If you have been inspired to discover more about an ancestor, this is a good time to recommit to that goal. It is very likely you will discover enough to share and celebrate that ancestor for Black History Month. Here are a few resources to help you fill in the missing details about the history and genealogy of African American ancestors.
Search online databases for historical records to document your ancestor. During Black History Month, some sites are offering free access to their records. Two of these site are:
- Fold3.com – Fold3 has over a million rare photos and documents that they have opened access to for the month of February. What is impressive about their landing page is how they have categorized the records: Slavery, The Civil War, Reconstruction and Jim Crow Laws, World Wars, and The Civil Rights Movement. This enables you to study records that were generated during a time period or event that you choose.
- AmericanAncestors.com – AmericanAncestors.org, by the New England Historic Genealogical Society is offering free access to the following databases:
Hampden County, MA: Black Families in Hampden County, 1650-1865
People of Color in the Massachusetts State Census, 1855-1865
Massachusetts: 1855 State Census
Massachusetts: 1865 State Census
Free Negro Heads of Families in the United States in 1830
Other websites have organized African American collections in the past, but the resources are still valuable:
Ancestry.com – (subscription) See detailed examples of records at the bottom half of the page underneath the search box.
FamilySearch.org – (free) The African American Research and Records home page will link you to the following collections:
- United States, Civil War Service Records of Union Colored Troops, 1863-1865
- Freedmans Bank Records, 1865-1874
- Freedmen’s Bureau Marriages, 1815-1869
- Virginia, Freedmen’s Bureau Letters, 1865-1872
Additional helpful resources at FamilySearch.org include DiscoverFreedmen.org where you can learn more about The Freedmen’s Bureau Indexing Project and FamilySearch Wiki: African American Genealogy. Also, you can find several classes in the Learning Center for African American research.
More African American resources
Lowcountry Africana – Even if your ancestors didn’t live in or pass through the historic rice-growing areas of South Carolina, Georgia and northeastern Florida, Lowcountry Africana is still a great resource. Due to their isolation in rural areas, enslaved Africans in the Lowcountry were able to retain much of their language, beliefs, and traditions, giving family historians a unique window into the past. Visit Lowcountry Africana to learn about the history of this unique region and find book excerpts, links to records, and multimedia presentations about history and culture. See Top African American Genealogy Resources to Follow on Social Media.
Access Genealogy – Black Genealogy
BlackPast.org – The Genealogy Page
The Genealogy Center – African American Gateway
Geni – African American Genealogy
African American Cemeteries Online
BYUtv – How to do African American Genealogy