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Among the Mississippi Choctaws
Week of December 13, 2009
Genealogy Feature of the Week

Announcing the Newly Updated Site:
Researching Slavery Era

One of the largest challenges for many African American genealogists is researching ancestors who were enslaved.  There is the fact that people who were enslaved were not listed in census records by name. The names of people who enslaved them are listed and the the gender age and complexion of the slave were listed, but as individuals with names, they are not there.

As a result there are challenges that face the genealogists who appears to exhaust levels the documents to use to take the family further back in time.  There are some strategies however, to break through this major brick wall.

One major challenge is that many records that list slaves by name are in private collections.  Some are still retained in the family papers, and have never been published.  Others however over the years have been donated to various libraries and these records are an priceless source of data for descendants of slaves to learn more about their ancestors.

HOWEVER there are a few available resources that can help to reveal this long sought after data for enslaved people

1) Military Files

2) Freedman's Savings Records

3) Freedman’s Bureau Records

4) Courthouse Records

Beyond the use of these records which vary from state to state, courthouse to courthouse, and file to file, there is the challenging task of  identifying the slave owner, and then researching the history of the slave owner’s family.  One must undertake this research as vehemently as one researches their own family–-for within that family’s history will be the path that will take the researcher to previous ancestors.

Thankfully, some of these resources are online. Other records will have to be conducted on site, such as with courthouse records.  

Samples of these records are outline in the links above.