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African American Family History

African American Family History

Tracing Your Roots

African American Family History can be the most difficult to trace. Due to incomplete and often nonexistent records tracing your African American roots can be challenging. Similar to other areas of genealogy research there are certain things you should become familiar with before starting your search.

  • African American Roots in the U.S.

There is no need to search out your African American Family History in the United States any further back than the year 1619. It was at this time that the first African Americans were brought to the U.S. as slaves by Dutch Traders. Unfortunately it is not a simple matter to trace your ancestors back to this point.

Due to the laws of the era that did not require slave owners to record the names of their slaves many African Americans were recorded by their first name alone or simply as “black male” or “black female.” It is due to this fact that the discovery of the last slave owner of your ancestors is a very important step. Once the last slave owner has been proven it is much easier to find other ancestors who were associated with that slave owner.

  • The 1870 Federal Census

Censuses are a valuable asset in tracing ancestry of any type, but the 1870 US Federal Census is probably the most important when trying to trace African American Family History. It was in this census that African Americans were first listed by name.

This census eases the burden or research, but brings with it a whole new challenge. While many African Americans chose to use their birth given surname many others chose other routes. It is well known that many took upon themselves the surname of their previous slave owner, and yet others who used a name such as Tailor/Taylor as a description of a trade in which they had become proficient.

The fact that there is no certainty of what name your ancestors chose to use makes research difficult. It becomes even more difficult when coupled with the fact that it was fairly common for biological family members to choose different surnames. This fact makes it important to not simply trace your ancestry using your family surname alone, but to also make the effort to find other family members who may have chosen to use other surnames.

  • Do Not Be Easily Discouraged

Researching your African American Family History can be extremely difficult and challenging. If you have never done any genealogy research it can particularly overwhelming to tackle a task with as many different complications as this area of research.

If you begin to feel overwhelmed, do not know where to start, or cannot overcome a particular obstacle in your research there are options you should explore.

There are many sites on the internet devoted entirely to African American Family History. In addition to these sites there are professional genealogists who do this research for a living. They know the obstacles you are facing and how to overcome them. They have services set up to search out your entire family history, or to simply help you overcome a specific obstacle you are facing.

No matter what route you choose to take in researching your African American Family History it can be an incredibly rewarding experience.

About the Author:

Kent Fairbourn is the Great Grandson of John A. Scorup (a member of the Cowboy Hall of Fame) and a Client Account Specialist for 10x Marketing, an Internet marketing company. Go now to Heirlines Family History and Genealogy for a Free Professional Genealogy Consultation.

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