African American research can be a challenge. First names are not provided in census records uniformly until 1870. Vital records may be kept in separate volumes which sometimes have not been abstracted or microfilmed. Black cemeteries might not be included in published county materials. Surnames can change after the Civil War. The researcher is forced to explore the family history of the slave holder in order to locate records about slaves. Wills, inventories, chattel tax, plantation and business records must be examined because enslaved African Americans were classified as property.
But the challenge can be rewarding. Thoroughly analyze each piece of the puzzle that you do have and often a story can be found. Genealogists who descend from slaveholders might likewise take on the challenge to track the descendants of their ancestor’s slaves. History should not be forgotten and the accomplishments of our ancestors are what made it possible for the advancement of African Americans today.
African American Committee of Franklin County Genealogical & Historical Society
African American Genealogical Society, Cleveland
Oberlin African-American Genealogy & History Group
African-American Genealogy Group of the Miami Valley
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