Slave Birth Records in the Town of Castleton, 1799 -1824

I was totally blown away to discover this historical document online! In years of researching Staten Island records I have not come across a copy of this: a digital image of the Town Book for Castletown For the Entry of Black Children. It’s online in the collection of the New York Historical Society Museum and Library.

Town Book for Castletown For the Entry of Black Children

You probably know how rare it is have birth records for slaves.  Here is the story: in 1799, the New York Legislature passed “An Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery” which phased out slavery over time. All children born to slave women after July 4, 1799 would become free at a certain age: males at age 28 and females at age 25. To comply with this law, owners were required to legally record all slave births in order to document their eligibility to become free.  So this is that record for the town of Castleton on Staten Island. (There is also mention of the Town of Northfield in some of the records).

Many of the birth entries appear to be handwritten by the mother’s owner, who would have also owned the child. The wording and the details given in an entry vary depending on the writer. Most of the entries mention the child’s mother’s name, and some also give the father’s name and his owner’s name. The births are not recorded strictly in order of occurrence, as some reporting was delayed.  Here’s an example entry:

I do hereby certify that a male negro child named Nicholas the Father of whom named Sam belongs to me, and the mother named Bett belongs to Cornelius Cruser, was born In my House at Castletown the eight day of may in the year of our Lord one thousand Eight hundred, and I request that this return of the Birth of the said child may be Entered agreeable to the directions Contained In a late act for the gradual Abolition of Slavery. Castletown January 15th., 1801, John Mercereau

And the book also contains records of manumissions during this time period!

Unfortunately, the document is not searchable or printable. Because it’s so priceless, I decided to transcribe it here. There’s a lot of information, so this post will be Part 1 of a 2-part series. Below are birth records; I will do the manumission records in a second post.

Town Book for Castletown For the Entry of Black Children

Richmond County. This is a Town Book made for Castleton for Entering all the Black Children that are Born of Slaves after the first Day of July in One Thousand Seven Hundred and Ninety Nine 1799

Child Gender Parent(s) Birthdate Owner
Nicholas M Bett 8 May 1800 Cornelius Cruser
Sam John Mercereau
Mink M Phoebe 16 Jan 1800 John Barnes
Mary F Jane 5 Feb 1803 Jacob Lozier
Phebe F Jude 8 Dec 1801 Nathaniel Britton
Suse F Jude 8 Apr 1803 Nathaniel Britton
Harry M Gin 4 Sep 1804 Henry Garretson
Sam M Gin 20 Feb 1804 Cornelius Cruser
Jack M Bett 26 Sep 1805 John Mersereau
Brom M Jane 10 Aug 1805 Benjamin Martino
Chat F Bet 19 Feb 1805 John Tysen
Susan F Jane 19 May 1805 Richard S. Carey
Harry M Peg 1 May 1806 Cornelius Buskirk
Phebe F Phillis 12 Jun 1808 Richard C. Corsen
Thomas M Phebe 19 Oct 1806 John Barnes
Jo M Bet 10 Sep 1806 John Tysen
Mary F Peg? 8 Oct 1808 John Martling
Ned M Phebe 14 Dec 1808 Benjamin Martino
Chat F Bet 14 Sep 1808 John Tysen
??o M Bett 14 May 1810 John Mersereau
Harry M not given 5 Aug 1810 Abraham Egbert
Peg F Bet 10 Aug 1810 John Tysen
Ann F not given 24 Apr 1811 Eden Vrelend
Peter M not given 26 Nov 1811 Richard Corsen
Sam M not given 21 Nov 1806 John Hiliker
Charls M not given 1 Oct 1810 John Hiliker
Sarah F not given 17 May 1812 Walter Dongan
not given M Ann 10 Jul 1811 Edward Beatty
Thomas Captain Cambell
Duy-an? F not given 26 Sep 1812 John Mersereau
Mink M not given 16 Nov 1813 Richard C. Corsen
Will M not given 15 Jan 1814 Richard C. Corsen
William M Ann 12 Feb 1815 Edward Batty
Thomas (deceased) Joseph Borlin
Mary F Mary 15 Dec 1814 James Guyon
Harry M Mary 2 Mar 1817 James Guyon
Murry M Jane 10 Jul 1816 James Guyon
Enass M not given 2 May 1817 Richard C. Corsen
Andrew M not given 15 Aug 1815 Richard C. Corsen
Bet F not given 12 Oct 1817 Richard C. Corsen
Harry M not given Feb 1803 Peter Vanpelt
Eliza F not given Aug 1810 Peter Vanpelt
Dian F not given 29 Jan 1814 Peter Vanpelt
Ned M not given 28 Feb 1818 Peter Vanpelt
Sam M mother not named 12 Mar 1816 John Barnes
Sam Richard C. Corsen
Dave M mother not named 10 Nov 1813 John Barnes
Sam Richard C. Corsen
Isable F not given 7 May 1820 Eder Vreeland
Joe M mother not named 20 Dec 1820 Vincent Bodine
Jack Peter Prall
Jane F Ann 27 Jun 1822 Edward Beaty
Jack Peter Jacobson
Bob M Mary 7 Jan 1814 Walter Dongan
Will M Mary 2 Jan 1817 Walter Dongan
Git F Mary 1 May 1820 Walter Dongan
Phebe F Mary 18 Jan 1823 Walter Dongan
Mary F not given 3 Mar 1819 John Barnes
Sarah F not given 7 Apr 1822 John Barnes
Phoebe F Gin Sep 1822 Ephraim Clark, Doct.
Cyrus M Gin 4 Apr 1824 Ephraim Clark, Doct.

Additional (non-black) names found in the  document  are:

Richard S. Carey, Town Clerk, later Commissioner
John Housman, Town Clerk
David Mesereau, Judge of the Court of Common Pleas
John Garretson, First Judge Richmond
John P. Harrison, witness
Vincent Bodine, Town Clerk
Richard D. Corson, Town Clerk
D. Denyse, Town Clerk

Please use this transcription with care; I may have mistakes, so refer to the original to verify my work, and let me know if you find any errors.

Note:  I have found one other excerpt of this document; it’s in the New York Genealogical & Biographical Record, Vol. 100, No. 4, October 1979. But I take issue with the authors’ characterization of the reason for the recording the births.  They state that as of 1799, the masters were only able to continue receiving the services of the children born slaves if they recorded the birth.  I don’t believe that’s correct; the children remained slaves until the specified date.

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