If you haven’t read the first segment of this series, please do that first. Here are four more steps for researching African American genealogy.
If you suspect that you are part Native American, you should definitely look through the rolls of Native American nations. Most of the southern nations who held slaves also made a list of Freedmen. They applied this term to any former slave including the ones they subsequently allowed to marry into the family. But, almost every state that existed before the Civil War also has a list of Freedmen or an equivalent. Be sure to locate records for two, three, or four Native American "Nations” or check the African-Native Genealogy Website.
People of European ancestry often complain that they don’t know their great-great-great-grandmother’s maiden name. But, what if you don’t even know someone’s first name? What happens if your 3Xgreat-grandmother or 3Xgreat-grandfather was owned by three or four different people who called her or him by different names? Most former slaves changed their last names when they became Freedmen, but you might have a problem finding a first name at some point.
Don’t stop at slave records or census records for your search. It’s very likely at least one of your ancestors was a member of the armed forces. Look through the “Patriots of Color Archives”, the Union Army rolls, the Buffalo Soldiers and the Rough Riders.
General George Washington led soldiers of all colors and Negros could earn their freedom by fighting for a year. Blacks joined the Union Army to fight in the Civil War and then were sent to the “Indian Wars.” When the Cheyenne compared the black soldiers to buffalo, the name stuck well into the next century when Teddy Roosevelt staffed several regiments of the Rough Rider with former slaves.
Be proud of your heritage. Don’t let anyone put you down just because your skin is a different color. By studying your family history, you are going to learn a lot more about African American history in general. Take pride in the fact that Negros contributed thousands of things to this nation which make it a better place to live.
For more information:
Index to the Final Rolls of Citizens and Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory (Dawes)