Category Archives: Enslaved

Update on Catherine Little – 1847 African American Census – Philadelphia Completed by Quaker Society


I’d been excited about this census since learning of its existence while reading “Forging Freedom: The Formation of Philadelphia’s Black Community, 1720-1840“, by Gary B. Nash. I knew it was accessible either at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania or the Friends Historical Library at Swarthmore College. I’m very pleased that continues to add to content to their product. I’ve found so much in the last few months, including this census and previously unavailable death certificates.

To begin, the documents are very difficult to read on AND there is a wealth of information contained in this census. I was excited about it prior to getting my hands on it but when I realized the details of what is actually contained within this census, I’m floored, flabbergasted but grateful. I’ve had one nagging question about my 5th Great Grandmother, Catherine Little, born in 1788 in New Jersey. Since this time period was in such flux as it related to person-hood in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey, I could not assume that she was born free, enslaved or served an apprenticeship. I’ve struggled with developing a research plan because I do not know which county she originated from in New Jersey.

The 1847 Census contains the following information where I’m assuming blank spaces are negative responses:

1 – Name

2 – Residence

3 – Number in family

4 – Males

5 – Females

6 – Under 5

7 – Under 15

8 – Under 50

9 – Over 50

10 – Natives of state

11 – Not natives

12 – Male intemperate

13 – Female intemperate

14 – Number insane

15 – Number helpless

16 – Receives public aid

17 – Orphans

18 – Not taken care of by parents

19 – Can read

20 – At service

21 – Not at service

22 – Can write

23 – Occupation of Males and compensation

24 – Occupation of Females and compensation

25 – Children under 20 and not at school how employed

26 – Number at school

27 – School attended

28 – Number occupying a room

29 – Size of rooms

30 – Whole number in house when rooms are occupied

31 – Value of real estate

32 – Incumbrances

33 – Personal property

34 – Cost of house or room

35 – Water rent (??)

36 – Taxes

37 – Born slaves

38 – Bought Freedom

39 – Amount paid for Freedom

40 – By whom manumitted

41 – Number belong to a beneficial societies

42 – Number attending religious meetings

43 – Number not attending religious meetings

44 – Belong to Temperance Society

45 – Remarks

IF you are fortunate enough to have an ancestor interviewed in this census, feel blessed because it is very rare for us to have this information, particularly during the antebellum period.  Thank you Friends Society!

What I’ve learned about Catherine

Catherine Little 1847 African American Census, Philadelphia

In 1847, Catherine Little lived with two other people in her household. She was the head of household living with one male and one female. Catherine was over 50 at the time and this is noted in the census. The other two people living with her were under 50 but I would assume over 15 as this is not marked on the census. All three of the members of Catherine’s household were born in Pennsylvania and none were intemperate. All three could read and write. The male worked as a waiter. At least one of the females worked twice a week but the occupation is not listed.

Other rich details include that two of the members of the family belong to a beneficial society (very common during this time), all three attended religious services and one of the household members belonged to the Temperance Society. These are wonderful details to help create a portrait of who Catherine was.

But to answer one of the most pressing questions I had regarding Catherine Little: according to this census, she was not born enslaved.

I can’t wait to absorb this all and bookend it with the 1840 and 1850 censuses for Catherine and her children. I need to also explore the Bass connection. The Bass brothers and my ancestors resided together for several years. What might I uncover following the Bass line of research, I wonder. What can proximity tell me, if anything?

As always, I’m looking for anyone who has ancestors to research who were African Americans in antebellum Philadelphia. Please spread the word. Thanks!




Census of the ENSLAVED in the 1800 Philadelphia Septennial Census


For many, reconciling the City of Brotherly Love’s, i.e. the Cradle of American Democracy with the institution of Chattel Slavery is very difficult. With most difficult issues, we tend to bury the information. Finding a list of the enslaved with names, prior to Emancipation is rare. Here we have a list of the enslaved in Philadelphia county, numbering 43 total, in 1800.


Ward Name Age “Owner” Sex Race
Walnut Ward Silva Dora 30 William Millnor F
South Mulberry David Roxborough 21 Doug Gibbs M Mulatto
South Mulberry Freegift Brooks 40 Mary Tucker F Negro
South Mulberry Hannah Girl Charles La Roy F Negro
North Mulberry Tom 90 Widow Moulder M Black
North Mulberry Minerva 50 Peter LaCombe F Woman of Color
North Mulberry Peter Lewis 21 Peter LaCombe M Man of Color
North Mulberry Julian 25 Doctor Mackie M Black
North Mulberry Nell 40 Widow Hockley F Black
North Mulberry Rebecca 48 Widow Rodman F Black
North Mulberry Rose 45 Abigail Delyon F Black
North Mulberry Lucy 70 Abigail Delyon F Black
North Mulberry Teresa 24 Abigail Delyon F Black
North Margeret 24 F
North Eglee 18 Simon Fizle
High Street Eleanor 21 Christian Wiltberger F
Chestnut Jane Trime 40 F
South Male Slave 25 M
Dock Draper Robson 23 M Black
Dock Judith Hines 13 F Black
Dock Allen Watson 20 M Black
Dock William Nesbitt 30 M Black
Dock Joseph Cunningham 30 M Black
Dock Daniel Cunningham 30 M Black
Dock Judith Milligan 30 F Black
Dock Augustus Turpolds 16 M Black
Dock Joseph Houston 25 M Mulatto
Dock Harry Savage 22 M Black
Dock Harry Chew 35 M Black
Dock Sarah Chew 35 F Black
Dock Caleb Parkinson 16 M Black
Dock Quin Parkinson 22 M Black
Dock Flora Parkinson 15 F Black
Dock John Parkinson 12 M Black
Dock London Emlen 25 M Black
New Market Female Slave 28 Samuel Young F
New Market Male Slave 50 Est of Robt Bridges dec M
New Market Female Slave 60 Est of Arch McCall dec F
New Market Male Slave 30-40 J B Boandly Esqr M
New Market Male Slave 30-40 J B Boandly Esqr M
New Market Female Slave 30-40 J B Boandly Esqr F
New Market Female Slave 18 Ann Pritchett F
New Market Male Slave 23 John Philips M


Source: Septennial Census Returns, 1779–1863. Box 1026, microfilm, 14 rolls. Records of the House of Representatives. Records of the General Assembly, Record Group 7. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, PA.