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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
SECTION: VIRGINIA PAGE: B1 EDITION: METRO
RESEARCHERS DISCOVER WHO FIRST AFRICANS IN VA. WERE - 'WHAT WE'RE FINDING OUT IS REVOLUTIONARY
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
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, go here
To read the article Enjoying the Challenge of African-American Research which appeared in Ancestry Magazine Sep 10, 1997, Vol 15, #5, go here
BLACK GENEALOGY LINKS, RESOURCES AND
GENEALOGY ARTICLES ONLINE:
"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: http://www.ancestry.com/home/source/src488.htm
"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): http://www.ancestry.com/magazine/articles/afamres1.htm
"African-American Family Research" Part 2 by Roseanne Hogan, Ph.D. (Ancestry Magazine, Jul/Aug 1996, Vol. 14, No. 4): http://www.ancestry.com/magazine/articles/afamres2.htm
"The Challenge of African American Research" (above) by Curt B. Witcher, FUGA (Ancestry Magazine, Sep/Oct 1997, Vol. 15, No. 5): http://www.ancestry.com/magazine/articles/enjafam.htm
"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: http://www.rootsweb.com/~africagw/
The African - Native Genealogy Homepage:
http://www.msstate.edu/archives/history/afrigen/index.html and http://www.afrigeneas.com
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 - http://home.earthlink.net/~patriot1/blk.html
Slave Entries in Wills, Deeds, etc: http://www.mindspring.com/~jogt/kygen/slavedoc.htm
African American Odyssey - A Quest for Full Citizenship
from the Library of Congress' American Memory Project: