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Tracing African-American Family History


Resources for studying the history and genealogy of African Americans continue to be published. The following provides some basic information resources for tracing African-American family history in the New York State Library and in other repositories. New York State Library call numbers are included for the convenience of on-site researchers.

Getting Started

Handler, Jerome S., et al., comp. Freedmen of Barbados : names and notes for genealogical and family history research.
Charlottesville, Va. : Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, c2007.
NYSL Call number: R, 929.372981 F853 211-163 2007

Matthews, Harry Bradshaw.  Whence they came : the families of United States Colored troops in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, 1815-1995: a case study in historiographic genealogy. Oneonta, N.Y. : USCT Institute for Local History and Family Research, 2010.
NYSL Call number: R,973.7415 qM439 210-2963

O'Sullivan-Sirjue, Jennifer and Pansy Robinson. Researching your Jamaican family. Kingston, Jamaica : Arawak, 2007.
NYSL  Call number: 929.10899 O859 211-166

Rose, James M. and Alice Eichholz. Black genesis : a resource book for African-American  genealogy. Baltimore, MD : Genealogical Pub. Co., 2003.
NYSL Call number: R,929.1 R796 79-22556 2003

Stewart, L. Lloyd.  The mysterious black migration, 1800-1820 : the Van Vrankens and other families of African descent in Washington County, New York. Bloomington, Ind. : Xlibris, c2013.
NYSL  Call number: Netherland, 326.8 S849 213-412

Taylor, Frazine K. , comp. Researching African American genealogy in Alabama : a resource guide. Montgomery : NewSouth Books, c2008.
NYSL Call number: R, 929.10899 T238 211-165

Witcher, Curt Bryan. African American genealogy: a bibliography and guide to sources. Fort Wayne, Indiana: Round Tower Books, 2000.
(R,929.10899,W819,201-11209)

Woodtor, Dee. Finding a Place Called Home: A Guide to African-American Genealogy and Historical Identity. New York: Random House, 1999.
(R,929.10899,W898,200-10488)

New York State Library Publications

A bibliography available from the Documents Section of the State Library (Cultural Education Center, 6th Floor, Albany, NY 12230, (518) 474-5953) includes extensive information about the history of African Americans in New York State: An African American Bibliography: History, January 1992.

Other Resources

African American Family Histories and Related Works in the Library of Congress Compiled by Paul Connor, updated by Ahmed Johnson Local History and Genealogy Reading Room Humanities and Social Sciences Division, Library of Congress, Washington, DC, 2009. Electronic copy available from the Library of Congress. https://www.loc.gov/rr/genealogy/bib_guid/AfrAmerFamilyHistories.pdf

Clarke, Robert L., ed. Afro-American History: Sources for Research. Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1981. Contains a series of detailed essays on the use of various federal records for studying African American history and genealogy. (A,973.0496073,N277)

Library of Congress. African American Mosaic: A Library of Congress Resource Guide for the Study of Black History and Culture. Washington: The Congress, 1994. (LC l.6/4:AF 8)

National Archives and Records Service. Guide to Genealogical Research in the National Archives. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Service, 2000. Chapter 12, "Records of Black Americans" includes information about census records, military service records, Freedman's Bureau records, records of slaves in the District of Columbia, records related to the slave trade and African colonization and other records.
016.9291072 qU587 83-76924 2000
Electronic copy from HathiTrust http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/003834362

Newman, Debra L. Black History: A Guide to Civilian Records in the National Archives. Washington, D.C.: National Archives Trust Fund Board, General Services Administration, 1984. Briefly describes records relating to African Americans in over 450 different federal government agencies and activities.
(A and C,016.9730496, N552)

New York State Archives

The New York State Archives has several resources useful in studying African-American family history. These include: vital records indexes for New York State (except for New York City) for births, marriages and deaths; Civil War Muster Roll Abstracts of New York State Volunteers; United States Sharpshooters, and United States Colored Troops; inmate records for State prisons; Census of Inmates in Almshouses and Poorhouses, 1875-1921; slave ownership records from colonial New York and other records.

Before researching these records, it is advisable to request information about the various record series from the staff of the State Archives. The State Archives has brief publications describing its genealogical resources and records relating to African Americans.

Last Updated: April 27, 2021