published the Black Birth Book of Monmouth County, New Jersey, 1804-1848, a 67-page volume compiled by Ellen Thorne Morris and edited by George H. Moss, Jr., County Historian (LCCN: 95-797983). This publication is believed to be a complete compilation of the information found in these records, although several other slave births from this time period are known (see Scope and Content below).

The Slave Births series consists of 495 written notifications by slave owners announcing the birth of a child of one of their slaves, and entries from those notifications in Black Birth Book A. The County Clerk recorded each birth in Black Birth Book A and noted the page number from Book A on the back of the owner’s notification. Black Birth Book A, 1804-1851, consists of 47 leaves, with five or six births to a page. In 2011, six additional birth records were found in Common Pleas which had not been recorded in the Black Birth Book, not included in the County Clerk’s published book and not included on the online searchable OPRS webpage. These six births have been microfilmed and are included in an Access database at the Archives.

This collection is open to researchers without restrictions.

An Access database of 662 records is available offline and includes child name, parent name, date of birth, name of owner, location and notes. Copies of the original slave owner notifications and Black Birth Book A are available on one roll of microfilm.

Loose documents and Black Birth Book pages were digitized on July 28, 2012. There are 631 digitized images available online on the Open Public Records Search (OPRS) of the Monmouth County website. The images are searchable by child name, parent name, gender, and date of birth. Four computerized indexes are available in the Archives reading room. An explanation of the use of these indexes is included in the County Clerk’s 1989 publication, Black Birth Book.

The written notifications are arranged chronologically by the County Clerk’s filing date, beginning in 1804. Slave owners were not restricted as to when to report the births so the dates of births are not chronological. Book A is arranged in order of when the clerk received the written notification from the slave owner, beginning in 1804.

Monmouth County Archives
125 Symmes Drive
Manalapan, NJ 07726
Phone: 732-308-3771

The loose papers and Black Birth Book A were transferred to the repository by Jane G. Clayton, Monmouth County Clerk before 1994 under Accession No. 10.068.

An Access database of 662 records was created June 4, 2015, by George Joynson. The finding aid was revised in January 2012 by Tara L. Christiansen and in June 2015 by George Joynson.

Search the online digitized records of Slave Manumissions at the County OPRS website or learn more about that collection at the Slave Manumissions finding aid on the Archives website under County Clerk Records. See also sales of slaves in Bills of Sale Collection.