Resources

Written by Robert Hoyt on Wednesday March 13, 2019

Many resources were used to create the Vincent J. Rosivach Register of Slaves. Of primary importance were probate records from the Fairfield Court of Probate, church records from a number of parishes in the town of Fairfield, Donald Lines Jacobus’ book History and Genealogy of the Families of Old Fairfield.

Probate records are composed of wills, inventories of estates, and distributions of those estates to the heirs of the deceased. Within the notes section under any given slave in this register, there may be a citation of a particular probate record, the date on which it was written, the monetary value assigned to the slave in that record, and the actual location within the Fairfield Court of Probate, that one can find the cited information. Unfortunately, the citations which describe the volume and page number of each record are inconsistent. After Dr. Rosivach’s death, the research team realized that his notes were not cited in a consistent format. Some probate information in this database may be more easily accessed than others, because of this.

Church records were another important source of information for this database. The parishes of Fairfield, Green’s Farms, Stratfield, Greenfield Hill, and a few others, kept records of residents’ births, deaths, baptisms, and marriages. In many cases, the individual who made note of these events would explicitly say that the subject of the writing was a slave, owned by a specific Fairfielder. Slaves, like free people were allowed to get married and be baptized. However, these records can be muddled in naming practices of the time. For this reason, it is often difficult to determine whether certain individuals of African and Native American descent listed in these church records were free or enslaved.

Donald Lines Jacobus was a Connecticut genealogist from the earlier half of the twentieth century. In his book, History and Genealogy of the Families of Old Fairfield, he compiled extensive genealogical trees for many of the prominent families of Fairfield, Connecticut. This book was invaluable to the research team, as we tried to identify slave owners and track the movement of slaves from household to household. However, Jacobus was a product of his time. The book generally excludes nonwhite residents from its pages. Women are listed in his book only as the wives and daughters of each individual entry. The book provides a wealth of information regarding Fairfield, but it does not tell the whole story. References to Jacobus’ book are scattered throughout this database. But they, too have not been codified into a single format. Any mention of “FOF” or "Jacobus" is a reference to History and Genealogy of the Families of Old Fairfield. Additionally, references to specific page numbers may appear as follows: David Allen (2.16.9). The “2” refers to volume II, the “16” refers to page 16, and the “9” refers to line 9.

Other Sources:

The Fairfield Museum and Historical Society Archives
The Westport Museum
Ancestry.com
Freedomonthemove.org
The Book of Negroes (http://blackloyalist.com/cdc/documents/official/book_of_negroes.htm)
The Nova Scotia Museum (https://novascotia.ca/museum/blackloyalists/index.htm)A History of the Old Town of Stratford and the City of Bridgeport Connecticut, Part 1 (Fairfield 1886)
Black Loyalists in New Brunswick (https://preserve.lib.unb.ca/wayback/20141205151334/http://atlanticportal.hil.unb.ca//acva/blackloyalists/en/context/biographies/hyde.html)
S. Orcutt, A History of the Old Town of Stratford and the City of Bridgeport Connecticut, Part 1 (Fairfield 1886)
Cruson, Daniel, The Slaves of Central Fairfield CT (2007)
 

Possible Sources of Error:

Due to the nature of these records, there may be errors in this archive. Some of the records used, are now over three hundred years old, and may contain inaccuracies in their original form.

Additionally, with the lack of surnames attached to individual slaves, there is a high likelihood that some of the individuals in the Vincent J. Rosivach Register of Slaves actually represent more than one person. It is also possible that multiple separate entries represent a single person. This is a constant source of frustration for those who study American slavery.

In addition, some enslaved people went un-named in these records. Those individuals are listed here under the name, "NoneGiven." They are incredibly difficult to track, as they are virtually identical on paper to other un-named slaves.

Slaves also had to make due with an existence that relied on the discretion of the people that owned them. There may be many slaves that simply slipped through time without ever making it into any documentation.

Another problem that faced the research team was the death of our mentor and senior researcher, Vincent J. Rosivach. When he passed away on April 13, 2018, he left a whole in the search for Fairfield's slaves. The research team was forced to guess at where Dr. Rosivach left off in his data collection, and sort through the various notes and files that he had left behind. 

We wish, beyond all else, that he could have been with us to see the Register in its current form.

A Note:
This database has been almost thirty years in the making and the current researchers were not there in the very beginning. If you recognize data from a source that has not been mentioned, please understand that this is entirely unintentional, and a result of circumstances in which this register was created. 
If any materials in this database were retrieved from a source that has not been cited on this page, please contact: fairfieldslaveryproject@gmail.com