Sunday, March 17, 2013

Hester Franklin–Record of a Freed Slave in 1832

1831-32 Register of Free Black Women p163-4-Hester Franklin (Medium)My grandfather’s mother was named Hester Franklin van Beverhoudt.She was the last of the van Beverhoudts in my family line.  I always thought her middle name, Franklin, was rather odd for a girl until I discovered that it was a critical link to another woman, her grandmother, Hester Franklin.  In fact, it was the name that offers the best evidence that Hester van  Beverhoudt’s mother, Adelaide Robson, was actually the daughter of Hester Franklin.

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  Below, I show entry 1251, Hester Franklin.

1831-32 Register of Free Black Women p163-4-Hester Franklin - Copy (Medium)

The document is in Danish, with occasional English entries.  Here is a detailed look at this document.
1831-32 Register of Free Black Women p163-4-Hester Franklin - Copy - Copy
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.
  • Navn (Name): Hester Franklin
  • om fri født (if free born):  No [ditto mark is from a No on the previous page]
  • Frigiven (given free):  ja (yes)
  • Frikiøbt (purchased free):  ditto (yes) [appears to be struck out]

  • 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.

    1831-32 Register of Free Black Women p163-4-Hester Franklin - Copy - Copy (2)The next columns are demographic information about the person.  Here are the entries:
  • Ægteviet (married): No [ditto]
  • Ugivt  (not married): Ja [ditto]
  • Alder  (Age): 27
  • Religion (Religion): eng [Anglican]
  • I hvilken Kirke døbt (Baptized in which church): eng [Anglican]
  • Om konfirmeret (Confirmed) : No
  • Farve (Color): Sort (Black)

  • 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:
  • Sort (Black) or Neger (Negro)
  • Mulat (Mulatto)
  • Mustice  (child of a Mulatto and a White)
  • Sambo (child of a Mulatto and a Negro)

  • According to the entry, Hester Franklin was full negro.  It is probable that both of her parents were slaves as well.

    1831-32 Register of Free Black Women p163-4-Hester Franklin - Copy - Copy (3)
    The next column is entitled
  • Frihed legitimeret ved medfølgende Document (Freedom legitimized by accompanying Document)

  • 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:
  • Attested that she was given freedom by John Cochran

  • 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]
    By 1832 Hester had had several children with an English planter, Joseph Robson, including my 2nd great grandmother, Adelaide.  The fact that she was residing at Hermitage suggests that Joseph may have been living and working there as well.  By 1841 he was the estate manager at Estate Fountain, living with Hester and the children.

    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. 


    1. David,
      I would appreciate some clarification.
      I want to make a blank form of the 'Free People of Color Register' but I needed to know what is written on every column.
      Could you please let me know how many columns and what is written in each>

    2. Ann,

      This is for the St Croix Free Black Women Register. The registers for children, men, and the St Thomas are different. Here are the Danish and English column headings.

      Navn = Name
      om fri født = if free born
      Frigiven = Given Free (Set Free)
      Frikiøbt = purchased free
      Ægteviet = Married
      Ugivt = Not married
      Alder = Age
      Religion = Religion
      I hvilken Kirke døbt = Christened in which church
      Om konfirmeret = confirmed
      Farve = color
      Frihed legitimeret ved medfølgende Document = Freedom legitimized by accompanying Document
      Fødested = Where born
      Opholdssted =Place of recidence
      Fremmed og hvorfra = Foreigner and from where
      Hvor længe på Landet = How long time in the country
      Anmærkning = Note

    3. Ann,

      I prepared an index to the St. Thomas Free Black census of 1832 and gave it to Caribbean Genealogy Library and they have made it available online. It is not organized in a tabular form as the St. Croix one is. In the St. Thomas records, it lists the name and then there is a short written record that includes age, religion, confirmation status, freedom status (i.e. freeborn, etc), where born, how long in the country.

      Hope this helps,

    4. Dave,

      Here's a tidbit for you. I had Hester in my notes from researching another family. Adelaide was baptized in Friedensfeld Moravian Church on 26 August 1832, the daughter of Ester Franky (fpc) and Joseph Robson (white), residents of Estate Hermitage. There's a remark that Adelaide later went to the English Church. This information is from the VISHA St. Croix Population Database.

      St. Croix

    5. Thanks Ricki, that's awesome. All my records said that Adelaide was Moravian but I never saw the baptism. Great that you found her parents listed, as I said, I only had indirect evidence of it. You have confirmed all of my conclusions! I'd love to get a copy of the page. Think Whim has it?

      So, what family were you researching that got Hester in your notes?

    6. Yes, the St. Croix Landmarks Society's Library and Archives at Estate Whim has Friedensfeld records on microfilm.