Discover your inside story. Save 20% on Ancestry DNA April 21-26

March 10, 2017

Important Maryland Slavery Papers Found in Safe

"The antique documents were tied up by a ribbon and kept in an old safe for years, first in the general stores that Danny Dyer’s family ran in Accokeek, Maryland, and later in his house nearby." (Source: National Post)

When Dyer finally opened the safe, which had been in his family's keeping for generations, he found manumission papers, land records and other documents. Much of the paperwork  recorded the freeing of scores of slaves decades before the Civil War.

Some slave owners freed their slaves immediately, others wrote papers freeing them in the future, often decades later. When the documents were lent to the Surratt House Museum in Clinton, an intriguing fact became apparent, namely that some slave owners freed married couples but kept their children in slavery until girls were 22 and boys were 26 years of age. No doubt this was not as cruel as it sounds at first, but rather a way of ensuring that the children could care for themselves once freed.

These important papers reveal names, ages and details as to how slaves became free - some bought their own freedom, some purchased freedom for other slaves and many were freed by their owners. Some documents are dated as early as 1806.

Continue reading about this amazing find at Mind-boggling trove of historic papers in Maryland reveals the tortuous paths out of slavery

Image: An Overseer Doing his Duty, 1798, Benjamin Henry Latrobe Sketch book, III, 33, Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore, image from The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas : A Visual Record, Jerome S. Handler and Michael L. Tuite Jr. , Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and University of Virginia, 2006


T said...

How would slaves get money to buy their freedom?

Cecile Lusby said...


slaves could work on Sunday for money and also slaveholders lent out skilled slaves to earn money during slow times on a plantation