Researching Your African American Roots

By Bertilson, Myra | Black Issues in Higher Education, February 1, 2001 | Go to article overview

Researching Your African American Roots


Bertilson, Myra, Black Issues in Higher Education


People of African American descent often face challenges when they try to trace their ancestors. However, African Americans can use the same basic steps that other cultural groups use to get started before they conduct more specialized searches. Then they can access special records to trace ancestors who might have been slaves.

Genealogy is a popular North American hobby. It is history at its most personal -- the history of one person at a time which, as you compile it and research it, becomes the history of a family, its ancestors and descendants, and the events and conditions which shaped and forged that family over time and distance.

How do you get started? Begin with yourself and record your own name, birth date, place of birth and the full names of your parents. Then, record any marital information about you and your spouse. Next, record all similar information about your children and/or grandchildren. Then, record the same type of information about your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and so on. Don't forget to record dates and places of death and/or burial for those who are deceased.

WHERE DO YOU FIND THIS INFORMATION?

First look in your own home. Search your own family and personal records. These can include birth/baptismal certificates, marriage and/or death certificates, family Bible/religious records, school records, photographs, letters, diaries, journals, insurance policies, wills, driver's licenses, pension records, passports, etc.

Talk to your elder family members because when they are gone, their memories and knowledge of family traditions, stories and information are also gone. Talk to or correspond with relatives, whether they are distant or nearby. Talk to your relatives' old neighbors, especially if they lived in one area or neighborhood for a long period of time.

Make use of local and state records. These include vital records such as births, marriages, deaths, wills and probates, church records, school records, land and property records, tax records, cemetery records, town and city directories, etc. Major national record sources include the U.S. census records, military records, immigration and naturalization records, social security records, ship passenger lists, etc.

Besides public record agencies, archives and libraries, there are many sources of genealogical information. The largest private genealogical archive in the world is the Latter Day Saints Church (Mormon) Family History Library (FHL) located in Salt Lake City, Utah. Through this library and its 3,200 branches worldwide, you may access millions of genealogical records. These include the Family History Library Catalog and several computerized genealogical data bases including the International Genealogical Index (IGI), the Ancestral File, the Social Security Death Index (SSDI), the Military Index (Americans killed in the Korean and Vietnam Wars) and the Pedigree Resource File index. The FHL is also accessible via the Internet. The Web address is .

Another useful Internet site is Cyndi's List at . This site provides links to more than 56,000 genealogical and related Web sites. It is very well organized and easy to use.

TRACING 19TH CENTURY SLAVE ANCESTRY

The easiest part of your genealogical search will be uncovering records about relatives who lived in the United States during the 20th century, since public records from that period concerning births, deaths, property and immigration are fairly uniform. As you move back into the 19th century and earlier, this will change. American Indians may be recorded on tribal censuses and member rosters, Bureau of Indian Affairs lists, tribal and reservation records.

The slave ancestry of African Americans is a vexatious but not always insurmountable challenge for those who are attempting to trace their genealogy. Prior to 1870, Blacks were not uniformly included in the national census. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Researching Your African American Roots
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.