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Tracing Black history at Surrey History Centre

For centuries, people have moved to Surrey from all over the UK and throughout the world. Some came as merchants, others as economic migrants, and some came as slaves. By whatever means Black people arrived in the county, they definitely stayed here and became part of the county's amazing diversity. This brief guide helps show how Surrey History Centre can help you discover Black family and community history. Birth, marriage and death records (slave marriages are rare, and slave burials were often unrecorded as they usually occurred in the grounds of the plantation or house)

Where to start?

Tracing Black ancestors, particularly if they have been slaves, can be difficult as few records are held in Britain. Each country maintains its own archives and register offices and records may be incomplete or not survive. However, with more records being made available online every month, tracing your roots is not an impossible task. Below are just a few of the sources that may be useful to you:

  • Birth, marriage and death records (slave marriages are rare, and slave burials were often unrecorded as they usually occurred in the grounds of the plantation or house)
  • Baptism registers (the baptism of slaves was discouraged until the late 19th century)
  • Military records
  • Personal papers and wills
  • Newspapers & Directories
  • Electoral Registers
  • Migration records such as passenger lists and naturalization records
  • Land and Property papers, including Plantation Records, and records of the Slave Registry and Slave Compensation Commission

Online resources

Online family history sites Ancestry.com and Findmypast.co.uk are free to use at Surrey libraries and Surrey History Centre and contain a vast range of records and guides.

Other websites that can help include the following:

Find out more about Black history in Surrey on the Exploring Surrey's Past website

Files available to download

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