I have African American ancestry. Do you have suggestions for researching my genealogy?


First, please take a look at "Do you have resources I can use to research my family's genealogy?"

Here are some additional suggestions.

Past records of the United States Census are available through the National Archives. The 1870 census is the first in which formerly enslaved African Americans were listed by name. The 1850 and 1860 censuses included slave schedules listing numbers of enslaved persons held by particular enslavers along with their sex, color (black or mulatto), and age, but without their names.

If you are able to determine the name of a plantation, family, or person by which an ancestor may have been held in enslavement, you can look to see if South Caroliniana Library happens to hold antebellum papers from that person, family, or plantation that might include names of enslaved persons. We also hold series A and B of the Records of ante-bellum Southern Plantations on microfilm. (These are available also from other libraries.) We can provide an index to these records, or you can see the lists of names in the two series, Series A and Series B, as provided by FamilySearch.org.

Records kept by the Freedmen's Bureau after the Civil War often contain labor contracts between land owners and recently freed African Americans, sometimes their former enslavers. They are organized by area; so if you have an idea of where a formerly enslaved ancestor may have lived, you might be able to find a record of them from immediately after the Civil War. Freedmen's Bureau records are available several places online:

The South Carolina Department of Archives and History has a page of resources for African American genealogy.

And the International African American Museum in Charleston, S.C., has a Center for Family History.

  • Last Updated Aug 30, 2023
  • Views 16
  • Answered By Todd Hoppock

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