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African-Americans, regardless of whether their ancestors were free or slave, are usually able to trace their ancestry back to the end of the Civil War without too much difficulty using the same sources white Americans use.

Pre-Emancipation slaves were considered the personal property of their owners and are identified by the plantation records. Research all public and historical records of the slave owning family.

The census records of 1870 are the first to list blacks by name. In 1850 & 1860 slave statistics were gathered, but did not list slaves by name. Free blacks and their families names were included in 1850 & 1860. Military records from the Revolutionary War are available. Birth records are available as the slave owners need to protect his personal property by officially recording it. If you know the birth date, you can search the birth records for a male or female slave born on that date and an owner/plantation name will be given. Bills of sale will be found among land records, estate records or miscellaneous county records. Slave trade manifests are available at the National Archives, Washington, DC.

First Africans to Virginia article from the Roanoke, VA Times:
Sunday, January 24, 1999 TAG: 9901250202
SUMMARY: Evidence suggests that these unwilling immigrants were likely to have been Christians and spoke a common language.

In the scant history of forgotten persons, many people are faceless. But few have been swallowed by the dark shadows that obscure the first blacks known to have lived in Virginia. Except for a few passing references from Capt. John Smith and members of the Virginia Company, these ''20-odd Negroes'' left virtually no trace after disembarking from a Dutch ship in late summer 1619.

And for nearly 400 years that lack of evidence made it hard for anyone, including many determined scholars, to talk about one of early America's most historic moments. A recent survey of Portuguese colonial shipping records, however, may have turned up the very vessel in which these unwilling immigrants came to the New World. New studies of the Portuguese African colony of Angola have shed unexpected light on the subject.

''When I gave a talk on the arrival of the first Africans in 1994, I really had very little to say,'' said Jamestown Settlement curator Tom Davidson. ''But in five years the whole story has changed - almost completely. Gradually, we're taking what was the poorest known segment of 17th-century Virginia's population and moving into a realm where we can talk about them as people.''

Davidson gave a lecture recently that focused on several studies, including two pioneering works that appeared in the scholarly journal William & Mary Quarterly over the past two years. The first revolutionized the field, he says, by pinpointing the name, nationality and port of origin of the ship that carried the blacks from Africa to the New World. Sifting through Colonial shipping records, California historian Engel Sluiter came across a Portuguese merchant-slaver that lost its human cargo to English and Dutch privateers in the West Indies. The timing and description of the attack almost certainly tie that ship, known as the San Juan Bautista, to the Dutch adventurers who brought the first blacks to Virginia. They also link that human cargo to the Angolan port town of Luanda.

''Before this, we knew nothing about the Africans themselves. We didn't know if they were slaves. We didn't even know if they were Africans or Creoles from the West Indies,'' Davidson said. ''Now we have not only a probable origin - the Portuguese ship sailed from Angola - but a specific locale in Angola. And that's enabled us to discover what kind of people these first Africans were.'' Other scholars, including William & Mary Quarterly editor Philip Morgan, an award-winning author in the field, believe Sluiter's careful work leaves little doubt about the identity of the Portuguese vessel. And that crucial missing link has led to a fast-growing chain of information about the first blacks who landed in Virginia, he says.

In 1998, the journal published a study by Pennsylvania historian John Thornton that examined the Portuguese colony of Angola during the early 17th century. Thornton's search through the records of the period turned up not only the region in Angola from which the blacks came, but also the military campaign in which they were probably captured. He also turned up evidence suggesting that these Africans were likely to have been Christians, that they had years of experience in trading and dealing with Europeans and that they spoke a common language.

Such traits would have made them better able to adapt to their lot in Virginia than the ethnically and linguistically diverse groups of blacks that began to arrive from West Africa later in the 1600s, Davidson says. Continued trading with Portuguese Angola, he adds, may help explain why the first generations of Africans were so much more successful in working their way out of servitude than those that followed. It may also help scholars understand why attitudes about race hardened in the late 1600s, when the concept of limited-term indenture began to mutate into the institution of lifelong slavery. ''What we're finding out is revolutionary,'' Davidson said.

To post information or find information about former slaves,
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To read the article Enjoying the Challenge of African-American Research which appeared in Ancestry Magazine Sep 10, 1997, Vol 15, #5, go here .

"The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy," Revised, Edited by Loretto D. Szucs & Sandra H. Luebking -- Chapter 15, "Tracking African American Family History," by David Thackery:

"African-American Case Studies" by Roseanne Hogan, Ph.D. (Ancestry Magazine, Nov/Dec 1996, Vol. 14, No. 6):

"African-American Family Research" Part 1 by Roseanne Hogan, Ph.D. (Ancestry Magazine, Mar/Apr 1996, Vol. 14, No. 2):

"African-American Family Research" Part 2 by Roseanne Hogan, Ph.D. (Ancestry Magazine, Jul/Aug 1996, Vol. 14, No. 4):

"The Challenge of African American Research" (above) by Curt B. Witcher, FUGA (Ancestry Magazine, Sep/Oct 1997, Vol. 15, No. 5):

"The Freedman's Savings and Trust Company and African American Genealogical Research" By Reginald Washington (Prologue: Quarterly of the National Archives and Records Administration Summer 1997, vol. 29, no. 2):

"Institutions of Memory and the Documentation of African Americans in Federal Records" By Walter B. Hill, Jr. (Prologue: Quarterly of the National Archives and Records Administration Summer 1997, vol. 29, no. 2):

"Preserving the Legacy of the United States Colored Troops" by Budge Weidman (Prologue: Quarterly of the National Archives and Records Administration, Summer 1997, vol. 29, no. 2):

Christine's Genealogy Web site:

Africa WorldGenWeb Page:

The African - Native Genealogy Homepage:

Afrigeneas: and

Civil War Soldiers & Sailors System: U.S. Colored Troops

Black Studies - A Select Catalog of NARA Microfilm Publications:

Gale Salutes Black History Month:

Everything Black: History & Culture:

Black History - Exploring African American Issues on the Web:

African Heritage Month:

Smithsonian - African American History and Culture:

African American Perspectives - Daniel A. P. Murray Pamphlet Collection, 1818-1907, From the Library of Congress' American Memory Project:

Lest We Forget, The Untold History of America:

The Riverside, California, Sons of the American Revolution have a new page devoted to the black soldiers who served on both sides in the American War of Independence 1775 - 1783 -

Slave Entries in Wills, Deeds, etc:

African American Odyssey - A Quest for Full Citizenship from the Library of Congress' American Memory Project:

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