In honor of Black History Month and the contributions made by African Americans, here are curated files of African American Family History resources. These have been set up in digitally tabbed file folders–just select a tab and the file contents will be displayed.

 

LeVar Burton (Geordi La Forge of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and Kunta Kinte of the 1977 “Roots” miniseries) gave a powerful keynote address at last year’s RootsTech. Maybe you had to be there or maybe you had to have lived in America in the 70s when almost every household, probably with an average of ten TV channels, tuned in to watch Roots. When parents were torn between “is this too graphic for the kids” and “is this too important to not let them see?” Burton summed it up perfectly when he said ‘one family’s story changed how America saw slavery’ and that every story mattered. Black History Month celebrates all African Americans. From the first African American president to the most humble slave narrative, every story matters.

 

Don’t have African American or slave ancestry? Consider donating some time helping index records at the US Freedmen’s Bureau. They need volunteers to extract names & ages & family members from all types of records and put them in appropriate birth, marriage, and death indexes. No one should have to look through deeds of sale to find their kin.

US Freedmen's Bureau project and African American Genealogy Research online
 

Some ideas for African American genealogy research include:

 

SLAVERY – most African Americans have slave ancestry which makes the research more difficult because there are fewer records and the records created by slavery are objectionable

US FREEDMEN’S BUREAU – the US Freedmen’s Bureau has the best African American & slavery records and these records are being digitized and indexed but are only partially available online, new records are added regularly so check back for new and updated collections

EXPAND YOUR SEARCH – you’ll probably need to expand your ancestor search to include your ancestor’s relations and, if applicable, the slave owner & slave owner’s relations (look for the slave owner’s will, an estate inventory naming slaves and if they will be freed or go to someone else after the owner’s death)

TRANSPORT – search passenger lists, ship manifests, and slave registers

MILITARY – Military records are great & Civil War pension applications are so valuable, they’re worth obtaining in their entirety

The Freedmen's Bureau African American Genealogy Research online

BEYOND INDEXES – if you don’t find what you need in indexes (where names have been extracted from all types of documents), you’ll have to steel yourself and master searching through property records, because slaves were not treated as persons, but as property; search slave insurance records, runaway slave newspaper advertisements, property deeds (slaves being some of the last property mentioned), loan collaterals, county taxes (noting slave owners), estate publications (estate value may be low even though they owned many slaves), court records/judgments, and any financial transactions

NETWORK – descendants of slave-owners may unknowingly hold family records, letters, etc. in their private collections that will unlock your past & you may have to navigate how to successfully reach out to them

LIBRARIES & SOCIETIES – local libraries and genealogical or historical societies in the locale where an ancestor lived may have the valuable records you need-don’t underestimate societies & libraries

CONNECT – most genealogists specialize in a locale or ethnicity, join social media sites and follow bloggers and genealogists who specialize in African American or slave research-the techniques you’ll need to master are different and you should let a professional be your guide

DNA – if you hit a brick wall, modern DNA testing with ethnicity, triangulation, & shared matches may be a necessary step in your research

THE NEVERENDING STORY – this list of resources will never be complete in any way and I haven’t added collections at subscription sites (unless I did so by accident); I absolutely will if it’s by request, but I personally hate anticipating a free collection and then hitting a paywall

Birth RecordsMarriage RecordsDeath RecordsResidenceDaily LifeMilitaryModern Helps

General Freedmen Bureau Records Name Search – a FamilySearch site “The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (the Freedmen’s Bureau) was created in 1865 at the end of the American Civil War to supervise relief efforts including education, healthcare, food and clothing, refugee camps, legalization of marriages, employment, labor contracts, and securing back pay, bounty payments and pensions.”

South Africa Register of Slaves, 1762-1838

US Freedmen’s Bureau, Records of Freedmen, 1865-1872 – birth, marriage, labor contracts, rations with locations where an ancestor lived and who slaveholder was, letters with great info

Slave Archival Collection (RootsWeb site at Ancestry that is temporarily down)

RootsWeb free Birth Records Database Search (RootsWeb site at Ancestry that is temporarily down)

General Freedmen Bureau Records Name Search – a FamilySearch site “The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (the Freedmen’s Bureau) was created in 1865 at the end of the American Civil War to supervise relief efforts including education, healthcare, food and clothing, refugee camps, legalization of marriages, employment, labor contracts, and securing back pay, bounty payments and pensions.”

