Wednesday, November 29, 2023

The Telling Records of Insured Slaves 1640 - 1865

Insured Slaves: Slave Era Insurance Policies,

Yes Cami, there are plenty of records not referenced in this episode but slave era records are valuable resources for all of our ancestral research. Descendants of enslaved persons and enslavers may bring down a brickwall with these records.  
Slave Era Insurance Policies for Brickwalls
Let's talk about one of my favorite, Slave Era Insurance Policies, and be sure to surf this a3genealogy blog for others. These insurance policies are not widespread, but perusing these records is well worth the researcher's time.  Know that often these policies were not sold locally; so be you must to do a national search.

If you want to check to verify if your enslaved ancestor was insured, or perhaps if your ancestor insured enslaved persons, Here are two great resources:

  1. California Department of Insurance: Slavery Era Insurance Registry 
    This registry highlights a nationwide listing from NY Life Insurance Company, American International Group, Inc, and the Missourian’s favorite: Aetna Life Insurance.. The states of TN, KY, NC, VA, SC, GA, and AL are represented in the snippet below but as mentioned other states, like MO are listed. 

Even indicies are chocked full of information, but you will want the originals:  


This site is a bit quirky, so you may have to also research just by using USA as the keyword and then search (ctrl F) from within the collection.  It does appear that these are the same lists as the California Department of Insurance: Slavery Era Insurance Registry, but just in case one gets updated, we have provided you with both links. 

The following is on this VA website, again, be sure to widen your search for both knowledge and possible record groups. 

Slave Insurance


Slave insurance involved a contract between a policy holder and an insurance company in which the insurer promised to pay a sum of money upon the death of an enslaved person. In the three decades leading up to the American Civil War (1861–1865), such policies became widespread in southern states. In Virginia, the Baltimore Life Insurance Company of Maryland and later the Virginia Life Insurance Company sold insurance to slaveholders who were worried about the potential deaths of enslaved people performing particularly valuable work, such as blacksmithing, carpentry, and household duties, or dangerous work, such as in factories and mines or on railroads and steamboats                               /slave-insurance/

Midwest -Missouri?
The following is a copy of Register of the Slave… Insured in This District (St. Louis). The policy below is a copy of the original Aetna Insurance Co. for Charles Meyer (above) covering slaves Henry and Martha. Ann below is was another slave of Charles Meyer.

Insuring Human Cargo

If you do this type of genealogical research, you already know tracing the ship Captain is vital to uncovering enslaved ancestors. It is also a valuable resource for the descendants of enslavers. It is here we can trace accounting books, determine heirs, and analyze net worth, assess transactions, etc..  It is also here that we can identify the origination of the voyage for human cargo, determine the age, and identify an earlier enslaver.

America's History is Our History!
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