About the Database

The free black database may be used as a tool for historians and genealogists to locate specific individuals, families or households, to determine their relationships to one another, and to track their presence in Albemarle County over time. Among other categories, the database is searchable by surname allowing the user to identify all of the individuals listed under that name. A list of free black surnames compiled from the registration entries allows the user to search for a surname with a variety of spellings (e.g. Goen, Goens, Goin, Going, Goings, Goins, Gowen).

At a broader level, the database may also be used to track patterns over time within the free black population of Albemarle County. For example, registration was a process which did not appear to be extensively enforced by the Albemarle County Court or the white community. Certain free black individuals and families registered with regularity, others with less regularity. Many free black individuals and families, known to have resided in Albemarle County, never bothered to register at all. Registration also tended to increase during periods of social stress. For example, the database shows that free black registrations appeared to increase in the years immediately following Nat Turner’s rebellion (1831), and just prior to the Civil War. Registrations can be searched by date of entry enabling larger trends in registration to be teased out of the data.