NARA describes the records in this database as follows:
“This microfilm publication reproduces all the records relating to slavery in the District of Columbia that were kept by the U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Columbia. These … include emancipation papers, manumission papers, 1857–63, and case papers relating to fugitive slaves, 1851–63.”
This is a valuable collection for anybody searching for slave ancestors in Washington, D.C., during this time. Most of the records are emancipation records stemming from two acts of Congress, passed in April and July 1862, that freed slaves in the District of Columbia. The April act gave slave owners loyal to the Union until 15 July to file schedules listing their slaves in order to receive compensation. The July act let former slaves file the schedules themselves and also freed slaves who were working in Washington, D.C., after 16 April whose owners did not live in the District. These schedules, along with notes about dates of freedom, make up the emancipation papers.