African American Genealogy

Visit our Genealogy & Local History page to search Ancestry Library Edition, Fold3 Library Edition, Black Life in America, and other resources that can help you research your family history. These sources are especially useful for tracing your family back to the 1870s.

The following resources can help you trace your African American family members even further.

Compiled by Pamela Lyons Brinegar, CG.

Getting Started

African American Genealogical Research

This Library of Congress video provides a good overview of how to begin your research.

Needles and Threads: Piecing Together African American Families

Explore the many areas of African American research you may be overlooking and provide some answers to puzzles you may have in your own family history. Sign up for a free account on Ancestry Academy to begin this course.


African American Online Genealogy Records
African American Genealogy – includes by-state resources
Genealogy Research Forms

Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia

Notable Kentucky African Americans Database
African American Genealogy Group of Kentucky
Kentucky Digital Newspapers
Free African American Slave Owners in 1830 Kentucky
The African-American Experience in Ohio, 1850-1920
Kentucky Historical Society suggested resources
Slavery in Kentucky 1792-1865
University of Kentucky Special Collections Research Center
VA Museum of History and Culture  – African American Manuscripts
Virginia Untold: The African American Narrative (pre-1865)

Library of Congress

Library of Congress African American Genealogical Research (video)
Voices Remembering Slavery: Freed People Tell Their Stories
Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project


Civil War Service Records of Union Colored Troops, 1863-1865
Kentucky U.S. Colored Troops Database
USCT Muster and Descriptive Roll for KY 7th, 8th and 9th Districts
United States Colored Troops in the Civil War
Civil War Soldiers & Sailors System, National Park Service
Records of Military Agencies Re African Americans Post-World War I to Korean War
Order military records from the National Archives

National Archives

Black History Online Resources at NARA and beyond
African Americans and the Federal Census, 1790–1930
The National Archives Access to Archival Databases (AAD)
National Archives Library Information Center (ALIC)
Freedman’s Bank Records, 1865-1874
History Hub – African American Records

National Society Daughters of the American Revolution

Forgotten Patriots – African American and American Indian Patriots in the Revolutionary War

New York Public Library

The Black World: Research Tools
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Research Examples

Historic Pathways
Two Plantations – research into the lives of 431 enslaved people
“Documenting President Barack Obama’s Maternal African-American Ancestry”


US Statutes Concerning Slavery
Runaway Slave Laws in Border States, 1794-1846

United States Freedmen’s Bureau

Freedmen’s Bureau, Records of Freedmen’s Complaints, 1865-1872
Freedmen’s Bureau Ration Records,1865-1872
Records of Freedmen, 1865-1872
Freedmen’s Bureau Marriages, 1861-1872
Freedmen’s Bureau, Land and Property Records, 1865-1872
Freedmen’s Bureau Labor Contracts, Indenture and Apprenticeship Records, 1865-1872
Freedmen’s Branch Records, 1872-1878
District of Columbia, Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872


Christine’s African American Genealogy Website
Digital Library on American Slavery
Enslaved: Peoples of the Historical Slave Trade and Journal of Slavery and Data Preservation
The International African American Museum’s Center for Family History
North American slave narratives
Research at the National Archives & Beyond talk radio
Roll of Emigrants to Liberia, 1820-1843
The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database
Slavery Era Insurance Registry
Slave Archival Collection