Frequently Asked Questions

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Who were the enslaved people? Who were the enslavers?

Historical documents of enslavement often report only the full name of the head of household followed by numbers in various categories, including slaves. Enslaved people typically went by only one name, and even that name is often omitted from the documents. Much more is known about the enslavers, since we know their names from various documents and almost all had prominent positions in the early years of the township.

Nevertheless, local historians have been able to piece together considerable information about the enslaved and the enslavers. We’ve posted summaries here:

The site only describes enslavement in Mamaroneck Township. What about the Village of Mamaroneck?

The records in The List of Enslavers and Enslaved, and The Northeast Slavery Records Index: Locality Report for Mamaroneck are for any events in the historic boundaries of the Town of Mamaroneck, which include the current Village of Mamaroneck. Also included, and noted, are records for Rye Neck, which is part of current day Village of Mamaroneck and Town of Rye. Some records are from the Manor of Scarsdale, which originated as part of Mamaroneck.

By the time the Village of Mamaroneck came into being, in 1895, slavery had already been abolished. We know enslavement occurred in areas that are now within the Village of Mamaroneck (including Orienta) and the Unincorporated Town of Mamaroneck (including properties along the Premium Mill Pond).

What about enslavement in the Village of Larchmont?

By the time the Village of Larchmont came into being, in 1891, slavery had already been abolished. The area currently known as the Village of Larchmont was in the Town of Mamaroneck (as is true today). Enslavement occurred in areas that are now within the border of Larchmont Manor and the rest of Larchmont Village.

How many people of African descent were enslaved in Mamaroneck?

We know there were at least 223 enslaved men, women and children. (List of Enslavers and Enslaved and The Northeast Slavery Records Index: Locality Report for Mamaroneck). 

The exact number is impossible to pinpoint because many enslavement activities went unrecorded. Many surviving records are incomplete. Early census documents typically show only numbers of enslaved persons on a particular date. A later census may be counting a different person or the same enslaved person again. Any enslavement occurring between census events may go uncounted. Our access to purchase, sales and manumission information is spotty.

Even when the records include names for the enslaved people, they rarely include a last name and often “reuse” names for different individuals. For example, “Peg” appearing in the census of 1800 and 1810 in the same household may be the same person or two different people.

Additionally, the earliest records appear to omit very young children of enslaved parents. Only after 1800 did the law require enslavers to register babies born to enslaved mothers.

We expect to learn more as the current interest in genealogy is leading to the digitization and sharing of old records via public websites. As we uncover further information, the number will be revised.  As new information becomes available, our reports will be updated.

How many enslavers lived in Mamaroneck?

We know there were at least 71 heads of households listed as enslavers in official records we’ve been able to find. (List of Enslavers and Enslaved and The Northeast Slavery Records Index: Locality Report for Mamaroneck). The earliest settlers tended to be wealthy, with enough sophistication and funding to lay title to land controlled by the Siwanoys and subject to complex Colonial era laws. They also had the means to become enslavers when they were unable to find free labor to help develop their properties. As the town grew, so did the number of enslaved people, until 1788, when New York began enacting legislation that would eventually — and very gradually — end slavery. We expect to learn more as the current interest in genealogy is leading to the digitization and sharing of old records via public websites. As we uncover further information, the number will be revised.

What did the enslaved people do?

Historical documents reveal little about the lives of the enslaved people and their involuntary labor. However, we do have a few documents and narratives that shed some light. Enslaved people worked in homes, gardens, fields, and mills, among other settings. In homes, they cared for children, cooked, cleaned, laundered, sewed, served meals and generally maintained the house and surrounding gardens. They applied skills in fishing, animal husbandry, milling (lumber and grain), carpentry, construction and other practical occupations. In the fields, gardens and orchards, they cleared land, planted, weeded, harvested, erected and maintained fences, and looked after livestock. They often learned specialized skills from the tradespeople who enslaved them.

Particularly in the early years of the township, there were few free laborers for hire. Any landowner who was wealthy enough to own more property than he could work himself tended to purchase enslaved labor. Nevertheless, few households reported more than one to three enslaved people in any of the census records.

Can we visit sites of enslavement?

Enslavement occurred almost everywhere in Mamaroneck Township. Properties owned by enslavers were often large. For example, at one point, the Palmer family’s landholdings included all of the current Village of Larchmont and parts of the Unincorporated Town of Mamaroneck.  The few houses still standing have undergone major changes and their associated lands have long ago been subdivided.