Get a FREE Guide To Getting Started with African American Genealogy


Most individuals of African descent in the United States have ancestors whose lives were shaped by slavery and racial injustice. More than 40 million living Americans descend from ancestors who were enslaved. Enslaved people were denied many rights and are usually only recorded within records of the people that enslaved them. Black ancestors that were free during slavery faced challenges that limited their access to jobs, education, and land. Understanding the legal and social status of Black ancestors is an important part of discovering records or finding sources that give a better sense of what they may have experienced in their lives. In addition to many of the standard genealogical sources, you will also want to research laws that may have influenced your ancestors’ lives since they could provide clues on further record sets to examine.

Starting from the known and working your way back generation by generation, gather as much information as you can on your ancestors using census, vital, and other records.

getting started in african american genealogy social



American Ancestors is America’s founding genealogical organization and the most respected name in family history. Established in 1845, We are the nation’s leading comprehensive resource for family history research and the largest Society of its kind in the world. We provide expert family history services through our staff, original scholarship, data-rich website, educational opportunities, and research center to help family historians of all levels explore their past and understand their families’ unique place in history.

We are a member-based nonprofit corporation dedicated to advancing the study of family history in America and beyond, by educating, inspiring, and connecting people through our scholarship, collections, and expertise.