Mapping Puerto Rico’s slavery districts in 1872


Update 3/13/15 : Welcome to visitors coming from the Puerto Rico Historic Building Drawings Society! Feedback is most definitely welcome so feel free to leave a comment if you have additional information on this topic. Together, there is much we can learn about our island!

Actualizado 13/3/15: Bienvenidos vistantes dirigidos aquí por el “Puerto Rico Historic Building Drawings Society”. Con gusto acepto comentarios con correciones sobre el tema. Juntos podemos aprender mucho sobre nuestra isla!

“El Registro Central de Esclavos” (Slave Schedule ) of 1872 is, in my mind, the most valuable document for researching slavery in Puerto Rico. The census was created after the Ley Moret (1870) was passed, which gave many slaves their freedom. Slavery was abolished in Puerto Rico in 1873,one year after this census, making this the last “official” glimpse at our puertorican slave ancestors. To my knowledge, this is the only Puerto Rico slave census available online.

I’ve had a hard time visualizing what the census districts looked like, so I mapped out the districts mentioned in the census. Noticeably absent is District 3, which covers either the northwestern or northeastern portion of the island.

Census data for Loiza, in the northeast, is not available. (Updated 3/13/15, with thanks to Hector) Loiza was one of the largest slave ports in the island . Loiza had a high population of slaves and still an important part of afro-caribbean culture. At lot of my family members come from Loiza, so not having it in the census is one of the greatest disappointments I’ve encountered in my research.

Many of Puerto Ricos 78 municipalities were established after 1872, so several towns are not mentioned explicitly. Its safe to assume that many of these towns are covered in the census, but appear as a neighborhood of an older town. If you’re researching a town in Puerto Rico, don’t feel discouraged if you don’t find it at first glance. Read the town’s history online and find if it was previously under another municipality’s jurisdiction. Such is the case with Canovanas, the town I’m from. Before 1976 it was a neighborhood of Loiza, which is still there, but now comprises of much less land.

Feel free to download the map, use in your research, and modify it if necessary. Let me know if you find any errors and do tell me if you find this helpful.

Thanks and happy searching!

Credits & Reference:

Credit for map goes to Alessandro Cai and a blank map can be found here. Puerto Rico, Registro Central de Esclavos, 1872 [database on-line]. Provo, UT:, 2011.

Registro Central de Esclavos, 1872 (Slave Schedules). Microfilm T1121, 8 rolls. ARC ID: 1476161. Records of the Spanish Governors of Puerto Rico, Record Group 186. National Archives at Washington, D.C.


El Registro Central de Esclavos de 1872 es, en mi opinión,  el documento más valioso para investigar la esclavitud en Puerto Rico. El censo fue hecho luego de la Ley Moret (1870), que le dio la libertad a muchos esclavos. La esclavitud fue abolida en 1873, un año luego de este censo, lo que hace este documento el último vistazo a nuestros ancestros esclavos en Puerto Rico. A mi conocer, este es el único censo de esclavos que está disponible en línea.

He tenido dificultad visualizando los distritos mencionados en el censo, así que diseñe un mapa con los distritos mencionados en el censo. Notablemente ausente está el Distrito 3, que contiene datos del área noroeste o el área noreste de la isla.

Para Loiza, en el noreste, no hay información. (Actualizado 13/3/15, Gracias Hector!) )Loiza fue uno de los puertos de esclavos más grandes Loiza tenian una alta concentracion de esclavos y todavía es una parte importante de la culture afro caribeña. Muchos de mis ancestros vienen de Loiza. No tener a Loiza en el censo es uno de las decepciones más grandes que he tenido durante mi investigación.

Muchos de los 78 municipios de Puerto Rico fueron establecidos luego del 1872, así que muchos de estos no están mencionados explícitamente. Se puede asumir que muchos de estos municipios aparecen en el censo, como barrios de otro municipio más antiguo. Si está investigando un pueblo en Puerto Rico, no se sienta descorazonado si no lo ve a primera vista. Lea la historia del pueblo y averigüe si era antes parte de otro municipio. Este es el caso de Canóvanas, el pueblo de donde soy. Antes del 1976 era un vecindario de Loiza, que todavía existe pero es mucho más pequeña.

Siéntase en libertad de bajar el mapa, usarlo en su investigación y modificarlo si necesario. Déjeme saber si encuentra error alguno y me cuenta si encuentra esto útil.

¡Gracias y éxito en su búsqueda!

Crédito & Referencia

Mapa de Alessandro Cai , mapa en blanco Puerto Rico, Registro Central de Esclavos, 1872 [database on-line]. Provo, UT:, 2011.

Registro Central de Esclavos, 1872 (Slave Schedules). Microfilm T1121, 8 rolls. ARC ID: 1476161. Records of the Spanish Governors of Puerto Rico, Record Group 186. National Archives at Washington, D.C.

Finding my ancestors: Genealogy sites

One of my more obscure hobbies is researching my family’s genealogy. I’ve gotten quite nerdy about it actually.

Omg you guys, are you as excited as I am about the 1940 U.S. census being released to the public this spring?!!!

 I’ve found that with my very common (but fantastic) Spanish last name and a family of farmers and former slaves, very little was documented about where we came from. Still, it makes the hunt for my ancestors oh so much more interesting.

My research started around 2007 and so far I’ve been able to track down most of my ancestors as far back as the 1800s. My most recent achievement has been finding my great-grandfather’s baptism record from 1898 (the same year the U.S. invaded Puerto Rico) ! I imagine adults in the commotion of having foreign invaders and yet my little great-grandfather off to church to get baptized. He was 10 years old. 🙂

If you are interested in researching your family’s history, below are some of my go-to resources for a genealogy hunt. I believe all contain information about the U.S. and Puerto Rico, but has loads more countries as well.

The mother of genealogy sites. I really recommend ancestry if you want to take a first peek at what information is out there.


  • Hands down the most user friendly geanealogy site I’ve used.
  • Creating a family tree is free and you can export family trees to other software (through GEDCOM files)
  • You can create multiple family trees
  • Active forums with plenty of folks to help around
  • Free membership at many libraries
  • FANTASTIC search engine…picks up variations of names very well
  • Contains census, birth certificates, passengers lists for ships and so many more


  • Payments is required if you want full access at home
  • No private messaging between members if you dont have paid account

A fantastic service from the church of the latter day saints, this is my new favorite place for all things genealogical. They have a decent search engine and a suprising amunt of church and civil records available for free!


  • Linked to Family Search Centers and the Family Search Library, places where you can request other materials that are not available online
  • Incredible variety of records available online (I found church records from my little town in puerto rico dating back to the 1700s)
  • Good search engine; not as good as ancestry but superior to others I’ve seen.


– None that stand out

HeritageQuest (with library membership)

This little site is a really nice place to do some searches from home. My library provides a free account to its members and best of all, you can access it outside the library!


  • Free access from home with account from local library
  • Census images available for download


  • Inferior search (compared to I think its case sensitive and it really doesnt pick up all the search results. Also, I read the sites Help page and it usually searches for head of household only (not spouse or children)
  • Limited to census
  • Not sure if available for non library members


There you have it! Hope this helps you if you decide to hunt for your ancestors too…