From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)
Scott County Births P53 1852.png

Records of Births for the Enslaved in Kentucky

(start date: 1852  -  end date: 1910) 

Starting in 1852, Kentucky law mandated that county authorities make a record of
all births in their respective county. The 1852 Kentucky birth registration law was repealed in 1862. Without the law, birth registrations were attempted again in the late 1870s, then there were a lot of hit and miss years, and registration was attempted again from 1892-1910. State law was enacted again on January 1, 1911, and it took until about 1920 for the law to be more widely followed in the entire state.

During the period prior to 1911, counties that maintained annual birth records in Kentucky also included the births of children born to both free African American parents and enslaved parents. There are a significant number of entries with the first names of the newborns and the names of one or both parents. If the slave owner was the father, then his full name was given. There were counties with birth lists that included blank spaces, no names, and the word "slave" as the entry for the birth of an enslaved baby. Some county birth lists have the name of the slave owner in place of the parents' names. For some of the records, there are births recorded for more than one county.

Within, there are about 36,000 persons listed in the Kentucky birth records as "enslaved," and  "Black," or "Mulatto," or some other notation that the baby was not considered free-born. There are also birth records at the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives in Frankfort, KY, and at some public libraries in Kentucky. There are not records for all counties, and some of the earlier records no longer exist. 

For more information see A Guide to Kentucky Birth, Marriage and Death Records, 1852-1910, Revised Edition 1988, compiled by Jeffrey Michael Duff.

*Attached to this entry is p.53 from the 1852 birth records for Scott County, KY.



Item Relations

Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: A Guide to Kentucky birth, marriage and death records, 1852-1910
NKAA Source: Ancestry (online)

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Records of Births for the Enslaved in Kentucky,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed July 20, 2024,

Last modified: 2023-04-20 18:28:51