Source: American Ancestors
Description: Researching African American ancestors can be challenging and often requires some creative searching methods. Many African Americans find it difficult to trace their family earlier than the 1870 United States Federal Census, the first federal census following emancipation and the first to record many former slaves by name. Locating records of slave ancestors prior to emancipation requires researching the slave owner’s family since most of the records where slaves may be named, such as probate, account, and deed records, will all be in the slave-owner’s name. Locating ancestors that were free prior to emancipation also has unique challenges as records are dispersed and can be difficult to navigate. The process of locating African American ancestors can be time consuming but the effort can be extremely rewarding.