In June 2015, Fairfax Circuit Court Historic Records Center staff started a project that would create a master index of enslaved persons (and those subject to some form of involuntary servitude) who appear in the records of the Fairfax Circuit Court Clerk’s Office between the years 1742 and 1870. This project, titled the Fairfax Court Slavery Index, began with the Clerk’s Office’s historic probate and land records, capturing the names of the enslaved, enslavers, hirers, and free(d) African Americans on individual index cards. If noted in the original record, each index card contains descriptive information such as age, skilled trades, family relationships, and monetary value, the record’s citation, as well as the date of the document’s recording at the court.
In addition to probate and land records, Historic Records Center staff have transitioned to collecting the same information from birth and death records, the Registration of Free Negros, personal property tax records and court order books. The project will eventually include criminal and civil cases, as well as chancery cases.
The Fairfax Court Slavery Index has captured the names of thousands of enslaved and indentured persons who lived in Fairfax County, but it is important to note that the Fairfax Court Slavery Indexwill never be a complete record of all the enslaved who lived here. Some known slaveholding families never filed documents accounting for the enslaved at the court, and so, because the index is based on court records, those enslaved are missing from the index. Additionally, several 18th and early 19th century deed and court order books are missing from the Fairfax Clerk’s Office’s holdings, leaving gaps in the index.
The development of the Fairfax Court Slavery Index is an ongoing project. The index is available as a card catalog at the Historic Records Center.
Current Index Statistics – as of December 2022
* Numbers do not reflect unique individuals; the same person can be referenced in multiple records.
** Enslaved persons include indentured persons, and orphans given a monetary value.
*** Third party includes those who were involved in the economy of slavery, including (but not limited to) jailors, tax commissioners, auctioneers, “slave patrollers,” merchants, undertakers, and midwives.