African American Genealogy
How to conduct African American genealogical research.
More from Tukufu on African-American Genealogy.
Do-it-yourself genealogical research has become a popular hobby for millions of Americans.
One potential obstacle to tracing African-American lineage is slavery, an institution that broke family bonds and made record keeping nearly impossible.
The challenges of reaching back to the period before the Civil War are great, but there are a host of tools that can help you uncover your roots, if you know where to look.
Great sources are national, state, and local archives. They provide a wealth of personal data about the nearly four million African-Americans freed by the Emancipation Proclamation.
These include migration patterns, black military service, and birth, marriage, and death certificates.
Unfortunately, things get much more complicated when researching individuals living in prewar, slave-holding states.
Often, a bill of sale is all that remains, listing nothing more than the age and gender of the person being sold at auction.
The most reliable records from this time may be oral histories.
Genealogy was passed down through stories told by one generation to the next.
Since this was often the only way of preserving one's lineage, keeping the facts straight was of paramount importance.
It was this kind of oral history that helped Alex Haley trace his roots all the way back to Africa.
Such research takes an incredible amount of perseverance, passion, and patience, the same attributes that any student of African-American history knows our ancestors had in abundance.