ORANJESTAD, ARUBA/DEN HAAG- Searching for information about individuals who lived in slavery on Aruba and St. Eustatius has become easier with the online publication of two indexes and accompanying scans of colonial archives. Starting from June 30th, these indexes can be searched on the website of the National Archives of Aruba (ANA) and the website of the National Archives.
In the index “Aruba: Slavery and Emancipation, 1840-1863,” the enslaved population of Aruba can be traced during the last 25 years of slavery, up until Emancipation in 1863. It includes approximately 1,000 people, of which 450 became free in 1863 (one-fifth of the Aruban population). The database utilized a wide range of archival sources, including the 1863 Emancipation register, compensation lists for plantation owners (borderellen), registers of birth and death of the enslaved, requests, notarial deeds containing information about the buying and selling of enslaved people, and manumissions.
The index “Aruba: Slavery and Emancipation, 1840-1863” is the result of a collaboration between Raymond Hernandez from ANA and Coen van Galen from Radboud University Nijmegen (on behalf of the Historical Database Foundation Suriname and the Caribbean), with support from the National Archives in The Hague. The execution was carried out by Rosa M. Arends (ANA) and Wouter Raaijmakers and Matthias Rosenbaum-Feldbrügge (Historical Database Suriname and the Caribbean, HDSC), with advice from Edric Croes and Johny van Eerden (ANA) and Peter Scholing (National Library of Aruba).
The index “St. Eustatius: Borderellen and Emancipation Register, 1862-1863” refers to two lists: the St. Eustatius Emancipation register and the borderellen of the General Chamber of Audit. Both sources are now accessible online on the website of the National Archives. The emancipation register contains the names and surnames of the enslaved individuals who became free in 1863. The borderellen provide an overview of the compensations received by slave owners as compensation for the loss of “property.” The General Chamber of Audit verified the compensations paid by the Dutch government to former owners of freed enslaved people.
The publication of the index “St. Eustatius: Borderellen and Emancipation Register, 1862-1863” was a joint initiative of Nadine Busby-De Graf (Census Office, Oranjestad), Johan van Langen (National Archives), and Coen van Galen, executed by Wouter Raaijmakers and Coen van Galen (HDSC).
With the completion of these two new indexes, archives related to the Dutch slavery past are now more easily searchable. Some original documents had been in a moderate to poor physical condition for a long time, but through digitization, the information is now available. Regardless of the location of the physical documents, whether they are in Aruba, St. Eustatius, or The Hague, the digital reproductions are now accessible online for everyone.
Restoration and Digitization
The National Archives collaborates with institutions in partner countries to make more sources about the Dutch colonial and slavery past available online for researchers and interested individuals. Additionally, the National Archives in The Hague is working on the restoration and digitization of documents from its own collection related to the Dutch slavery past, which will be made available online in the coming months and years.