The New Paltz Register of Slaves
The Register of Slaves (1799-1825) was kept by the Town Clerk of New Paltz as a requirement of the New York State Manumission Act of 1799. In keeping the slave register, the town clerk recorded the births of children born to slaves owned by the town's inhabitants. Each entry includes the owner's name, the slave's name, sex, and date of birth. In addition, located in the final pages of the book is an entry entitled the "Record of Disbandment", which list the dates that the slave owners freed, or "abandoned" individual slave children in accordance with the 1799 act. Thus, this portion of the register is of particular interest to researchers, since not only does it provide the names of the owners and their slaves, but also the date when certain slaves gained their freedom, and whether or not this was done before the official deadline.
The Register of Slaves is an important document for tracking the transition of black Americans from slavery to freedom in New Paltz, but the information it provides is repetitive and quantitative rather than qualitative. The Register does not contain anecdotal information, nor does it give us insight into the daily lives of the slaves, their origins, their feelings, or even the attitudes of the free white community about the institution they supported for over a century. The Register thus serves the researcher as a reference point to study slavery in New Paltz, but cannot be considered the only or even the best source for this purpose. In addition, other documents such as census records, legislative records, court records, wills, inventories, account books, receipts, newspapers, and letters are essential to the search to gain a fuller understanding of the African American experience in this one Mid-Hudson Valley community.
The original register is stored with the New Paltz Town Records held at the Huguenot Historical Society and is accessible to researchers by appointment. In formatting the text of the transcription, the authors decided to adhere completely to the format of the original document in terms of spacing, pagination, and spelling.