Finding enslaved ancestors can be challenging but also highly rewarding. To increase one's success, you need to start with yourself, a parent and search each generation backwards to the 1870 census. This was one of the first records that enumerated former slaves with a surname. The challenge is that enslaved people were rarely linked with surnames until AFTER their emancipation. You'll need to know exactly where your freed ancestor lived to find YOUR Mary, Henry, John etc. It takes, time, patience, knowledge AND luck. With luck you may find a relation who has already done some or all of the research. There is alot of "how to" information on the net (familysearch.org, Ancestry etc), and in the library. I highly recommend joining a genealogical society in the county or city where you live and in the vicinity of where you think your ancestors lived. There are also many national organizations and state organizations where you can meet knowledgeable people. Knowledge is key. Good luck in your adventure.
Dear Ms. Lott-Mack,
Thank you for posting your request on History Hub!
We suggest that you begin by talking to your various family members, especially the more senior ones, and ask them questions so you can gather names, dates, places, and stories. With that information in hand, you may begin to gather records about these family members and the places associated with them.
The National Archives has a variety of resources, including the Guide to Black History on our African American Research web page to assist as you search for these records. At the bottom of the page, there are many links including the Freedmen’s Bureau Records web pages; African Americans - Reference Reports explaining how to research the Federal Census records and the Freedmen’s Bureau records by state; Reference Information Paper No. 108: Black Family Research: Records of Post-Civil War Federal Agencies at the National Archives; and Reference Information Paper No. 105: Records of Military Agencies Relating to the African Americans from the Post-World War I Period to the Korean War.
- Coastwise Slave Manifests, 1820-1860 (National Archives at Atlanta (RE-AT) at firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Coastwise Slave Manifests, 1820-1858 (RE-AT)
- Coastwise Slave Manifests, 1826-1830 (RE-AT)
- Coastwise Slave Manifests, 1801-1860 (RE-AT)
- Slave Manifests, 1817-1861 (National Archives at Fort Worth (RM-FW) at email@example.com)
- Slave Manifests for the Port of Philadelphia, 1800 - 1860 (National Archives at Philadelphia (RE-PA) at firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Slave Manifests for the Port of Annapolis, 1822 (RE-PA)
- Slave Manifests for the Port of New York, 1822 - 1852 (National Archives at Washington, DC - Textual Reference (RDT1) at email@example.com)
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and pursuant to guidance received from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), NARA has adjusted its normal operations to balance the need of completing its mission-critical work while also adhering to the recommended social distancing for the safety of NARA staff. As a result of this re-prioritization of activities, you may experience a delay in receiving an initial acknowledgement as well as a substantive response to your reference request from RE-AT, RM-FW, RE-PA, and RDT1. We apologize for this inconvenience and appreciate your understanding and patience.
The National Endowment for the Humanities and the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard have sponsored databases titled "Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database" and "African Names Database" (see http://www.slavevoyages.org/) with Emory University and its partners. The Slave Trade database contains information for about 36,000 slaving voyages and the African Name database identifies 91,491 African taken from captured slave ships or from African trading sites.
We hope this is helpful. Best of luck with your family research!