How to locate historical african american family information

Two deposit entries from the Freedman's Bank, which contain information on family members. Note that both of these men signed with an "X" with "his mark" written over ; they most likely could not write. Family Search : This is the best free site to search for records.

Here's How To Find Your African-American Family History Online

You can start building your tree for free on something like Ancestry, then use FamilySearch to search for the records for free. Google: Surprisingly helpful if you are looking for someone with a slightly unusual name. You can often find weird old county histories on Google Books. If you're lucky, you might even find another site where some distant cousin is also researching. Find a Grave : It looks janky as hell, but it's one of the most helpful sites you'll use — a massive volunteer-run collection of cemetery records.

It was recently bought by Ancestry, so now you'll see Find A Grave results in Ancestry searches, but if you find a match it's worth it to go to the actual site. People will sometimes have added bios and obituaries.


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  • Slavery comes to North America , 1619.
  • African American family records from era of slavery to be available free online.

You can also then see the other people in a particular cemetery who have the same last name — a great way to find more relatives. VitalRec : Although some birth, marriage, and death records have been digitized and available to find online, some have to be ordered from the state typically more recent ones. You'll have to pay a small fee to get the record in the mail, but sometimes that one record is really what you need.

AfriGeneas : An immensely helpful guide to researching African-American roots. It shut in Its entries are particularly valuable for family research because people would write their family members' names on the deposit records. The records are searchable at FamilySearch. Disclaimer: Of course, there's plenty of stuff you can only get at your local library or state archives. If you're getting serious, don't only rely on the online stuff!


  • African American Genealogy: A Guide to Finding Your Ancestors Online!
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A marriage certificate from the Freedman's Bureau. The couple had been living as married since , but only in were they able to make it legal. Searching for records of people who were born into slavery can be difficult — slaves weren't listed on censuses by name, but you can go around these brick walls by looking for the white slave owners. One word of caution: Don't assume that former slaves have their owners' last name.

This is not always the case. People took their mother's name, made up new names, or even took on generic names like Freeman after emancipation. Also, many freed slaves moved right after they were given their freedom to rejoin their family. Keep in mind large historic events like The Great Migration — , when blacks from the rural South moved away to cities in the North and West.

If you've only ever known your family to be from somewhere like Chicago or California, you may well discover on a census record for someone a few generations back that they were born in the South. Local historical context also helps. Even just looking up information on a town on Wikipedia can be helpful — especially as you go farther back and town or county names seem to shift. I've even found that looking up info on the history of slavery in different states was immensely helpful.

For example, I learned that in North Carolina, most slave-owning farms had just a few slaves, unlike the large plantations in other states. This information turned out to be really helpful in trying to identify a slave-owning family.

Finding and Telling the African American Family Story: Beginning the Genealogy Journey

Once you get back to the s—70s, look out for belated marriage records right after the Civil War. Since slaves couldn't legally marry, couples who had been unofficially married for years finally were able to get real marriage certificates through the Freedmen's Bureau. This means you might see a legal marriage date for an older couple who already had several children. The and Slave Schedules are searchable online.

They list the slave owner's name, and then the age, sex, and color, but not the slave's name. However, with enough context, you can use them to find the people you're looking for.

African-American Genealogy

Censuses are taken every 10 years, but the most recent one that is released to the public is This means that you probably will need to get back to your grandparents to actually find them in the census. Even if you don't know what city or state someone was born or died in, add the "United States. Adding in just the state and an estimated birth year on Ancestry will generate automatic "hints" and help you search more.

Each year census has slightly different questions. The census shows how many children a woman gave birth to and how many are currently living — it can be really sobering to see how common it was for families to have lost a child in those days. For example, some years it says where a person's parents were born, which is incredibly helpful especially as you get closer to the generation born just after emancipation, whose parents may have moved across state lines as soon as they were freed.

The best gift is when you don't know a woman's maiden name, then you notice in a census with her husband that his mother-in-law is living there. You just figured out the wife's maiden name. Sometimes you'll notice people living right next to their other family.


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A Kentucky census. If you're using Ancestry. Ancestry will give you a "hint" and suggest you can link up that person in your tree. Finding someone who is researching the same family is amazing — often they'll have already done a lot of the work for you, and you can piggyback on their research. Also, if they're from a different branch, they will have information about living cousins or other relatives you might have never known you had.

One warning: Before you start using someone else's information, you want to make sure they actually have good information. Peek at their tree and see if the relative you share is closely related to them a good sign or very distant.

If they have 25 or less people in their tree, or each person doesn't have records sourced, consider that a red flag. Findings on the MLK Assassination. Military Resources: Blacks in the Military. The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Congress and the Voting Rights Act of George W. Civil Rights Bush Presidential. Civil Rights Bush Vice Presidential. Civil Rights Rev. Thaddeus Garrett Files. George H. Documents Relating to the movie Selma.

Robert F. Correspondence between Martin Luther King, Jr. Eisenhower Library images on Civil Rights. Marian Anderson sings the National Anthem at the Inauguration. Civil Rights Act of Brown v. Board of Education.

African American Family History Step by Step

Citizens' Letters on the Little Rock Crisis. Civil Rights and the Emmett Till Case. Harry S. Truman and Civil Rights.

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