Someone researching a particular race, ethnic group or nationality will utilize basically the same sources that all genealogists use. Census records, tax, land, estate, vital, church and cemetery records as well as newspapers are all excellent sources. If you are researching African-Americans, before 1865, you have a more difficult task because of a lack of records pertaining to slaves. Fortunately, with patience and persistence, many records can be found.

Basic Records

Church and Census Records
Local Censuses and County Records
State Government Records
City Directories
Court Records
Voter Registration Lists
Registers of Slaves or Free Negroes
Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands (Created by Congress in 1865 to aid former slaves.)

Slave Narratives

As part of the WPA (Works Progress Administration) of the 1930’s the Writers Project interviewed many former slaves. These transcripts fill forty one volumes, Series 1 and 2 published in 1941 and reprinted in 1972 by Greenwood Publishing under the title The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography and Supplemental Series 1 and 2, published in 1978 and 1979.

These narratives do contain interviews with men and women who were free blacks before the Civil War, but for the most part, they are interviews of elderly former slaves. These people may not have originally lived in the state in which they were interviewed, but may have relocated there after being set free. There is much information contained in these narratives.

Series 1 (Volumes 1- 7) and Series 2 (Volumes 8-19)
Volume 1 – From Sundown to Sunup: The Making of the Black Community
Volume 2 – South Carolina Narratives, parts 1 and 2
Volume 3 – South Carolina Narratives, parts 3 and 4
Volume 4 – Texas Narratives, parts 1 and 2
Volume 5 – Texas Narratives, parts 3 and 4
Volume 6 – Alabama and Indiana Narratives
Volume 7 – Oklahoma and Mississippi Narratives
Volume 8 – Arkansas Narrative, parts 1 and 2
Volume 9 – Arkansas Narrative, parts 3 and 4
Volume 10 – Arkansas Narrative, parts 5 and 6
Volume 11 – Arkansas Narrative, part 7 and Missouri Narrative
Volume 12 – Georgia Narratives, parts 1 and 2
Volume 13 – Georgia Narratives, parts 3 and 4
Volume 14 – North Carolina Narratives, parts 1 and 2
Volume 15 – North Carolina Narratives, parts 3 and 4
Volume 16 – Narratives from Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Virginia and Tennessee
Volume 17 – Florida Narratives
Volume 18 – Unwritten History of Slavery (from Fisk University)
Volume 19 – God Struck Me Dead (Fisk University)

Supplemental Series
Volume 1 – Alabama Narratives
Volume 2 – Arkansas, Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri, Oregon and Washington Narratives.
Volume 3 & 4 – Georgia Narratives, parts 1 and 2
Volume 5 – Indiana Narratives
Volumes 6 through 10 – Mississippi Narratives parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Volume 11 – North Carolina and South Carolina Narratives
Volume 12 – Oklahoma Narratives

Supplemental Series 2
Volume 1 – Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Washington Narratives
Volume 2 through 10 – Texas Narratives

Books of Interest

  • Afro-American Genealogy Sourcebook, by Tommie M. Young (New York: Garland Publishers, 1987, out of print in 1992.
  • Black Genesis, by James Rose and Alice Eicholz (Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1978)
  • Black Genealogy, by Charles L. Blockson (Englewood Cliffs, NJ – Prentice Hall, 1977)
  • Directory of Afro-American Resources, by Walte Schatz, ed. (New York: R.R. Bowker Co., 1972)
  • Ethnic Genealogy: A Research Guide, edited by Jessie Carney Smith, includes a chapter on African American Research by Charles Blockson ( Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1983)

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