In December 2013, I had the pleasure of working with archivists of the National Archives at Fort Worth on their project of transcribing inbound ships’ slaves manifests from the Port of New Orleans. I was allowed to personally handle the actual documents as I transcribed the 19th handwriting on 19th paper in 19th century ink. Please, try not to be jealous. 😉 To view the digital images, go to New Orleans, Louisiana, Slave Manifests, 1807-1860 at Ancestry.com.
Aside from getting my geek on, the entire experience was incredibly informational. These records were generated as a result of the 1807 Congressional law prohibiting future international slave trade — since the domestic slave trade was still legal, the manifests were designed to prove that any incoming slaves had come from another US port. Providing name, gender, age and sometimes additional identifying characteristics, the slave manifests are one of a very few set of documents in which we can find detailed information about African-Americans before the 1870 US Census. NARA has Fif. Teen. Feet. of these manifests.
If you’re interested in doing something like this from the comfort of your own laptop, jump over to The Legal Genealogist for this week’s opportunity from the head of the U.S. Archives.