United States Freedmen’s Bureau Marriages, 1861-1872

Freedmen’s Bureau Marriage Records (an alternative site for the same records)

US Freedmen’s Bureau, Records of Freedmen, 1865-1872 – birth, marriage, labor contracts, rations with locations where an ancestor lived and who slaveholder was, letters with great info

African American Marriages URL is http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~janderse/marriages/   (RootsWeb site at Ancestry that is temporarily down)

 

General

General Freedmen Bureau Records Name Search – a FamilySearch site “The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (the Freedmen’s Bureau) was created in 1865 at the end of the American Civil War to supervise relief efforts including education, healthcare, food and clothing, refugee camps, legalization of marriages, employment, labor contracts, and securing back pay, bounty payments and pensions.”

African American Death Records an AfriGeneas searchable database

African American Obituaries, Funeral Programs and Cemetery Records – an AfriGeneas database

Richland County Public Library Obituary Index – “obituaries and death notices from various local newspapers dating from 1875 to the present.”

Slave Archival Collection

Lynching Information & Records

Christine’s Genealogy Website – lynchings & wills

Freedmen’s Bureau Records Relating to Murders and Outrages

Cemeteries

African American Cemeteries Online

African American Cemeteries at Wikipedia

US Cemetery listingsePodunk

City Cemetery Burial Database list of African Americans buried at City Cemetery

The Friends of Freedmen’s Cemetery – Virginia

Probate

Slave Data Collection at AfriGeneas slaves named in wills

Probate Record research tips from AfriGeneas

Christine’s Genealogy Website includes transcribed wills and inventory lists

Land & Property

United States, Freedmen’s Bureau, Land and Property Records, 1865-1872   “This collection consists of images of land and property records created by the Freedmen’s Bureau for the years 1865 to 1872. … and may include Full name, Residence, Document dates, Ages, Description of property, Name of property owner, Names of other members of the family

Plantations

Sankofagen Wiki – Plantation records for most states, site is redesigned but select a state or file name and then look at plantations and slave lists

List of Plantations in the US – Wikipedia

Census

African American Census Records an AfriGeneas searchable database

United States Online Census, 1790-1940 including 1850 Slave Schedule

Migration

Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database

The African-American Migration Experience

The Great Migration: The African American Exodus from The South

African Origins Database, index  FSearch

Alabama Mapping – GIS by county (scroll to bottom of page for mobile view link)

Banking

United States Freedman’s Bank Records, 1865-1874

Court & Legal & Government

United States, Freedmen’s Bureau, Freedmen’s Court Records, 1865-1872  “This collection consists of an index and images of records relating to Freedmen’s court cases including proceedings, registers of cases tried, trial dockets, affidavits, depositions, testimonies of witnesses.”

United States, Freedmen’s Bureau, Records of Freedmen’s Complaints, 1865-1872  “Index and images of registers of complaints and other records related to civil rights complaints.” Person filing the complaint, the object of the complaint, action taken and the result of action.

Education

United States, Freedmen’s Bureau, Records of the Superintendent of Education and of the Division of Education, 1865-1872 “Most of the collection will consist of monthly teacher reports and monthly reports of the sub-assistant commissioner or agents. The event date is the date the report was completed either by the teacher or agent. Reports can also identify the name and location of schools as well as the society sponsoring a teacher.”

Employment & Labor

United States, Freedmen’s Bureau Labor Contracts, Indenture and Apprenticeship Records, 1865-1872 “The collection consists of an index and images of employment-related records for the years 1865 to 1872. It includes labor contracts, indentures and apprenticeship records” and may contain “Given and Surname, Age and/or Birth Date, Death Date, Residence, Spouse Name and Birth, Race or Color, Occupation, Marriage Date, & Military Unit.”

