How to look for records of... Slavery or slave owners

How can I view the records covered in this guide?

View online

How many are online?

  • None
  • Some
  • All

Order copies

We can either copy our records onto paper or deliver them to you digitally

Pay for research

Use our paid search service or find an independent researcher

Visit us

Visit us in Kew to see original documents or view online records for free

What do I need to know before I start?

Try to find out:

  • the name of the slave and the slave owner, including possible variations in spelling
  • where they lived, including the parish if possible
  • as much information as possible about dates of births, marriages and deaths

What records can I see online?

Slave registers (1812-1834)

Search by name, date of birth, colonial dependency, parish, owner’s name or keyword in the Slave Registers of former British Colonial Dependencies, 1812-1834 on £.

What records can I find at The National Archives at Kew?

Slave registers and records of the Slave Compensation Commission (1812-1851)

Browse T 71 in Discovery, our catalogue, for records of the Office of Registry of Colonial Slaves and Slave Compensation Commission.

Most registers have indexes to slave owners and estates and give the name of the parish or district where they lived. Some colonies have indexed slaves by name under the name of the slave owner or plantation.

To access these records you will either need to visit us, pay for research (£) or, where you can identify a specific record reference, order a copy (£).

What records can I find in other archives and organisations?

Records held elsewhere

The National Archives’ catalogue has details of collections held by over 2500 archives across the UK. Search our catalogue and refine your results using the filters.

Records held in the archives of other countries

Find contact details for archives elsewhere using Find an archive.

What other resources will help me find information?


Read Researching African-Caribbean family history in the family history section of the BBC website.

Read the articles on slaves and slavery on Your Archives. Also see The National Archives’ exhibition pages on the abolition of slavery.

Use the database on the Legacies of British slave-ownership website to search for a slave-owner or an individual related professionally or personally to a slave-owner. This can act as an index to slave compensation returns in T71 (see above).


Some or all of the recommended publications below may be available to buy from The National Archives’ Bookshop. Alternatively, search The National Archives’ Library to see what is available to consult at Kew.

Read Tracing your Carribean ancestors by Guy Grannum, third edition 2012, Bloomsbury.

Did you know?

To find a particular slave, you need the name of the owner. Even in the few colonies where slaves had surnames, there may be several people of that name.

The indexes in the slave registers sometimes only include the name of the person who provided the information (or ‘return’), not the owner.

There are no registers of slaves before 1812. The best place to find information about a slave before 1812 is in the private papers of the slave owner, or in records about the owner or his or her property. Papers might still be with the family or deposited in a local archive or library where the family lived or settled.

More and more archives in British and former British colonial dependencies are indexing and digitising information about slaves and slave owners.