What DISC and the Slave Movement Site Can and Cannot Do for You

Q. Can I find information on a particular slave?

A. No. The datasets on this site do not include any slave names at all. Since there are no slave names, the datasets cannot help you with genealogy searches for locating ancestors.

Some online sources for genealogical research include:

Q. Can I find information on a particular ship or ship's captain?

A. Occasionally the datasets may be useful for finding information about a particular ship or captain by name. To do this, one must download the dataset and then open the data file in a word processing program and look at it "by hand." For example, an excerpt from the dataset "Slave Trade to Havana, Cuba, 1790-1820" looks like this when opened in a word processor:

011804  059121             040015        000000011000000004EFIGENIA  COURADA      
011904 059120 030075 026018018000000013DOLORES PAGES
012004 069121 040064 058000000005001000GOVERNOR MARTIN
012104 069120 030066 005004027020001009MARIA COBACHICA 012204 069121 070014 006000000004003001MINERBA ROVINSON

The words at the end of each row in this dataset correspond to ship names and captain's names. To figure out what the numbers in each column stand for, one must use the Online Codebook for this dataset. Be aware, though, that many of these datasets do not spell out any names at all.

Q. Do the DISC Slave Movement Datasets cover the entire Atlantic slave trade?

A. No. Instead, the datasets offer small numeric snapshots of the slave trade, between particular countries and between particular years. The most comprehensive data source that we are aware of exists on a CD-ROM database called The Transatlantic Slave Trade, which covers approximately 70% of slave voyages from 1597-1866. A corresponding web site called Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database has updated the material and made it available online.
(Check your local college or university library for the CD-ROM. We also have a copy at DISC for local visitors to use).

Q. Can I find a complete history of a given slave ship?

A. No. The site does not contain any narrative histories, nor does it cover the entire Atlantic slave trade. Occasionally you may be able to find a dataset that includes slave ship names, using the approach listed above. However, you will have to look through the dataset descriptions yourself to discover which ones might meet your needs.

Q. Do you have diagrams or pictures of slave ships?

A. No. The picture on this page is for illustration purposes only.

Q. Can you help me with my homework project on slavery?

A. We're not a good source for that! DISC staff are not experts in the history of the slave trade. Our library contains data across the spectrum of social sciences, from agriculture to education to politics. We have no particular resources on the slave trade beyond the datasets on this site, and the other sites to which we link. Therefore, our site is usually poorly suited for helping with homework assignments or family history projects.

Q. I know what a dataset is, but I don't know how to use statistical software. Can you run an analysis for me, or teach me how?

A. No. The datasets are made available as a service to social science researchers who are familiar with statistical data manipulation. DISC is not staffed to provide analysis services.

Q. So what IS the DISC Slave Movement site useful for?

A. Researchers who are familiar with statistical data manipulation and software will be able to get the most out of this collection. Such researchers will be able to analyze variables such as length of voyages, number of slaves, slave deaths en route, etc. We also link to a variety of useful sites related to the history of slavery and the slave trade.

Q. Can you help me if I'm having trouble downloading a dataset?

A. Yes, that we can do! Send us a message at disc@mailplus.wisc.edu and we'll be glad to help.

Thank you for visiting the DISC Archive!