United States, Freedmen’s Branch Records, 1872-1878, bounty claims, labor complaints, pension claims; information may include: “Name(s) of the primary individual(s), Name of the freedman’s former owner, Names of family members, Residence, Age, Date of the record, and Birth, marriage or death dates and places”

United States, Freedmen’s Bureau Claim Records, 1865-1872

United States, Freedmen’s Bureau Ration Records, 1865-1872  applications for relief, rations, & more

United States, Freedmen’s Bureau Records of Persons and Articles Hired, 1865-1872

United States, Freedmen’s Bureau, Records of the Assistant Commissioner, 1865-1872  “These records include, letters and registers of letters sent and received, reports, endorsements, telegrams, issuances, account books, applications for rations, applications for relief, court records, labor contracts, registers of bounty claimants, registers of complaints, registers of contracts, registers of disbursements, registers of freedmen issued rations, registers of patients, reports, rosters of officers and employees, special and general orders and circulars received, special orders and circulars issued, records relating to claims, court trials, property restoration, and homesteads.”

United States, Freedmen’s Bureau, Records of the Commissioner, 1865-1872  This collection includes letters, denials of claim, endorsements, and oversight of the Bureau. Information may include the “Name of the freedman, Name of the freedman’s former owner, Date of the record, Birthplace, Residence, Age, & Document dates.”

History & Oral Histories

Library of Congress African American oral histories and other historical material

African American Biographical Database (1790-1950) “The African American Biographical Database is a resource of first resort when you are looking for biographical information, including photographs and illustrations, for African Americans.”

Biographies of Famous African Americans

Biographies of Famous African Americans – a different site

Celebrating African American Achievements in Film and TV

Notable African American Women

First-Person Narratives of the American South “First-Person Narratives of the American South” is a collection of diaries, autobiographies, memoirs, travel accounts, and ex-slave narratives written by Southerners. The majority of materials in this collection are written by those Southerners whose voices were less prominent in their time, including African Americans, women, enlisted men, laborers, and Native Americans.”

Voices from the Days of Slavery “All known recordings of former slaves in the American Folklife Center are included in this presentation. Some are being made publicly available for the first time and several others already available now include complete transcriptions.”

NYPL Slave Narratives, Books, & Publications

Slave Biographies

Stanford University – Diary of a Contraband

Lowcountry Africana a free website for African American Genealogy in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, with research tips for how to begin African American genealogy research.

Free Google Books Slave Narratives

See Libraries, Museums, & Archives for other Slave Narratives

 Insurance

Slavery Era Insurance Policies Registry – a pdf from the Illinois State Government with policies from the United States Life Insurance Company of New York, New York Life Insurance Company, & Aetna Life Insurance Company. This includes names of slaves from 10 states and the District of Columbia.

Slavery Era Insurance Registry – New York Life slavery database created by the State of California

Slavery Era Insurance Report prepared for the State of Iowa after a request for any insurance company doing business in Iowa to report slavery era insurance policies

Libraries, Museums, & Archives

DPLA – the Digital Public Library of American allows you to search across many US Libraries’ digital collections. A search of  “African American Obituaries” found 10 results, two of which were family bible records spanning 200 years with slave genealogies; a search for “Slave deaths” returned plantation ledgers with names of slaves and births and deaths for each slave family; searches for African American births, slave deaths, slave will, slave inventory, probate, land records, bible records, etc are ideas for more searches. (Remember to reset your search filters each time.)

How to Search at DPLA

ArchiveGrid is similar to DPLA and searches across more than 1,000 archival institutions. This link goes to a search for “Slave” records.

How to Search at ArchiveGrid

Umbra Search  specifically for African American collections at more than 1,000 Libraries

Internet Archive, this link shows search results for “Slave Narratives”

Finding Genealogy collections at Internet Archive

Alabama Field Office, US Freedmen’s Bureau Records online

Arkansas Field Office, US Freedmen’s Bureau Records online

Delaware Field Office, US Freedmen’s Bureau Records online

District of Columbia Field Office, US Freedmen’s Bureau Records online

Georgia Field Office, US Freedmen’s Bureau Records online

Kentucky Field Office, US Freedmen’s Bureau Records online

Louisiana Field Office, US Freedmen’s Bureau Records online

Maryland Field Office, US Freedmen’s Bureau Records online

Mississippi Field Office, US Freedmen’s Bureau Records online

South Carolina Field Office, US Freedmen’s Bureau Records online

Google Books, this link shows search results for “Slave Narratives”

