Explore these African and African American genealogy records in celebration of your family history and Black History Month!
Also this week: see new records online for Southern Claims Commission, GA, NY and VA as well as African heritage sites, Liberia and South Africa. And check out a limited-time offer from Fold3 to view its Black History collection for free.
Black History Collection free this month at Findmypast.com
“In recognition of Black History Month, Fold3 is making the records in its Black History collection available for free through the end of February,” states a recent company announcement. “The Black History collection gives you access to more than a million documents, records, and photos that help to capture the African-American experience during five eras of American history: Slavery, The Civil War, Reconstruction & Jim Crow Laws, World War I & II, and the Civil Rights Movement.
The Fold3 announcement lists several of its richest collections, and we think they’re worth noting individually:
- Danish West Indies – Slavery and Emancipation: These records cover the institution of slavery and the emancipation of slaves in the Virgin Islands during Danish rule, 1672-1917.
- Suppression of Slave Trade and Colonization (1854-72): These records cover the institution of slavery and the emancipation of slaves in the Virgin Islands during Danish rule, 1672-1917.
- Amistad – Federal and Supreme Court records: Court records pertaining to the claims of salvage for the Spanish slave schooner “Amistad,” seized in 1839 by the US Navy.
- American Colonization Society: Documents relating to the American Colonization Society, 1792-1964, an organization best known for its role in founding Liberia.
- Board of Commissioners – Emancipation of Slaves in DC: Records of the Board of Commissioners for the Emancipation of Slaves in the District of Columbia, 1862-63.
- Court Slave Records for DC: Records of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Relating to Slaves, 1851-63, including emancipation and manumission papers.
- South Carolina Estate Inventories and Bills of Sale, 1732-1872: South Carolina court records relating to estate and personal assets.
- Colored Troops: Compiled military service records of volunteer Union soldiers serving in various colored units in the Civil War, including the United States Colored Troops (USCT).
African American genealogy records newly published online
U.S. Southern Claims Commission. The “genealogy giant” Ancestry.com has updated its collection of U.S. Southern Claims Commission, Disallowed and Barred Claims, 1871-1880. According to the collection description, “In 1871 the U.S. government created the Southern Claims Commission, an organization through which southerners could file claims for reimbursement of personal property losses due to the Civil War. Claims could only be filed by residents of AL, AR, FL, LA, MS, NC, SC, TN, TX, VA and WV.” Your African American ancestors may be among those listed therein: “Each claimant was required to provide witnesses. The witnesses had to answer the same 80+ questions that the claimant had to answer. Many of these witnesses were former slaves whose names rarely appear on any other legal document from the Civil War era. They also provided names and dates for family members who often lived on other plantations.”
Georgia. “The records of the Georgia Association of Educators (1921-2015)…are open for research,” reports the George State University Library. “The collection, comprised of unique documents and photographs, provides an in-depth look at the history of the organization that represents many of Georgia’s teachers. The collection includes convention proceedings, contracts and constitutions, meeting minutes, newspaper clippings, audio-visual materials, photographs, and periodicals.” Among the topics covered are the mergers of the previously-segregated black and white state teachers’ associations and integration of public schools about 1970. Click here to explore the finding aid to this collection.
New York. A first-of-its-kind free database documents those involved in the institution of slavery in New York from the earliest times. The New York Slavery Records Index “is a searchable compilation of records that identify individual enslaved persons and their owners, beginning as early as 1525 and ending during the Civil War,” reports the site. “Our data come from census records, slave trade transactions, cemetery records, birth certifications, manumissions, ship inventories, newspaper accounts, private narratives, legal documents and many other sources. The index contains over 35,000 records and will continue to grow as our team of John Jay College professors and students locates and assembles data from additional sources.” A hat-tip to WGRZ.com for publishing this article that alerted us to this valuable new resource.
Virginia. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education reports, “Students in an introduction to public history class at Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia, created a digital archive of newspaper and other clippings collected during the civil rights era by the Hill Street Baptist Church in Roanoke. The project documents efforts in the area to desegregate lunch counters, movie theaters, and public schools during the 1950s and 1960s.”
African Genealogy and History Resources Now Online
African world heritage sites. CNN.com recently reported on a new online resource that seeks to provide digital preservation and access to important archaeological sites across Africa. “The archaeological wonders of the world offer a rich window into the past,” states the article. “But many are crumbling, weed-laden and victim to vandalism and conflict….Concerned with the decay of African heritage sites, The Zamani Project, based at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, is seeking to immortalize historic spots in three-dimensional, virtual reality-ready models…. Presently, they’ve mapped around 16 sites including Lalibela in Ethiopia, Timbuktu in Mali and Kilwa in Tanzania.”
Liberia. The free “genealogy giant” FamilySearch.org has added over 24,000 new record images and nearly 27,000 newly-indexed names to its free collection of Liberia, Marriage Records, 1912-2015. Documents include “applications for marriage licenses, marriage licenses, marriage returns, documents certifying marriages from Liberia.”
South Africa. FamilySearch has also updated two of its existing South Africa records collections with more indexed names: South Africa, Cape Province, Kimberley, Probate Records of the Supreme Court, 1871-1937 and South Africa, Cape Province, Probate Records of the Master of the High Court, 1834-1989.
Listen to more African American genealogy topics
The free Genealogy Gems Podcast and the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast have both featured inspiring interviews on African African genealogy research. We recommend these:
Genealogy Gems Podcast episode #201: Angela Walton-Raji joins Lisa Louise Cooke with tips for interviewing African American relatives, learning important history and getting past that 1870 brick wall into the era of American slavery. Listen for free!
Genealogy Gems Podcast episode #200: A university professor shares his discoveries about a mother and young daughter separated by slavery. Learn how he pieced together their story from a poignant family heirloom found at a flea market.
Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode #130: Oprah Book Club author Lalita Tademy talks about her book Citizen’s Creek, a novel about an African American and Creek Indian family. This special episode (and all Premium Podcast episodes) is something extra just for our Premium subscribers; click here to learn how to subscribe.
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About the Author: Sunny Morton
Sunny is a Contributing Editor at Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems; her voice is often heard on the Genealogy Gems Podcast and Premium Podcasts. She’s known for her expertise on the world’s biggest family history websites (she’s the author of Genealogy Giants: Comparing the 4 Major Websites); writing personal and family histories (she also wrote Story of My Life: A Workbook for Preserving Your Legacy); and sharing her favorite reads for the Genealogy Gems Book Club.