African American Research
The 1860 census counted 3,953,760 slaves living in the southern states. Documenting the lives and relationships of those slaves may be impossible without the help of experienced professionals. African American research is so difficult that few full-time genealogists specialize in that field of study. Our services are designed to meet the needs of anyone who hires us to trace their ancestry. African Americans share several research goals, including:
Untangle the truths in the family’s oral history from the embellishments that have been introduced with each retelling of the story.Trace ancestors back as far as possible in the time allowed for each project.Identify if possible who owned the ancestors and where they lived as slaves.Determine if any of the family’s ancestors were free persons of color before 1865.Find out where their ancestors lived in Africa, based on DNA.
Oral history plays a very important role in tracing African American ancestors. Over time bits and pieces of family stories change. Some become so distorted that they lead amateur researchers far from the truth. A professional genealogist does not have an emotional attachment to oral history and will attempt to document each fact and identify those that cannot be proved.
After tracing an African American family back to 1865, our focus turns to identifying who owned them before the Emancipation. During slavery, we look for your ancestors’ names in public records filed by an owner. We search property, estate, and court records, as well as slave schedules, to prove the owner-slave relationship. Sometimes public records are silent about that relationship, which limits the number of generations that a family can be traced. If we hit a dead-end on one family line, we’ll move to another and see where it goes. All during this process, the story of your slave ancestors will unfold.
Get started by choosing the research package below that fits your goals and budget.