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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:
    • Contact your local library to obtain the required username and password for home access.
  • African-American Research by the National Archives.
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  • AfriGeneas includes a manual for beginners, a mailing list and other features. Use the ‘Site Map’ in the upper left.
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  • Cyndi’s List of Genealogy Sites on the Internet: African American
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  • African American Genealogy
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  • African American Gateway contains a large collection of web links.
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  • Records of Enslaved People Brief how-to guide for researching records of enslaved people.
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  • Military Resources: Blacks in the Military
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Primary Sources


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
    Go to:

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.). compiled by Barnetta McGhee White. Index of available North Carolina cohabitation records. [Cohabitation records have survived from the following counties:  Alexander, Alleghany, Beaufort, Bertie, *Caldwell, *Camden, Carteret*Catawba, Chowan, *Columbus, *Craven, Currituck, Davidson, *Davie,*Duplin, Edgecombe, *Forsyth, Franklin, Gates, Granville, Guilford, Halifax, Hyde, Iredell, Johnston, Lincoln, *Mecklenburg, Mitchell, Nash, New Hanover, Orange, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Person, Pitt, Richmond, Robeson, *Rowan, Stokes, Surry, Union, Wake, *Warren, Washington, Wayne, Wilkes, Wilson.  Records of counties marked with an asterisk (*) are on microfilm, and the originals remain in the county," according to Becky McGee-Lankford, Section Head, Government Records Section, State Archives of NC]
    • There are no known Cohabitation Records for 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).
  • Ancestry Library Edition:
    • North Carolina, Marriage Records, 1741-2011, Includes marriage bonds, licenses, certificates, and registers, as well as indexes and abstracts to the various records from 87 North Carolina counties. Of special interest to African American researchers are records of cohabitation, which were required to be recorded in 1866 in order for the marriages of recently emancipated enslaved people to be legally recognized.
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.
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  • American Slavery: A Composite Autobiography has added indexes and is available through
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  • 973.0496073 CIV. The Civitas anthology of African American slave narratives, edited by William L. Andrews, Henry Louis Gates Jr.
Enslaved People Records
  • Records of Enslaved People Brief how-to guide for researching records of enslaved people.
    Go to:
  • 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.
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  • See Databases for more records.
A Note about
Many of the sources given here are found on This site is continually adding new files and indexing existing files. Be sure to keep checking for new information!

Freedmen’s Bureau Records

The “Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands” also known as the Freedmen’s Bureau, was formed at the end of the Civil War. The Freedmen’s Bureau created many records containing the names of newly freed slaves in the period before the 1870 census. Records include labor contracts between planters and freedpeople, apprenticeship disputes and complaints, court, education, ration,transportation, hospital, marriage, and more.

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: 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”
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  • 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.
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  • African American Education collection contains documents and photographs related to African American education in North Carolina before 1950 drawn from the collections of the Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum and the Division of Negro Education of the Department of Public Instruction record group in the custody of the State Archives of North Carolina.
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  • Lincoln Academy, Kings Mountain, N.C. 1888 - 1955. Lincoln Academy, named after President Abraham Lincoln, was opened as a boarding school for African-American girls in the fall of 1888 by Emily Catherine Prudden. List of print and online resources.
  • For more records, visit Digital Gaston County: African-American.
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  • For Yearbooks, visit Digital Gaston: Yearbooks.
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Family & Local Histories

