Editor's Note: Have you checked out The Genealogy Center's monthly E-Zine, Genealogy Gems? You should! The content for this post, written by Genealogy Librarian Melissa, appeared in the September 30, 2016 issue.
Charles F. Heartman (1883-1953), a book seller in Mississippi and former resident of New Orleans, Louisiana, amassed a sizable collection of materials concerning African Americans in the South during his career. His collection of Afro-Americana books and manuscripts covers primarily Louisiana, though it also includes other states, such as South Carolina and Virginia. Xavier University of Louisiana has since purchased the collection and is now actively digitizing what it describes as the “Charles F. Heartman Manuscripts of Slavery Collection,” making these materials available freely online for researchers.
The digital collection of more than 4,000 images, dating from 1724 to 1897, documents the social and legal conditions of free people of color and slaves in Louisiana. Half of the collection is comprised of New Orleans municipal records, which correlates with that city’s rich history of having the largest population of free people of color in the United States. Records in the collection include appraisals, ownership affidavits, mortgage records of slaves, receipts for slave work in chain gangs, legal status documents of both free persons of color and slaves, tax receipts, business bonds, deeds, New Orleans police reports, service reports, municipal records, and much more. The records are written in English, French, and occasionally, Spanish.
To access the collection, visit the “Xavier University Archives and Special Collections – Digital Collections” page
and select the “Charles F. Heartman Manuscripts of Slavery Collection” from the options. The material can be searched by given name and/or surname, keyword, and/or location. It can also be browsed based on the content of each manuscript box. Each record has an image and a brief description of the document. Researchers can learn more about this wonderful resource by viewing the Collection Guide
or using the Finding Aid
The “Charles F. Heartman Manuscripts of Slavery Collection” digital project is still in progress, and materials continue to be added regularly. Researchers should consider it a significant and vital source of materials documenting the lives of both freed and enslaved African Americans during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in Louisiana. Shared with permission. Each issue of Genealogy Gems examines a variety of topics related to family history. To view previous editions or to subscribe, click here.