How to limit results to only FREE books at Google Books

HathiTrust, this link shows search results for “Slave Narratives”

Tips for searching at HathiTrust

Buffalo Soldiers National Museum – “BSNM is the only museum dedicated primarily to preserving the legacy and honor of the African-American soldier in defense of the United States of America from the Revolutionary War to present.” The Cheyenne Tribe Native American warriors gave the soldiers the nickname “Wild Buffalo” out of respect for the 10th Cavalry (African American soldiers’) fierce fighting ability. The name Buffalo soldiers stuck and became a generic term referencing all African American soldiers.

Maryland State Archives

Multicultural  Genealogical Center

New Orleans Public Library online collections

New York Public Library Digital Collections results for “Slave” search

Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture and Facebook Group

Richard B. Harrison Library Vertical Files, digital content, Mollie Huston Lee librarian collection

Duke University Libraries Digital Collections including American Slavery Documents

Pennsylvania State Archives

St. Louis County Library Collections including African American newspapers and more

Conducting African American Research in University Libraries Facebook Group

National Civil Rights Museum and Facebook Group

Magazines & Periodicals

African American Periodicals, 1825-1995

International Index to Black Periodicals

Muscogiana – journal of the Muscogee Genealogical Society

Medical

United States, Freedmen’s Bureau Hospital and Medical Records, 1865-1872 records may include “Name of the patient, Age, Sex, Date of admission, Date of discharge or death, Name and location of cemetery where buried, Estimated date and place of birth, Home residence, Marital status of deceased, & Names of family members”

Newspapers

Richland County Public Library Obituary Index – “obituaries and death notices from various local newspapers dating from 1875 to the present.”

African American Online Historical Newspapers

Photographs

Pictures of African Americans in WWII

Beautiful Photographs of Our Black Unknowns Facebook Group

Vintage African American Photographs Facebook Group

Vintage African American Photography

Slavery

Freedmen’s Bureau Labor Records

Sankofagen Wiki – Plantation records for most states, site is redesigned but select a state or file name and then look at plantations and slave lists

Graham Slave Records and Facebook Group

American Memory – Slaves and the Courts 1740-1860

Digital Library on American Slavery by The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database

Slavery, Abolition, and Social Justice

Inspection Roll of Negroes Book No. 2; Records of the Continental and Confederation Congresses and the Constitutional Convention 1765-1821

Slave Narratives, Volume 1 free download

Slave Biographies: Atlantic Slave Database Network

See Slavery Insurance Policies above

Societies

Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society and Facebook Group

Association for the Study of African American Life and History and Facebook Group

Massachusetts Historical Society

Descendants of American Slaves & Friends Facebook Group

The Ft. Ward and Seminary African American Descendants Society Facebook Group

Indivisible: African-Native American/ American Indian/Indigenous Ancestry Facebook Group

Midwest African American Genealogy Institute (MAAGI) Facebook Group

Surnames

African American Surnames – AfriGeneas

 

Blogs, Bloggers, Researchers

AfriGeneas – An African American genealogy research site with online databases, research tips, and other resources.

The African-Native American Website A founding member of AfriGeneas, Angela Walton-Raji is a genealogist who specializes in African and Native American research. “Her great-grandparents were African slaves of Choctaw Indians, and that her Walton ancestors were among several thousand Africans who were enslaved by Native Americans, including those who migrated west on the Trail of Tears.”

Who is Nicka Smith? “Nicka Smith is a professional photographer, speaker, and documentarian with more than 18 years of experience as a genealogist.  She is the host of BlackProGen LIVE, a web show focused on people of color genealogy and family history.”

Our Black Ancestry by Sharon Leslie Morgan, a founding member of AfriGeneas and Diana Roman, a descendant of one of the largest slaveholding families in American history.

Lowcountry Africana a free website for African American Genealogy in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, with research tips for how to begin African American genealogy research.

