Certificate of Abondonment for Child of Slave

Certificate of Abandonment, Piscataway Township New Jersey, 1806
Courtesy: Special Collections/University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries.


In this document dated June 6, 1806 and transcribed below, slave owner Mary Boice of Piscataway relinquished responsibility for the infant Sarah, born on November 16, 1805 to Boice’s slave Judi. Because the baby was born under the provisions of New Jersey’s Gradual Manumission Act of March 1804, she was legally a free person. However, under the terms of the Act, slave owners were entitled to the services of such children of their slaves born after July 4, 1804, until these children were either 21 years old (for females) or 25 years old (for males) unless they chose to relinquish their rights to that service. As this document shows, Boice abandoned her claim to Sarah’s services and is so doing she also absolved herself of any legal responsibility to care for the child. That responsibility for the child’s support was then placed in the hands of the overseers of the poor of her town. It is likely that Boice was illiterate, as the document bears her mark and not a signature. The document is transcribed below:

To the Town Clerk & overseer of the poor of this township of Piscataway

Gentlemen this are to inform you that my Negro wench Judy was brought to bed the sixteenth day of November last with a female child which she named Sarah—I do therefore hereby give you notice that I do abandon all my right & title to the said female child agreeably to an Act of the Legislature in which case made & provided – Given under my hand the 6th day of June 1806.


Mary Boice