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Wednesday night @ GSQ: Was your ancestor a slave owner?

May 22 @ 7:00 PM - 8:00 PM

Surprising answers are waiting to be discovered in this database. In 1833 Britain abolished slavery in British Caribbean, Mauritius and the Cape. A new system of apprenticeships for the emancipated slaves resulted in free men and women tied to unfree labour for fixed terms. The British government (the tax payers) paid £20M in compensation to former slave owners, beneficiaries and agents acting for owners.

A recent project of University College London has resulted in the Legacies of British Slave-ownership Database which is freely available online. Details for claims made between 1834 and 1845 are listed. They can contain extensive biographical information, relationships with other claimants, details of estates and number of slaves owned, numbering from one to hundreds. Many ordinary people who had never been near the Caribbean were slave owners as the result of wills and endowments. We will examine the legacies of these payments and their implications for early Australia’s historical, political and cultural landscape.

For members only with a gold coin contribution.

Presenter: Sharyn Merkley

Sharyn first became interested her own family history as a teenager listening to her great grandmother’s stories. Between work as a computer programmer, raising children and a later career in teaching, she has continued to research her own and her husband’s families.

While hunting the Merkley ancestors in early Brisbane, she became fascinated by the story of the Great Fire of Brisbane. Determined to bring to light the stories of both ordinary and well-known personalities whose lives were touched by the fires, she used her family history detective skills to rebuild their lives. Family stories are incomplete unless they are in context so social history has become a new passion. Brisbane Burns: How the great fires of 1864 shaped a city and its people was published in 2017.

Having also recently completed the Diploma in Family History with the University of Tasmania, Sharyn is keen to share what she has learned through the Genealogical Society of Queensland’s Education program.


May 22
7:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Event Category:


Genealogical Society of QLD
25 Stackpole Street
Wishart, QLD 4122 Australia
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07 3349 6072