Surinamese slave registers available to the public online

Date of news: 3 July 2018

The Surinamese slave registers are being presented today and will officially be made available online on 1 July. It will then be possible to search the slave registers, a unique resource about the Surinamese-Dutch history of slavery, by using the websites of both the Dutch and Surinamese National Archives. The project is a collaboration between Radboud University (Nijmegen) and Anton de Kom University of Suriname (Paramaribo) and came about through crowdfunding and citizen science aided by nearly 1500 supporters.

Today (26 June), Noraly Beyer, the ambassador of the project, will launch the new database at the National Archives in The Hague. The database will officially be available as of 1 July, the day on which Keti Koti is celebrated across the Netherlands and Suriname, a commemoration of the abolition of slavery in Suriname in 1863. Over the past year and a half, nearly 1500 volunteers, donors, and supporters in both the Netherlands and Suriname have collaborated on the project.


Surinamese slave registers

The Surinamese slave registers are unique: there is nowhere else in the world that such detailed information on an entire enslaved population was kept. In the registers, there are records of roughly 80,000 people who lived in slavery in Suriname between 1830 and 1863, when slavery was abolished. Everyone who lived in slavery in Suriname was recorded in the slave register (as well as all slave owners).

Slave owners were required to register their slaves, including their date of birth, mother’s name, and any changes such as birth, death, liberation, sale, leprosy, or other information that was important for the status and value of the slaves.


For whom?

The registers are stored in the Surinamese National Archives, but until today, public access was very limited, because they had not been digitised and were lacking an index. Now, anyone who is looking for their Surinamese ancestors, preparing lessons about this topic, or conducting research into Suriname’s history of slavery can explore the registers digitally.

About the project

In Januari 2017, initiators Coen van Galen (Radboud University) and Maurits Hassankhan (Anton de Kom University of Suriname) began crowdfunding and recruiting volunteers to transfer information from the slave registers to a database. After the slave registers were scanned by the Surinamese National Archives in the spring of 2017, the volunteers began their work in June 2017. They completed the task in less than five months!

As of 1 July the slave register database will be available on the websites of both the Surinamese and Dutch National Archives. In the Netherlands, the database will be launched during a gathering at the National Archives in The Hague (Tuesday 26 June at 3.00 pm). In Suriname, the launch will take place at the Surinamese National Archives in Paramaribo (Saturday 23 June at 11.00 am). There will also be a public event at the OBA Theater in Amsterdam on the evening of Thursday 28 June at 7.30 pm.

More information?