17    Jan 20110 comments

Genealogy of Color: Resources Online

In the US, we celebrate famous civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday as an official holiday on the third Monday in January.

This year it is today, January 17.

It is a fitting day to discuss the increasing number of family history resources available to African Americans searching for their roots, which can be difficult.

When the book "Roots"  was published and later screened as the most-watched television series of all time in the '70s, it offered people of all ethnicities the idea that it was possible to learn about their families. In the past few years, increasing numbers of resources have been made available.

For African Americans, it meant that more resources would be developed allowing the people of today to find out about their ancestors, whose history and even names had been hidden or erased. With today's DNA resources, many can now trace their families to areas in Africa.

Here is a round-up of resources - websites, blogs, DNA research - that will help you learn more about your family. Remember that each resource listed also offers even more links to additional information.


Geneabloggers.com offers a list of some 70 blogs focusing on African American genealogy. Specialty blogs are a researcher's best friends as they list breaking news, new projects, websites and databases. Check out those resources.


Many of these websites also offer companion blogs.

-- AfriGeneas:  Named one of Family Tree Magazine's 101 best genealogy sites - for the eighth year in a row - is Afrigeneas. It is devoted to African American genealogy: to researching African ancestry in the Americas and to genealogical research and resources. Other features: a discussion group, message boards and chats, online interactive beginner's guide, census records, death records database, library records, photos, slave data collection and surnames databases. A family reunion primer offers many links, and an education section with activities and resources. Its forums cover African-Native American, Caribbean, DNA, reunions, genealogy and history, books and more.

-- AfricanDNA.com: The first company to offer both genetic testing and genealogical tracing services for African Americans. Launched in November 2007, it is a partnership of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the Inkwell Foundation and Family Tree DNA, the world's pioneer and leader in genetic genealogy. It is the only genetic genealogy company to provide African Americans with family tree research in addition to DNA testing.

-- The USF Africana Heritage Project : An all-volunteer research project and website sponsored by the Africana Studies department,  University of South Florida, to re-discover records documenting the names and lives of slaves, freed persons and their descendants, and share - for free - those records online. It is collaborating on Afriquest.com - a free online database - to which individuals may contribute records and materials.

-- Freedmen's Bureau OnlineThe Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands - the Freedman's Bureau - was founded by the War Department on March 3, 1865 to supervise relief and educational activities relating to refugees and newly freed slaves, and including issuing rations, clothing and medicine. There are many reports and documents online, including labor records, early marriage records and more. The goal is to use innovative imaging and indexing technologies to make the records easily accessible to the public, including historians, genealogists, novice genealogy enthusiasts, and students.

-- Slaveholders and African Americans, 1860-1870: Tom Blake has been identifying the largest slaveholders on the 1860 US census, and matching surnames to African American households in the 1870 census, the first to enumerate former slaves by name. According to his estimate, large slaveholders held 20-30% of the total number of slaves in the US in 1860.

-- Free African Americans of Virginia, N Carolina, S Carolina, Maryland & Delaware:  Paul Heinegg shares his books on free African Americans online, from his books: "Free African Americans of North Carolina, Virginia and South Carolina" and "Free African Americans of Maryland and Delaware." There are some 2,000 pages of family histories based on colonial court order and minute books, free Negro registers, marriage bonds, census records, etc. A further 2,000 pages are listed under Colonial Tax lists.

-- Library of Congress: American Memory Collection: Photographs, sound recordings, sheet music, maps and documents relating to African American history and culture.

-- Civil War Soldiers & Sailors System: The history of Black Americans in the Civil War. Some 10% of the Union troops were African American soldiers. The free database holds information on soldiers, regiments, battles, civil war parks and more.

-- American Slave Narratives - An Online Anthology: A University of Virginia project offers more than 2,300 interviews and photos of former slaves (1936-38). The online database of slave narratives includes some of those interviews and photos.

-- African American Cemeteries Online: Volunteer-submitted cemetery transcriptions. Search by surname or state to find people buried in US African American cemeteries.

-- The African-American Migration Experience:  The Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture provides data on the major waves of African American migrations (Transatlantic Slave Trade, Runaway Journeys, Domestic Slave Trade, Colonization and Emigration, Haitian Immigration, Caribbean Migration, African Migration and African American migration within the United States. Find a timeline and photographs.

-- On Ancestry.com, read the section "African American History" and find these databases:

-- 1870 U.S. Federal Census (Population Schedule): The first census listing former slaves by name and age.
-- Colored Troops Military Service Records (1861-1865)
-- Freedmen’s Marriage Records (1861-1869)
-- Freedman's Bank Records:Nearly 180,000 names of depositors of Freedman's Savings and Trust, which served thousands of African-American former slaves (1865-1874) throughout the Southern States.
-- Freedmen Bureau Records of Field Offices (1865-1872): covering District of Columbia, Georgia, North Carolina, New Orleans, Florida, Virginia and Tennessee.
-- Slave Registers of Former British Colonial Dependencies (1812-1834)
-- Southern Claims Master Index (1871-1880)
-- Southern Claims Commission Allowed Claims (1871-1880)
-- Southern Claims Commission Disallowed and Barred Claims (1871-1880)


For more on DNA testing for African Americans, read the articles here.


Each resource listed above provides links to many more information sources. 

The MyHeritage Genealogy Blog has previously posted several relevant articles, which contain even more information.




Let me know about your experiences with these resources. Have you found connections and success? Share your experiences with other readers.

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