Start My Family Tree Welcome to Geni, home of the world's largest family tree.
Join Geni to explore your genealogy and family history in the World's Largest Family Tree.

Caribbean Slave Trade: Saint Helena

« Back to Projects Dashboard

Project Tags

Top Surnames

view all


This project is a direct result of new research.

British archaeologists have unearthed a slave burial ground containing an estimated 5,000 bodies on the remote South Atlantic island of Saint Helena. The island is part of the British overseas territory of St. Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha. The bodies belonged to slaves who were taken off ships embarking on the Middle Passage route to trade African workers and other commodities. According to the article, the slaves were taken to refugee camps as part of the British Royal Navy’s efforts to crack down on Caribbean slave trade.

The corpses were found on tiny St Helena, 1,000 miles off the coast of south-west Africa. Those who died were slaves taken off the ships of slave traders by the Royal Navy in the 1800s, when Britain was suppressing slavery in the Caribbean. Many of the captives died after being kept on the slavers’ ships in appalling conditions, and later in refugee camps when they reached the island.

According to Britain’s National Archives, between 1808 and 1869 the Royal Navy seized more than 1,600 slave ships and freed about 150,000 Africans.

A census in 1723 recorded 1,110 people, including 610 slaves.

The importation of slaves was made illegal in 1792. Governor Robert Patton (1802–1807) recommended that the Company import Chinese labour to supplement the rural workforce. The labourers arrived in 1810, and their numbers reached 600 by 1818. Many were allowed to stay, and their descendents became integrated into the population. An 1814 census recorded 3,507 people on the island.

The 1817 census recorded 821 white inhabitants, a garrison of 820 men on the East India Company's payroll, 1475 men from the King's troops (infantry, engineers, etc.) + 352 people as their families, 618 Chinese indentured labourers, 24 Lascars, 500 free blacks and 1,540 slaves. In total, 6150 people on the island. In addition, the British Govt had sent a naval squadron under the command of a Rear-Admiral and consisting of a couple of men-in-war and several smaller vessels. These were not counted in the Census, as they lived (for most of them) on their ships. Concerning the slaves, Governor Hudson Lowe initiated their emancipation in 1818: from Christmas of that year, every new born child was considered a free person (his parents remained slaves until their death, though).

The importation of slaves was banned in 1792. The phased emancipation of over 800 resident slaves did not take place until 1827, some six years before the British Parliament passed legislation to ban slavery in the colonies.

In 1840, a British naval station established to suppress the African slave trade was based on the island, and between 1840 and 1849 over 15,000 freed slaves, known as "Liberated Africans", were landed there. In 1900 and 1901, over 6,000 Boer prisoners were held on the island, and the population reached its all-time high of 9,850 in 1901.

Links and resources