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

Family & Local Histories
  • North Carolina Slaves and Free Persons of Color (9 vols.).
  • 301.451 H NCC. The Heritage of Blacks in North Carolina, Volume 1.
  • 929.1 YOU NCC. African-American Generations: (Vol. 1) Gaston-Lincoln 1763 – 1880 and (Vol. 2) Gaston-Lincoln 1865 – 1910 by Rudolph Young and others.
  • 929.1 YOU NCC. Our Own Story: An African-American History of Lincoln County, North Carolina, compiled by Rudolph Young.
  • 929.2 Fronebergers GAR NCC. African-American Fronebergers of Gaston County by Francis Gardin.
  • 929.2 Gardin GAR NCC. Gardin: A Family History by Francis Gardin.
  • 929.2 Hoyle GAR NCC. The Descendants of Sandy Hoyle by Francis Gardin.
  • 929.3 BYR NCC. In full force and virture: North Carolina emancipation records, 1713-1860.
  • 929.3 HEI NCC. Free African Americans of North Carolina, Virginia, and South Carolina from the colonial period to about 1820 (6th Ed.) by Paul Heinegg. 3 Volumes: v. 1. Families Abel to Drew -- v. 2. Families Driggers to Month -- v. 3. Families Moore to Young.
  • 929.3 R NC. Somerset Homecoming: Recovering a Lost Heritage by Dorothy Spruill Redford.
    • Recommended for its description of her research.
  • 975.00496 HAN NCC. Footprints on the Rough Side of the Mountain: An African-American Niche in the History of a Southern Textile City.
    • About Belmont.
  • 975.677 BAR NCC. From faith to glory: Historical perspectives on African Americans in the Springfield Community of Stanley, North Carolina, by Lois Brown Barnett.
  • 975.677 BRE NCC. African Americans in Gaston County, North Carolina, by Gale S. Brewer. Contains 27 names listed in the 1870 census for African Americans who were skilled laborers and craftsmen in Gaston County.
  • 975.677 YOU NCC. African Americans in Gaston County North Carolina, compiled by Rudolph Young, Gale Brewer.



  • African-American Newspapers in North Carolina,
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  • Chronicling America (Select State and Ethnicity to search for African-American newspapers)
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  • N.C. Runaway Slave Advertisements
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  • Historic North Carolina Digital Newspaper Collection. 3.5 million pages of digitized content from over 1,000 NC county newspapers. Log in to NC Live with your library card number.
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  • Ancestry Library Edition "U.S., African American Newspapers, 1829-1947" contains issues of African-American newspapers printed in the 19th and early 20th century. (Available in Library)

Voter Registration

929.375 WYN NCC. North Carolina extant voter registrations of 1867, by Frances Holloway Wynne. has the North Carolina, Voter Registers and Certificates of Registration, 1868-1964. Index and images of voter registration lists and certificates of permanent registration from various counties in North Carolina.
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  • Civil Rights digital collection contains materials related to the Civil Rights Movement in North Carolina from the 1950s to the 1970s, including letters, speeches, reports, booklets, photographs, news clippings, court records, and proposed legislation.
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  • Guide to African-American Documentary Resources in North Carolina
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  • Digital Library on American Slavery, five collections of documents including petitions, deeds, insurance registries, and advertisements for runaways.
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    • Race and Slavery Petitions Project contains detailed information on about 150,000 individuals, including slaves, free people of color, and whites, extracted from legislative petitions, county court petitions, as well as from wills, inventories, deeds, bills of sale, depositions, court proceedings, and amended petitions.
    •  North Carolina Runaway Slave Advertisements project provides online access to all known runaway slave advertisements (more than 2300 items) published in North Carolina newspapers from 1751 to 1840.
    • People Not Property - Slave Deeds of North Carolina is leading towards a centralized database of bills of sales indexing the names of enslaved people from across North Carolina.
    • The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database includes 34,946 voyages from Emory University's collection, including 86,689 slave names and 34,551 captain names.
    • Slavery Era Insurance Registries. "Insurance companies, many of whom do business to this day, wrote policies insuring slave owners against the loss, damage, or death of their slaves. Included here are 670 distinct records as made available by the California Department of Insurance." The data is not exclusive to a single state.
  • The Beyond Kin Project collects "the life-altering connections between slaveholders and the enslaved persons who shared their environments" showing "relationships between the enslaved persons, who shared their life circumstances without necessarily being related to each other."
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  • Enslaved: Peoples of the Historical Slave Trade. Search over numerous datasets and reconstruct the lives of people involved in the historical slave trade. Browse interconnected data, generate visualizations, and explore short biographies of enslaved and freed peoples.
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Gaston County


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 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

Go to: Log into Fold3 with your library card or visit library branch.

Author: Gaston County Public Library
Title: African American Genealogical Research
Revised: 1 February 2022

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