TOBAGO SLAVE REGISTERS
For the many people of slave descent in Tobago, researching the slave registers may possibly yield some family history
data, but additional clues on your slave ancestry should also be sought in the early church registers, where they survive for
this period. Whilst the Trinidad Slave Registers, which commenced in 1813, were generally compiled every three years
(triennial returns), the Tobago Slave Registers, starting in 1819, were compiled annually.
Whereas, an Order in Council of 26 March, 1812 introduced the compulsory registration of all enslaved people in Trinidad,
the date of the Tobago Act, requiring the registration of slaves was delayed until 8 February, 1817.
It has been reported that the original, hard copy Tobago slave registers for the following years: 1819...1824...1826...1832
are held by the National Archives of Trinidad & Tobago (NATT). For a considerable period of time, researchers have not
been able to consult them, as they were undergoing preservation treatment. In 2006, copies of the remaining years were
microfilmed and purchased by NATT from the National Archives, Kew. T 71/488 Tobago Unattached Slaves was not
microfilmed at the time, so it is hoped that the original, hard copy at NATT is now accessible.
Most of the duplicate Trinidad slave registers, held by the National Archives, Kew, have been microfilmed, and copies are
held at the West Indiana Library (UWI). The Tobago slave registers are unavailable at UWI, St. Augustine. It has been
suggested that they were not microfilmed by the National Archives, Kew as microfilm copies were not requested by UWI at
the time the Trinidad slave registers were purchased.
At the National Archives, Kew, UK (NA, Kew) there are duplicate copies of the original Tobago slave registers. They cover
the years 1819-1834 and are listed under reference T71/461 to T71/492:
The two lists of Unattached slaves and Plantation Slaves have NOT been transcribed from the National Archives, Kew
IMPORTANT: see below re T71 'misnaming' of the Tobago Slave Registers.
Tobago Slave Registers Online
If you have managed to trace back to slavery days, ie prior to 1834, you should check out the website of Ancestry, UK,
which asserts that it has digitised all the Tobago Slave Registers, using the National Archives, Kew microfilms.
Unfortunately, only the Tobago pieces below appear to be ‘fully’ online and they are not accessible in the same manner
as the original volumes and microfilm copies. Ancestry, UK, at the present time, does not use the National Archives, Kew
reference numbers to identify clearly what pieces are ‘fully’ online. This can be problematic for historians who wish to
access the slave registers by T71 number and in the way in which they were compiled.
Misnaming the Tobago Slave Registers at the National Archives, Kew
On the National Archives, Kew website, approximately 50% of the Tobago Slave Registers have been misnamed. Many of
the Plantation slave registers are incorrectly listed as Unattached slave registers and vice versa.
T 71/464: Tobago: Plantation slaves (????), 1820 should probably be read as Tobago: Unattached slaves. This has still to
be checked out. Until the National Archives, Kew corrects these errors, it is advisable to use the above list. Your time is
valuable and you will be disappointed to receive an incorrect document to one you expected, on the basis of the National
Archives, Kew website.
Tobago Slave Registers Research
It appears, from the literature, that there has been very little study of the Tobago slave registers, and their value for family
history research remains still to be discovered. An initial examination suggests that, unlike in Trinidad, surnames for the
enslaved people were very rarely used in the Tobago Slave Registration, only a single column for each enslaved person’s
name being provided.
By the time of the final 1834 Slave Registration Return, Henry Yeates, the Tobago Registrar, still does not provide two
separate columns for first names and surnames.