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15 Free Sites for African American Genealogy


Explore your African American family history and heritage through this collection of free databases, resources and family trees for African-American genealogy.

1. AfriGeneas

AfriGeneas is dedicated to the particular challenges of researching African-American ancestors, and offers support in the form of chat rooms, discussion forms and recommended resources solely focused on African American ancestry, plus a great beginner's guide. If you need some expert guidance to get you started on your African American research, this site is the best place to start.

2. Digital Library on American Slavery

This free resource from hosted by the University of North Carolina at Greensboro includes digitized details about American slaves from thousands of court and legislative petitions filed between 1775 and 1867 in 15 different states. Search by name, search by petition or browse subjects.

3. The USF Africana Heritage Project

This all-volunteer research project and Web site sponsored by the Africana Studies department at the University of South Florida works to discover records that document the names of slaves, freedpersons and their descendants, and share them online.

4. Civil War Soldiers & Sailors System

Search this free database from the National Park Service for information on the 235,000 USCT (United States Colored Troops) soldiers, regiments (units), battles, and NPS civil war parks. It also includes histories of 180 USTC units/regiments.

5. Lowcountry Africana

 This website dedicated to African American genealogy in the historic rice-growing areas of South Carolina, Georgia, and northeastern Florida, hosts a wealth of more unique record types including labor contracts, transportation requests, and field reports from the Freedmen's Bureau, and 1868 voter registration records. Additional resources include how-to articles and research guides.

6. Large Slaveholders of 1860

Tom Blake has spent many years identifying the largest slaveholders on the 1860 U.S. census, and matching those surnames to African American households listed in the 1870 census (the first census to enumerate the former slaves by name). He estimates that these large slaveholders held 20-30% of the total number of slaves in the United States in 1860.

7. American Memory Collection

This huge collection of documents, photographs, sound recordings, maps, and other records includes more than a dozen collections specifically related to African American history and culture. An essential starting point for those interested in learning more about their African American heritage.

8. Free African Americans of Virginia, N Carolina, S Carolina, Maryland & Delaware

Paul Heinegg shares the entire body of his published work on free African Americans online, as found in his books Free African Americans of North Carolina, Virginia and South Carolina and Free African Americans of Maryland and Delaware, including about 2,000 pages of family histories based on colonial court order and minute books, free Negro registers, marriage bonds, census records, etc. You'll also find hundreds of abstracted tax lists.

9. American Slave Narratives - An Online Anthology

A project of the University of Virginia, this database of slave narratives includes a sampling of some of the 2,300+ interviews and photos of former slaves taken between 1936 and 1938 with first-hand accounts of their experiences.

10. Freedmen's Bureau Online

The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, generally referred to as the Freedman's Bureau, was established in the War Department by an act of March 3, 1865 to supervise all relief and educational activities relating to refugees and newly freed slaves. On this site you can find many reports and documents generated by the Freedman's Bureau, including labor records and marriage records, as well as a comprehensive overview of the Freedman's Bureau history, the Reconstruction Era, labor contracts and other aspects of African American life after Emancipation.

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