The following information is from Family Tree Magazine and other sources compiled to aid you in finding resources for African American and genealogical research. An email address and password is all that is required to sign-up for free access to Family Tree Magazine website. (To expedite your search through the resource list, select the "ctrl key" plus the letter "F" and enter a term in the search field you would like to find, i.e., DNA.)
This free site from the National Archives and Archives.com serves up census maps and descriptions to locate an enumeration district, plus complete 1940 census images you can save, share and download.
The 1950 census records were released by the U.S. National Archives on April 1, 2022. This website provides full access to the 1950 census images, including population schedules, enumeration district maps, and enumeration district descriptions.
1950 Census National Archives Genealogy Series
Best known for its health reports, 23andMe also has an enormous pool of DNA testers: over 10 million. This makes it a great place to look for DNA matches (relatives) who may know something about your origins that you don’t. It doesn’t have as many tools to help reconstruct your family tree using DNA as AncestryDNA or MyHeritage DNA, but its genetically oriented Family Tree is unique and helpful.
Access Genealogy states that it contains the largest collection of free genealogy for your United States research. Find hundreds of thousands of free websites with billions of names you can use to further your family genealogy! Specifically, we provide sources for birth records, death records, marriage records, census records, tax records, church records, court records, military records, historical newspapers, cemeteries, and ethnic records. We also provide some historical details about different times and people in America’s history. Our specialty, however, is Native American genealogy and research.
This eye-popping site from Harvard’s Center for Geographical Analysis tracks the slave trade with historical overlays and geographical data.
An excellent starting place for African American genealogy. It features a “Beginners Guide” video; details on best sites for African American records, resources, and research; good direction on finding slave data, vital records, history of slavery; plus a website search function, forums and chats.
Afro-Louisiana History and Genealogy 1719-1820
Powerful search tools let you scour this database of 100,000 Louisiana slaves by plantation. It represents the results of 15 years of research by Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, professor emerita of history at Rutgers University.
Allen County Public Library (ACPL), Fort Wayne, Indiana
Special collections include African American and a Native American Gateway; military records; a surname database contributed by researchers and a handy list of selected research guides and record indexes to help you get started on your research in any state. This is one of the largest genealogical library collections in the U.S.
Not cheap, at $149 for six months of global access, but you definitely get what you pay for here. Ancestry offers more than 32,000 collections of genealogical records, from popular datasets such as censuses and passenger lists, to databases with narrower coverage, like Chicago’s 1888 voter registration index. Build your family tree to get hints to matching records and, for another $99, test your DNA. Ancestry also has access through a registered guest account and is accessible through libraries.
More than 15 million people have taken DNA tests here, making it a prime place to connect with genetic relatives. Powerful tools help users compare their family trees with each other and figure out how they might be related. The proprietary Genetic Communities help reveal ancestral migration patterns.
Browse by cemetery or surname to find your ancestors in a volunteer-uploaded compendium of nearly 1.2 million gravestone photographs.
Atlas of Historical County Boundaries
This acclaimed independent library in Chicago is best known by genealogists for its interactive Atlas of Historical County Boundaries. You’ll also find Chicago resources, Freedmen’s Bureau finding aids and a raft of genealogy guides.
Search their free database by people or by cemetery. Many entries have photos of gravesites. Free app helps to direct you to the GPS location in a cemetery, which is a great help as many cemeteries are poorly marked.
Maybe the solution to your pedigree puzzle lies in this site’s tales of outlaws and pirates or records of prisons, courts, executions and insane asylums. You’ll find these “black sheep” here in links and lists for the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada.
Researching ancestors in Canada? Put their lives in context with this archive of 40 million pages from some of Canada’s most popular historical collections. The directories, newspapers, manuscripts and more range from the 1600s to the mid-1900s.
US arrivals through the port of New York from 1820 through 1892—before Ellis Island opened (see page 21)—came here, and now you can search all 11 million of them for free.
Chronicling America - Historic American Newspapers
Search America's historic newspaper pages from 1789-1963 or use the U.S. Newspaper Directory to find information about American newspapers published between 1690-present. Chronicling America is sponsored jointly by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress.
Civil War Soldiers & Sailors Database
The best place to start researching your Union or Confederate ancestors, this database delivers the basics on more than 6 million soldiers from both sides, plus 18,000 African-American sailors, all hailing from 44 US states and territories.
College of Coastal Georgia Library (See Guide Funeral Programs & Obituaries)
Funeral service programs are great sources for genealogical information and local history, especially for African Americans whose obituaries were not traditionally published in local newspapers until the 1960s and 1970s. The information found in funeral programs typically includes the decedent’s full name, birth date and place, death date and place, parents’ names, surviving family members, church affiliation, occupation, education, fraternal organizations, community and civic involvement, and funeral participants. Some funeral programs include photographs of the decedent and other family members.
