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African American Genealogical Research

Beginning Your Research

When researching an African American family, start by using the same sources as other researchers (see our Genealogy & Local History section for more information). This guide focuses on additional resources of special interest for African American families.

  • 929.1 SMI NCC. A Genealogist’s Guide to Discovering Your African-American Ancestors by Franklin C. Smith and Emily Croom.
  • The African American Heritage database contains Black Genesis, a state-by-state resource guide, as well as other reference and how-to guides, a census index and images, some marriage and cohabitation records, and Freedmen's Bureau records.
    Go to: https://africanamericanheritage.proquest.com
    • Contact your local library to obtain the required username and password for home access.
  • African-American Research by the National Archives.
    Go to: http://www.archives.gov/research/african-americans/index.html
  • AfriGeneas includes a manual for beginners, a mailing list and other features. Use the ‘Site Map’ in the upper left.
    Go to: http://www.afrigeneas.com
  • Cyndi’s List of Genealogy Sites on the Internet: African American
    Go to: http://www.cyndislist.com/african-american
  • African American Genealogy
    Go to: https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/African_American_Research
  • African American Gateway contains a large collection of web links.
    Go to: http://www.genealogycenter.info/africanamerican/
  • Finding Slave Records
    Go to: http://statelibrary.ncdcr.gov/ghl/resources/genealogy/slaverecords.html
  • Military Resources: Blacks in the Military
    Go to: http://www.archives.gov/research/alic/reference/military/blacks-in-military.html

Primary Sources

Census

Separate “Slave Schedules” were created as part of the 1850 and 1860 censuses. The slave schedules do NOT include the names of the slaves. They list the name of the slave owner and give details on the number of slaves owned by age and sex.

  • The 1850 and 1860 slave schedules are available in Ancestry Library Edition, available at all library branches.
  • The 1850 slave schedule is available in FamilySearch.org
    Go to: https://familysearch.org/search/collection/1420440

For more information on censuses, see our research guides on the topic:

Local Vital Statistics
  • 929.3 WHI NCC. Somebody Knows My Name: Marriages of Freed People in North Carolina, County by County (3 vols.).
    • Does not include Gaston County.
  • 929.5 SAI NCC. Saint Benedict Catholic Cemetery [Gaston County], compiled by Richard E. Wilson.
    • Also known as the Black Catholic Cemetery. Only 3 pages long.
  • Lincoln County: Record of Freedmen’s Marriages, 1866. Microfilm (Cabinet 1, Drawer 4).
Freedmen’s Bureau Records

The “Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands”—formed at the end of the Civil War—created many records containing the names of newly freed slaves in the period before the 1870 census.

Freedman's Bank Records

The Freedman's Savings and Trust Company was an institution where former slaves and their dependents could place and save their money. The bank branches were primarily in large and coastal cities.

  • HeritageQuest has a name index of registers of signatures of depositors:
    • Freedman’s Bank, 1865 – 1871 (National Archives Film M816).
      Go to: http://www.nclive.org/cgi-bin/nclsm?rsrc=218. You will need to log into NC Live with your library card.
  • Family Search has the following name index and images of registers collection:
    • United States, Freedman's Bank Records, 1865-1874”
      Go to: https://familysearch.org/search/collection/1417695
WPA Slave Narratives

Between 1936 and 1938, writers and journalists working for the Works Progress Administration interviewed over 2300 former slaves. (It appears that none of the people interviewed were from Gaston or Lincoln Counties.) These interviews are available in several ways with different approaches to searching:

  • Ancestry Library Edition includes a keyword search.
  • Born in Slavery, the Library of Congress site, is supplemented with 500 photographs.
    Go to: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/snhtml/snhome.html
  • American Slavery: A Composite Autobiography has added indexes and is available through NCLive.org.
    Go to: https://www.nclive.org/cgi-bin/nclsm?rsrc=134
  • 973.0496073 CIV. The Civitas anthology of African American slave narratives, edited by William L. Andrews, Henry Louis Gates Jr.
A Note about FamilySearch.org
Many of the sources given here are found on FamilySearch.org. This site is continually adding new files and indexing existing files. Be sure to keep checking FamilySearch.org for new information!

Other Resources

Search our Catalog by Subject for: African American* OR Slave*

Family & Local Histories
Newspapers
Online

Author: Gaston County Public Library
Title: African American Genealogical Research
URL: http://gastonlibrary.libguides.com/african-american-genealogical-research
Revised: 7 September 2017

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