Slave Manumission* Collection Online


Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the volunteer archival team at the HCHS has had to take a long,
unwanted break. Very little processing is being done at this time, so few new materials are ready
for release right now. That does NOT mean the HCHS staff have been idle!

Through working from home and nights at the Society buildings, we have been able to dive into
quite a bit of the Society’s older collections. These collections were processed a long time before
things like the “internet” came along! Entering the data into our online website makes them much more available to the public.

A case in point is Collection No. 17, the Slave Manumissions of Mercer and Hunterdon County. This
is one of the Society’s most precious collections; a collection of manuscripts that document the
process of freeing slaves in Hunterdon County between 1805 and 1830. Documentary evidence of
the lives of African American and other enslaved people from this time period is rare and
historically valuable. The instruments of manumission themselves are historically important, but
the value of these documents for genealogical and family history purposes are astronomical.
This collection contains files, sorted by municipality, of documents from Hunterdon (and later
Mercer) County that provide for the emancipation of slaves by their owners. Typical documents
may include the manumission, which is a witnessed document, and examination certificates by the
overseers of the poor in the representative township, and the Justice(s) of the peace of the county.
There are also small selections of slave indentures and sales of slaves. The Mercer County
emancipations are from those municipalities that were part of Hunterdon County before Mercer
County was formed in 1838.

We decided to make this the first of our “legacy” collections to be entered into our online catalog and also to be digitized as much as possible. Every manumission in this collection was imaged and posted online for reader’s viewing. In the files where no manumission was present, the certification of examination was imaged.

We hope that this collection proves useful to those who may not have had access to or knowledge of
it before, and we hope to present more of our legacy collections online in the near future.

Click here to browse images from the collection.

The collection inventory may be found HERE.

*release from slavery