Cook County, Illinois, Vital Records
The Cook County Clerk's office is the official record keeper for births, marriages, civil unions and deaths that occur in Chicago and suburban Cook County.
Indexes to pre-1900 marriages, plus deaths and military records back to the War of 1812, stand out in this collection of databases. Search the Illinois Regional Archives Depositories (IRAD) for offline resources to pursue next.
Offers links organized by topics/categories. A cross-referenced index contains extensive lists of online genealogy resources. Don’t know where to look for specific records? Check Cyndi’s up-to-date list of suggested sources.
Daughters of the American Revolution
For genealogists, the highlight of this organization’s site is the Genealogical Research System. You can research Revolutionary War patriots, their descendents, and the DAR members who’ve proven a link to them. You can also search the catalog of the DAR Library in Washington, D.C.
David Rumsey Map Collection
View the 85,000-plus historical maps multiple ways, including Google Earth, making it easy to see how yesterday’s places relate to today’s.
Digital Library on American Slavery
Explore this painful chapter of America’s past through runaway-slave advertisements, slave “deeds,” insurance papers, and legislative and court petitions digitized by the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Digital Public Library of America
Search more than 21 million digitized items from many of the nation’s foremost libraries and archives.
Search books, photographs, maps, family histories, state documents, newspapers and more from North Carolina institutions, or browse by county.
Documenting the American South
Though not exclusively focused on the African-American experience, these collections from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill include “The Church in the Southern Black Community” and “North American Slave Narratives.”
Early American Roads and Trails
A new look makes it easier to explore this trove of historical documents, with options to browse by era, region or topic, plus hundreds of maps and a searchable timeline. Those with Civil War ancestors will want to start with the searchable online edition of the 128-volume Officials Records (the “OR”) of the Civil War, complete with an index and atlas.
Timelines, maps and the searchable 128-volume Officials Records (the “OR”) of the Civil War make this your first stop for digital history documents.
Elephind doesn’t host digital newspapers; rather, like its more-or-less namesake elephant, it never forgets where the best collections reside online. Smart search scours more than 181 million items from 3,566 newspaper titles for your ancestors.
With the help of scholars, educators, and family historians, Enslaved: Peoples of the Historical Slave Trade (Enslaved.org) is rapidly expanding in 2022. We are building a robust, open-source architecture to discover, connect, and visualize 600,000 (and growing) people records and 5 million data points. From archival fragments and spreadsheet entries, we see the lives of the enslaved in richer detail. Explore the data and life stories on Enslaved.org and read articles on data-driven research about the lives of the enslaved in the Journal of Slavery and Data Preservation.
Think of Evernote as an omnipresent digital scrapbook for all your genealogy finds. Clip or copy that census page or family photo on one device, then access on your PC, Mac, tablet or even your phone. Basic accounts are free, though you’ll be tempted to upgrade for more features ($69.99 annually).
Recent controversies aside, the world’s biggest social-networking site can connect you with cousins as well as with your favorite genealogy institutions.
A completely free genealogy database website. You can use an Advanced Search tool by surname, record type, and/or place to access millions of records. The FamilySearch Wiki is a “go to” resource to find what exists for a wide range of family history topics, even beyond FamilySearch’s extensive databases.
Family Tree DNA
This DNA testing company offers more than the standard autosomal DNA test provided by others. Customers can also choose various levels of YDNA testing, to look at paternal-line ancestry (for men only), and mtDNA testing, to look at deep maternal ancestry (both women and men can take this test). Join different kinds of DNA projects to compare your DNA with others of the same geographic, cultural or surname origin.
Our own website offers abundant tools and how-to’s for beginners. Under Free Resources, find downloadable forms, ebooks, cheat sheets, our podcast and more. The cheat sheets can be especially helpful for beginners: don’t miss our Genealogy Essentials downloads, Record References, ethnic research aids and top online genealogy tricks. Join our Premium membership for access to articles on many topics for beginners and beyond or take an online class from one of our experts (find these under the Shop menu).
Find A Grave
They call themselves the world’s largest gravesite collection with more than 170 million memorials. Search for free. Many photos and text has been added to gravesite information.
Still the go-to destination for British Isles research, Findmypast also has a solid collection of US and Canadian records and is in the process of digitizing the genealogical journals indexed in the Periodical Source Index (PERSI). The Ultimate package costs $179 a year.
