Source Information

Ancestry.com. U.S. Virgin Islands, Danish West Indies Slave Records, 1672-1917 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013.
Original data: Danish West Indies, Slave Records, 1672–1917. Microfilm publication M1883, 11 rolls. Selected Records of the Danish West Indies, 1672–1917: Essential Records Concerning Slavery and Emancipation. Records of the Government of the Virgin Islands, Record Group 55. National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.

About U.S. Virgin Islands, Danish West Indies Slave Records, 1672-1917

This database contains Danish records relating to slavery in what became the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Historical Background

The Danish presence in the Caribbean began in the mid-17th century, and in 1754 the islands of St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John became Danish colonies known as the Danish West Indies. Sugar was an important industry into the 19th century, and slaves were imported to provide labor for the islands’ plantations. Slavery ended in 1848, and the islands were purchased by the United States in 1916 to become the U.S. Virgin Islands in 1917.

What You Can Find in the Records

During Danish rule, officials kept voluminous records, including the slave-related records found in this database. They include the following:

  • case papers concerning contested slave ownership
  • emancipation records
  • registers of free men, women, and children of color
  • lists of baptisms, marriages, and burials
  • lists of slave owners and former slaves
  • mortgages and loans
  • slave lists and censuses
  • records of Royal Blacks
  • compensation agreements
  • courts martial

The records can be a valuable source of names, dates, places, and other details. These records have not yet been indexed, but they can be browsed by record type. Most of the records are in Danish.