CLARIAH awards Heritage Data Grant to create historical database of 19th century Paramaribo

CLARIAH has rewarded a Heritage Data Grant for the realization of a database of the Paramaribo ‘ward registers’. This rich source preserved for the period 1828-1847 provides a unique insight into the life in a colonial city during the last decades of slavery.

Moreover, the database – to be hosted at the National Archives Suriname – will make it easier to find information about ancestors for people with roots in Suriname. The project is a collaboration between the Stichting Surinaamse Genealogie (SSG, ‘Foundation for Surinamese Genealogy’), the National Archives Suriname and Radboud University. The project is led by Thunnis van Oort, postdoctoral researcher at the Radboud Group for Historical Demography and Family History.

Powerful tool

Since 1828, the Dutch colonial government of Paramaribo, Suriname, kept a detailed register of the inhabitants of the city. The registers contain rich information, with names, age, occupation, ethnicity and religion of (free) inhabitants, as well as the number of enslaved people housed on an address. Therefore, such a database will function as a metaphorical time machine of a mid-nineteenth colonial city, showing residential patterns changing through time, how people moved through the city. Most importantly, it will provide a powerful tool for researching family history and genealogy.

Data infrastructure

Over the years, the registers have been transcribed by the meticulous work of John Sang-Ajang and other volunteers of the SSG. The data currently are provided in separate text files. Goal of the project is to integrate these files into a harmonized dataset and provide interoperability with other datasets by linking to other data such as the slave registers and civil records of Suriname. The data will be deposited at the International Institute for Social History Dataverse as Linked Open Data (rdf) and hosted by the National Archives Suriname. The dataset will be incorporated into the wider ecosystem ‘Historical Database Suriname Curacao’ (HDSC), an collaboration between Anton de Kom University and National Archives in Suriname, and the Radboud University and National Archives in The Hague. This includes the slave registers and also data from civil records, to be integrated into a data infrastructure for historical populations of former Dutch colonies in the western Atlantic.