Many people think about genealogical research and assume the 1790 Census would be the first census for what is now Norfolk County, or the Direct Tax of 1771.
That actually is not the case at all. The first census to list inhabitants did not list them by name, and did not even require a count of those under sixteen. This This often under utilized historical census is on microfilm at the Massachusetts State Archives. The following example for Stoughton does give names - however of the Board of Assessors of the town of Stoughton - not of the slaves from the community. The sad fact is that most people you speak too will not even realize that slavery existed in the north. Well before the Civil War New England had an active African and Native American slave population. In Massachusetts it was active through the end of the American Revolutionary War. This early census is not complete - taking into account it is only listing those who were over 16 years of age. What about the children that were not counted? How many were there?
If you are interested taking a look of a chapter of your local history take a look at this series the next time you are researching at the Massachusetts State Archives.
Here is a glimpse at Stoughton's 1754 Slave Census.
In Obediance to the Order of ye Great &
General Court of ye Nineteenth of November
Last, We have Taken An Exact Act of the
Negro Slaves Within ye Town of Stoughton
& find that there is Six Males & Two Females,
of Sixteen Years old and upward.
Stoughton Janry Elkanah Billing ]
ye 1st 1755 Wm Royall ] Assessors
Joseph Billing ]
Daniel Richards ]
Note: Though only eight slaves are listed above sixteen, there is no accounting of the slave children who obviously resided in Stoughton.
Source: Massachusetts Slave Census of 1754 [Stoughton, p. 97].