Skip to main content
Report this ad

See also:

African American Genealogy Research-Tips on how you get started! Part 1

It does not matter who or where in the U. S. you are researching, you need to know the fundamentals about genealogy research, records & resources. Most importantly be able to ask questions, managing your files, documenting your resources and share your findings.

You need to be organized, if not you’ll become frustrated and quit, or duplicate research you’ve already done. You will become successful in collecting pieces of paper. Have a system in place the helps you record, document, store, and retrieve information. Some researchers use file folders, binders or boxes. Select one and be consistent. An easy way is to just alphabetize your file folders with the surnames of heads of the family.

Things to think about:
 Who, What, When, Where, and Why-things I need to know
 Has someone in your family already completed some research
 Do you have the time? Have you considered the costs?
 $$$$-Costs-yes there is costs to doing genealogy research

Tips on retrieving information
Remember: What goes Out Must come IN
Whether you're writing to a cousin or to a county clerk three states away, you will need to track all of your pending information requests. Keep copies of all the letters you send — they act as records of what you requested when. Tell the family of your successes or failures…it will become a recording and you might get some help or new information.

Tips on research trips
 When you are researching, Only search one name/person/surname, if you see other names that you need to research further, make a note on a post-it, or add to the to do list- date it.
 REMEMBER to cite all the information so you can return to the right document.
 Stick to your to do list, have only one to do list-per person/file
 Do not try to analyze your information -take it home to read, sort, analyze & make notes
 Join and participate in a genealogical society, group…
 Attend genealogy training and conferences (keep a record of your attendance)
 Share your experiences
 Ask for help & Set up sharing time

More Tips:
 Don’t assume anything
 Write down the different spellings of the surnames (Goens/Goins/Goings/Gowins/Gowens/
Gowings, I have over 10 spelling for this surname)
 Ask questions, document, document…
 Research the entire family
 Don’t assume all African-Americans have Native American roots
 Prove your research, learn about the area/community you are researching
 Understand the laws that are in place during the time you are researching
 Analyze the documents you obtain-understand and see what it can do for you-
 Learn the "So What" concept
 Chat with those who have done it

African Americans have been called numerous names, hold titles and been identified by abbreviations and notes, such as:

 Col’d=colored
 Cold=colored
 M=Mulatto
 B=Black
 A=Africa
 Free persons of color (FPC)
 Free Mixtures
 Free Negroes
 Non-white
 Free Negroes chargeable with tax
 Free Blacks chargeable with tax
 Person(s) of Color

Who do you start with? YOU!
 Write down your information-Document!
 Who is your oldest living family member? Call them Today!
 Oral History, Photos, and Sharing of Information

What you need to know about a person
 Full name and nicknames (why nicknames)
 Where were they born, what county, city, state date, where they born in a hospital?
 What was going on in the area during the years you are researching?
 What were the parents, names, grandparents, etc, where they born, type of work they did, siblings…
 Type of work, who are the neighbors, church affiliations, etc.

Know your records & resources
 Vital Stats records: birth, death, marriage, divorce
 Federal Census & State Census*
 Public records-probate, wills, deeds, tax lists, personal property list, mortgages, bill of sales
 Media Records-newspaper, Obits, Funeral notices
 Military Records
 Headstones, cemetery records

What about the resources: Are they Primary vs. Secondary Resources?
Primary, is a person witnessed the event
Secondary, did not witness the event
That is important for you to know!

You need to understand who provided the information-were they a witness, or was it passed down. It might be accurate, but it also might not be. You need to determine what type of a resource you are looking at.

Some Challenges you might face while doing African American genealogy research
 Records not recorded into public record
 Records destroyed
 Denial-don’t want to know, it’s the past
 Don’t want to share the information-I will take it to my grave
 Received information that is not totally the truth or reliable
 You keep looking for people of color during slave research

The NOT’s
 Not understanding the Genealogy Proof Standard (GPS)
 Not aware of Friends, Associates and Neighbors (FAN) principle by Elizabeth Shown Mills.
 Not using Cluster Research
 Not having a plan in place
 Not using Google as your friend to access other tips and leads
 Not tuning in to the FREE resources like weekly blogtalkradio shows and podcasts, etc. (Research at the National Archives and Beyond ( and

Check back in a couple of weeks for Part 2....

Report this ad