Tracing African-American Family History

Resources for studying the history and genealogy of African Americans continue to be published. The following provides some basic information resources for tracing African-American family history in the New York State Library and in other repositories. New York State Library call numbers are included for the convenience of on-site researchers.

Getting Started

Blockson, Charles L. Black Genealogy, with Ron Fry 1977 (R929.1028B631, 77-36796)

Byers, Paula K., ed. African American Genealogical Sourcebook. New York: Gale Research, 1995. (R,929.10899,qA258,96-13119)

Law, Nova, African-American Genealogy Workbook for Beginners 2d. ed., 1993 (R929.1096qL416, 94-43071)

Matthews, Harry Bradshaw, African American Genealogical Research: How to Trace Your Family History. 1992 (R929.10899qM439, 94-76603)

Walton-Raji, Angela J., Black Indian Genealogy Research 1993 (R929.308996 W241, 94-37582)

Witcher, Curt Bryan. African American genealogy: a bibliography and guide to sources. Fort Wayne, Indiana: Round Tower Books, 2000. (R,929.10899,W819,201-11209)

Woodtor, Dee. Finding a Place Called Home: A Guide to African-American Genealogy and Historical Identity. New York: Random House, 1999. (R,929.10899,W898,200-10488)

New York State Library Publications

A bibliography available from the Documents Section of the State Library (Cultural Education Center, 6th Floor, Albany, NY 12230, (518) 474-5953) includes extensive information about the history of African Americans in New York State: An African American Bibliography: History, January 1992.

Other Resources

Clarke, Robert L., ed. Afro-American History: Sources for Research. Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1981. Contains a series of detailed essays on the use of various federal records for studying African American history and genealogy. (A,973.0496073,N277)

Lawson, Sandra M. Generations Past: A Selected List of Sources for Afro-American Genealogical Research. Washington: Library of Congress, 1988. Includes references to general guides to African American genealogy, specific family histories, sources listed by state, genealogical periodicals, collective biographies, directories and other material. (LC 1.12/2:Af8/4)

Library of Congress. African American Mosaic: A Library of Congress Resource Guide for the Study of Black History and Culture. Washington: The Congress, 1994. (LC l.6/4:AF 8)

National Archives and Records Service. Guide to Genealogical Research in the National Archives. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Service, 1982. Chapter 12, "Records of Black Americans" includes information about census records, military service records, Freedman's Bureau records, records of slaves in the District of Columbia, records related to the slave trade and African colonization and other records. (A and R,016.9291072,qU587)

Newman, Debra L. Black History: A Guide to Civilian Records in the National Archives. Washington, D.C.: National Archives Trust Fund Board, General Services Administration, 1984. Briefly describes records relating to African Americans in over 450 different federal government agencies and activities. (A and C,016.9730496, N552)

New York State Archives: The New York State Archives has several resources useful in studying African-American family history. These include: vital records indexes for New York State (except for New York City) for births, marriages and deaths; Civil War Muster Roll Abstracts of New York State Volunteers; United States Sharpshooters, and United States Colored Troops; inmate records for State prisons; Census of Inmates in Almshouses and Poorhouses, 1875-1921; slave ownership records from colonial New York and other records. Before researching these records, it is advisable to request information about the various record series from the staff of the State Archives. The State Archives has brief publications describing its genealogical resources and records relating to African Americans.

Last Updated: August 19, 2009