Kinsearching June 26, 2011




Marleta Childs
P. O. Box 6825
LUBBOCK, TX 79493-6825

     Another new addition to the “Genealogy at a Glance” series is African American Genealogy Research by Michael Hait. His concise information offers instance guidance for finding and utilizing materials crucial to African American family research. Divided into short segments, the material furnishes quick facts concerning the African American population in the United States from 1860 through 2000, a brief synopsis of the twentieth-century Great Migration from the South to the North and West, basic research resources, Civil War and Reconstruction-era records, data about free African Americans, materials for tracing enslaved ancestors, online sources, and suggestions for further reading.

     Under the section about basic resources, Hait discusses three imperatives in African American family research: interviews with relatives, state and county vital statistics records (birth, marriage, and death), and federal censuses. Perhaps the most crucial census is the one for 1870, since it is the first federal population schedule to provide details on individual former slaves.

     As the compiler points out in resources concerning the Reconstruction-era, the federal government faced two major issues: reincorporating the Confederate states into the United States and helping slaves make the transition into free men and women. Records resulting from these actions include the Freedman’s Bank, the Southern Claims Commission, and voter registration lists.

     Naturally, Civil War resources include compiled military service records. Since a number of African Americans participated in that conflict, they were entitled to a pension. Much detailed information about the soldiers and their widows appear in the pension files.

     Although it was terminated in the North prior to the Civil War, slavery did exist in that area of the country. Briefly, Hait tells about its abolition in various states in that region. He also points out that, even in the South, a certain percentage of African Americans had been free since the early colonial era. Because free African Americans created the same records as whites did, genealogists may find information about some of their ancestors in vital statistics records, deeds, tax lists, and wills.

     Researching enslaved forebears can often be difficult. Special slave schedules accompany the 1850 and 1860 U. S. censuses. Although the schedules do not record the names of individuals, ages of slaves who may be grouped into families, may help in identification; however, caution should be kept in mind when using this information since ages can be inaccurate. Because slaves were considered personal property, details about them may appear in records associated with their owners, such as tax lists, estate inventories, chattel bills of sale, and plantation accounts. Valuable facts, like detailed physical descriptions, often appear in newspaper advertisements for runaway slaves.

     For internet users, Hait furnishes URL addresses for four major online databases pertaining to African American genealogy. His short summary about each site tells researchers what to expect when utilizing it.

     Like the other items in the “Genealogy at a Glance” series, this publication lays out basic research fundamentals in four pages that are folded and laminated to withstand heavy use by researchers. A handy guide to pack for a research trip or to keep at your computer, African American Genealogy Research will be useful to numerous genealogists.

     To the guide's price of $7.95, buyers should add the cost for postage and handling charges. For U. S. postal mail, the cost is $4.50 for one item and $2.50 for each additional copy; for FedEx ground service, the cost is $6.00 for one copy and $2.50 for each additional item. The guide (item order 2476) may be purchased by check, money order, MasterCard, or Visa from Genealogical Publishing Company, 3600 Clipper Mill Rd., Suite 260, Baltimore, Maryland 21211-1953. For phone orders, call toll free 1-800-296-6687; fax 1-410-752-8492; website

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