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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.

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.
Enslaved People Records
  • FamilySearch.org has the following North Carolina collections:
  • Confederate Slave Payrolls "The Confederate Quartermaster Department created the payrolls for slave labor on Confederate military defenses. The rolls show the period covered, the entity or person that employed the slaves working for the Confederacy, the place of service, the name of owner, the name and occupation of the hired enslaved person, the time employed, rate of wages, amount paid, and the signature of the person receiving the money (usually the owner or an attorney)." Read more.
    Go to: https://catalog.archives.gov/search?q=719477
  • See Databases for more records.
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
Military
Newspapers
  • African-American Newspapers in North Carolina,
    Go to: http://www.digitalnc.org/exhibits/african-american-newspapers-in-nc/
  • Chronicling America (Select State and Ethnicity to search for African-American newspapers)
    Go to: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/#tab=tab_newspapers
  • N.C. Runaway Slave Advertisements
    Go to: http://libcdm1.uncg.edu/cdm/about/collection/RAS
  • Ancestry Library Edition "U.S., African American Newspapers, 1829-1947" contains issues of African-American newspapers printed in the 19th and early 20th century.

Yearbooks
  • African American High Schools in North Carolina:  a list of the names and locations of all of the public African American high schools compiled from the North Carolina Educational Directory around the time that the schools were desegregated.
    Go to: https://tools.digitalnc.org/aahighschools/
Online

Databases

Ancestry Library Edition

Ancestry Library Edition contains the African American Collection which includes many data collections.
(Available in all library branches)

  • "U.S., African American Newspapers, 1829-1947" contains issues of African-American newspapers printed in the 19th and early 20th century.
  • "African American Photo Collection, 1850-2000"
  • "U.S., Definitive List of Slaves and Property, 1827-1828" consists of a list of slaves and property for which citizens of the United States claimed indemnification.
  • "U.S., Interviews with Former Slaves, 1936-1938" contains slave narratives as collected by the Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s.
  • "Edgefield, South Carolina, Slave Records, 1774-1866" Gloria Ramsey Lucas compiled this collection of more than 28,000 entries extracted from various records over a period of six years.
  • "South Africa, Slaves and Free Blacks Records Index, 1658-1835"
  • "U.S., Southeast Coastwise Inward and Outward Slave Manifests, 1790-1860" is a database of manifests for slaves arriving in Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama from 1790-1860.
  • And More
 
Fold3

Go to: https://fold3library.proquest.com/barcode?accountid=11047 Log into Fold3 with your library card or visit library branch.

Fold3 contains the African American Collection which includes the following collections:

  • Court Slave Records for DC
  • Board of Commissioners - Emancipation of Slaves in DC
  • South Carolina Estate Inventories and Bills of Sale, 1732-1872
  • Colored Troops - Civil War Service Records
  • Amistad - court records
  • Danish West Indies - Slavery and Emancipation

Author: Gaston County Public Library
Title: African American Genealogical Research
URL: http://gastonlibrary.libguides.com/african-american-genealogical-research
Revised: 18 September 2020

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