October 31, 2018

Suriname: Surinamese slave registers accessible online

Noraly Beyer, the ambassador of the project, launched the new database at the National Archives in the Hague, Netherlands. Photo: National Archives of the Netherlands.

On 1 July, a database of the Surinamese slave registers was launched at the National Archives of the Netherlands. Information on approximately 80,000 enslaved people and their owners in Suriname between 1830 and 1863 is now publicly accessible.

More insight into personal histories
By making the registry available through an online database, descendants of enslaved people are given more insight into the lives of their ancestors. At the time the registers were created, Suriname was a Dutch colony. The Dutch had created a wealthy plantation economy based on (African) slave labour. After the abolition of the international slave trade in 1808, slave owners were required to register each enslaved person in an effort to more closely monitor ownership and to ban illegal trading.

The forty-three slave registers that survive are kept at the National Archives of Suriname. They provide personal information about each enslaved person, such as their (first) names, their mother's name, date of birth, death or manumission (liberation), possible disabilities (such as leprosy) and information about purchase and sales.

Crowd funding and volunteer action
The database is a result of a crowd-funding project that started in January 2017, initiated by Coen van Galen (Radboud University, the Netherlands) and Maurits Hassankhan (Anton de Kom University of Suriname), to digitise and index all the records. With the help of 1.500 volunteers, the database was created and is now available on the websites of both the National Archives of the Netherlands and Suriname.