10 Free Resources for Researching Your African American Ancestors

Anyone who has researched their African American ancestors knows what a challenge it can be, but as interest in family history research continues to grow more and more free resources are available to help you on your quest.

If you are new to African American genealogy research, or have a hit a roadblock, we suggest that you take some time to read our guide to finding your African American ancestors here.

Make Instant Discoveries in Your Family Tree Now
Imagine adding your family tree to a simple website and getting hundreds of new family history discoveries instantly.

MyHeritage is offering 2 free weeks of access to their extensive collection of 12 billion historical records, as well as their matching technology that instantly connects you with new information about your ancestors. Sign up using the link below to find out what you can uncover about your family.

You might also like to read this very helpful guide from FamilySearch before going any further. It will walk you though research from 1870 forward. FamilySearch also provides some helpful tips in their Quick Guide to African American research. It’s worth a read.

Here are just a few of the tips provided by that guide, with some additional notes:

  • Study the lives of all family members, including aunts, uncles, and cousins—not just your direct ancestors. This will help increase the possibility of finding needed details in the records.
  • Look for changing surnames, as some African Americans changed surnames several times. If you can’t find your family in a census record, but you know the family’s location at the time of the census, look for first names and approximate ages of family members. You may find a match. Free African Americans were included in the both the 1850 and 1860 census by name, whereas slaves were listed only by gender and age in the Slave Schedules (these can be found on FamilySearch). From 1870, African Americans were finally included by name.
  • If your ancestor is not listed in an index of a collection, check the original records anyway. Some indexes do not include African Americans.
  • Understand that some old records may have described your ancestor in terms that are disturbing. This may be very hard to read.

Below we have listed a collection of free online resources for researching African American ancestors specifically – such as the databases of Freedman’s Bureau (which we have included individually for convenience). Remember that you will also find your ancestors in many general collections as well. You can find many more helpful free resources here and here.

Advertisement

African American Genealogy: 10 Free Resources for Finding Your Ancestors

1. Civil War African American Sailor Search

2. Freedman’s Bureau Bank Records

3. African American Funeral Programs

Get the Free Genealogy Newsletter

We'll email you our newest family history articles, tips and tricks each week. It's always free and you can unsubscribe at any time.

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

4. Freedman’s Bureau Hospital and Medical Records

5. Freedman’s Bureau Marriages

6. National Archives African American Research Help Page

7. Civil War Service Records of African American Union Troops

12 Billion Genealogy Records Are Free for 2 Weeks
Get two full weeks of free access to more than 12 billion genealogy records right now. You’ll also gain access to the MyHeritage discoveries tool that locates information about your ancestors automatically when you upload or create a tree. What will you discover about your family’s past?

8. Black Servicemen Revolutionary War Records

9. Fugitive Slave Petition Books

10. North American Slave Narratives

Also Read: African American Genealogy: A Guide to Finding Your Ancestors Online

Image: African American family posed for portrait seated on lawn. 1899 or 1900. Library of Congress.

Get Our Articles By Email Each Week

Stay up-to-date with Family History Daily's newest genealogy articles by subscribing to our free weekly newsletter.

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

1 thought on “10 Free Resources for Researching Your African American Ancestors”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Beginners' Guides

Whether you’re brand new to family history research or just want some help with the basics, our beginners’ guides - including our Family Tree Starter Guide - have the expert information you need.

Online Courses

Discover how to build your best family tree with our online courses. Learn with detailed tutorials, expert guides, hands-on lessons, quizzes and much more. Your registration never expires.

Free Genealogy

Billions of free genealogy records are available online, you just need to know how to find them. We’ve made the job easy with lists and guides to help you discover the records you need.

Send this to a friend