I have not located a birth or baptismal record for Hester Franklin. From later records, she was born about 1804-1805 in St Croix. I have found no documents of her early life. The first time she is mentioned in the records is in the 1832 Free Colored Register. The Register was an accounting of all free colored people on the Danish West India islands. These documents are extremely valuable as they predate the earliest surviving census by 10 years. Hester is listed in the Register of Free Colored Women for St Croix, Christiansted Jurisdiction.
The Christiansted Register of Free Colored Women is part of NARA’s M-1883 collection on Roll 3. It is also available online on Fold3 and recently on Ancestry.com. Below, I show entry 1251, Hester Franklin.
The document is in Danish, with occasional English entries. Here is a detailed look at this document.
The first column is a serial number, in Hester’s case, entry 1251. There doesn’t appear to be any particular organization of the entries.
From this, it is clear that Hester was born a slave, but it is not as clear how she was freed. The “do” or “ditto” in the Frikiøbt column appears to be an error and looks to be struck out.
The next columns are demographic information about the person. Here are the entries:
This particular set of entries is from plantations in the Christiansted jurisdiction. It was very common for slaves and free people living on the plantations to be baptized in the English church, as it was often the church of the English plantation owners.
Notice also the entry for Color. The Register recognizes several degrees of color:
According to the entry, Hester Franklin was full negro. It is probable that both of her parents were slaves as well.
The next column is entitled
In this column they indicate what evidence was presented of the free status of the enumerated person. For the case of Hester, the text reads:
This is not as clear as I would like. It doesn’t seem to mean that John Cochran freed her, just that he vouched for her, stating that she was freed. Unfortunately, I have not been able to locate John Cochran in the records. so I cannot tell further.
The remaining columns are:
- Fødested (where born): St. Croix
- Opholdssted (place of residence): Hermitage [a plantation]
- Fremmed og hvorfra (foreigner and from where): [Not checked]
- Hvor længe på Landet (How long in the country): [Not checked]
Unfortunately, the record doesn’t tell who freed her nor where they were living. She may have been freed before or after she began her relationship with Joseph, but as of yet, I can only guess.