Tony Burroughs, FUGA

Genealogy Blog Finder: African American Blogs 

I’ve Traced My Ancestor’s Slaveholders Facebook Group with tips for linking slaves to slave owners

Enslaved Ancestors and Freedmen Genealogy! Just Ask! Facebook Group

Traci’s African American History in Missouri blog and Facebook Group

Our Black Ancestry Facebook Group

Roots Matter ~ Blacks in Genealogy

African-American Genealogy Forum on Facebook

African American Griots Genealogy & History Facebook Group

African American History, Ancestors & Descendants in America and Worldwide Facebook Group

African-Native American Connection Facebook Group

DNA

African Ancestry DNA testing and Facebook Group

AncestryDNA

Family Tree DNA

MyHeritage DNA

23andMe

The African Descendant’s Genetic Genealogy Facebook Group

DNA Tested African Descendants Facebook Group

Research

The National Archives (National Archives and Records Administration) explanation of African American records

NARA African American & Slavery records

Black Family History Research at NARA

Using Military Records at NARA

Mapping the Freedmen’s Bureau descriptive guides for each state with Freedmen’s Bureau records

Family Search

The Beyond Kin Project  and Facebook page “an effort to create genealogical documentation for historically enslaved populations”

Arkansas History Commission

Black Archives of Mid-America in Kansas City “The Black Archives of Mid-America serves to collect and preserve the history of African Americans in the Midwest.

Georgia’s Virtual Vault “Georgia’s most important historical documents, from 1733 to the present.”

AfriGeneas online databases, research tips, photos, and other resources and Facebook Group

BlackPast and Facebook Group

Lowcountry Africana a free website for African American Genealogy in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, with research tips for how to begin African American genealogy research.

Missouri State Archives

Institute of African American Research at UNC and Facebook Group

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and Facebook Group

Chattahoochee Trace – promotes heritage of an 18 county Alabama and Georgia region

Our Folks Tales stories of enslaved people and African American genealogy links

The Slave Dwelling Project preserves slave dwellings and Facebook Group

African American Registry alphabetical order & Facebook Group

Webinars

LegacyFamilyTree Webinars has a couple free African American genealogy webinars planned for 2018, and members have access to 13 webinars with handouts

The African Roots Podcast since 2009

 

Canadian African American ResearchCaribbean African American Research

Caribbean Islands Records

Caribbean, Births and Baptisms, 1590-1928

Caribbean, Marriages, 1591-1905

Caribbean, Deaths and Burials, 1790-1906

Caribbeana volumes at Internet Archive – a few references to named slaves, use “Search Inside” feature to search a volume

Digital Library of the Caribbean – dLOC

CaribbeanGenWeb

West Indies

A Guide to the Letterbook for the Simon Plantation, St. Kitts – authored by Samuel Cary. “Throughout the letterbook, Cary provides information about the African slaves owned by the plantation, listing about 300 at one point. He describes the shipping of slaves, the purchase of slaves, their labor and health, and the escape and death of slaves.”

Jamaica Records

National Library of Jamaica (NLJ) – including collections about the slave trade and slavery

Jamaica Births and Baptisms, 1752-1920

Jamaica Church of England Parish Register Transcripts, 1664-1880

Jamaica, Civil Registration, 1880-1999

Bahamas Records

Bahamas, Births, 1850-1891

Bahamas, Civil Registration, 1850-1959

Dominican Republic Records

Dominican Republic, Catholic Church Records, 1590-1955

Dominican Republic Baptisms, 1726-1924

Dominican Republic Births 1801-2006

Dominican Republic Civil Registration Records 1801-2010

Dominican Republic, Marriages, 1743-1929

Dominican Republic Deaths, 1666-1862

Dominican Republic, Miscellaneous Records, 1921-1980

Haiti

Marronnage in Saint-Dominigue (Haiti) – with slavery databases

Haiti, Port-au-Prince, Civil Registration, 1794-2012

A Guide to the Jeremie Papers – possibly including slave information

If you have a favorite resource to add, including your own African American blog or forum, please leave a comment on the OnGenealogy Facebook page and we’d be happy to include more resources. We’re still planning to switch to a new website soon and allow on-site comments and permit registered users to add resources to this site directly. Best in your research and enjoy Black History Month!