Florida Memory Project
Take a virtual visit to the Sunshine State—no sunscreen required—with historical photos, land records, Confederate pension paperwork, maps, WWI service cards and even early auto registrations. While you research, you can listen to streaming old-time radio.
This Ancestry-owned site now serves up 565 million records, focused on—but not limited to—military history (hence the name, which is inspired by a flag ceremony). Covers every US conflict, including Revolutionary War and War of 1812 pensions, Civil War muster rolls and (newly completed in 2020) WWII draft records. You can set up a “watch” to alert you when new records are added that match anything in your previous searches. Subscriptions cost $79.95 a year…look for deals. Fold3 is included in “All Access” Ancestry.com membership.
A Federal agency of the United States Department of War to help slaves who were set free after the Civil War and also poor whites with provisions, clothing, and fuel. It also helped with immediate and temporary shelter and supplied food and aid to the destitute and suffering.
Sort of a matchmaking site for genetic genealogy, a free registration lets you match your autosomal DNA results with others who’ve uploaded data from AncestryDNA, 23andMe or Family Tree DNA’s Family Finder.
Did an old newspaper report on your ancestors’ involvement in a disaster? Browse by state, year or type of disaster (train wreck, fire, flood, shipwreck, etc.) to read all about it.
Can’t find your ancestors’ hometown newspaper anywhere online? This redesigned subscription site hosts more than 7,500 digitized newspapers and 250 million obituaries—95 percent not available elsewhere online—plus historical books and directories.
General Land Office Records
Find many records generated when our ancestors bought land from the federal government, especially in the Midwest and West. Access images of more than 5 million land title records dating back to 1820. Click on the Reference Center for more information about public land sales, patents and survey plats. No state land sales are located here. (Free)
Georgia Archives Virtual Vault
This portal to some of Georgia’s most important historical documents dating from 1733 to the present, includes Bible records, manuscripts, photos, maps, Colonial wills, Confederate paperwork and deed books.
This search engine offers mapping www.goggle.com/maps, book searching <books.google.com>, translation <translate.google.com>, email <mail.google.com>, documents <google.docs> and much more.
If your library subscribes, your library card can unlock this free (to you) “Ancestry lite” site that now goes well beyond HeritageQuest’s original half-dozen collections. Dig deep to find US censuses, immigration records, military records, city directories and more at this institutional site “powered by” (but not owned by) Ancestry.
Historical Newspapers in Washington
Sophisticated search options make it easier to ferret out your ancestors in this collection, the fruits of a project to digitize old newspapers that were previously accessible only on 40,000-plus microfilm reels.
Indiana State Digital Archives
Civil War and Indiana National Guard records are the latest additions to this growing Hoosier website. It’s now home to more than 2.7 million searchable records.
International African-American Museum Center for Family History
This museum in Charleston, SC, won’t open until 2020, but you can enjoy its gorgeous website now, with digital collections including Bible and marriage records, newspaper obituaries and funeral programs.
International Society of Genetic Genealogy Wiki
Curious but confused about genetic genealogy? Let the ISOGG, founded by DNA project administrators, explain everything from all those acronyms to making sense of your results.
Like a Google that has time travel, the “Wayback Machine” here archives and searches more than 401 billion sites from the past. The main site also serves up a wealth of digital documents, including family and local histories, as well as goodies ranging from old- time radio to patents.
Kentucky Historical Society
Bluegrass State researchers will stampede to this site for its cemetery records, Civil Rights archive and digital collections of everything from artifacts to old postcards. Click on the Kentuckiana Digital Library to also search more than 550,000 digital images including historic newspapers, photographs, Sanborn maps and historical issues of the Daily Racing Form.
The global leader in online obituaries, partners with more than 1,500 newspapers and 3,500 funeral homes across the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Europe. Consumers can also express condolences, share direct support for families, and celebrate the people who have touched their lives.
Library and Archives Canada
Find your ancestors up north in this vast free collection. Click the Databases and Resources tab, and then Ancestors Search to get to the good stuff, like databases of censuses, military records, immigration lists, land records and much more.
Library of Congress
One of the largest collections in the world of printed and recorded materials; outstanding source for free images; resource for all copyrighted materials in America and beyond. LOC maintains collections of nearly all city directories and county histories in the U.S.; houses a comprehensive directory of all known copyrighted newspapers by timeframe and where they can be located today, in the important U.S. Newspaper Directory and Chronicling America; and offers comprehensive historical materials of all kinds.
The newest of the major genetic genealogy companies, this one is best known for offering the most detailed breakdown for ancestral origins in Britain and Ireland. It doesn’t yet have as robust a customer base as the others (limiting your options for finding DNA matches) or robust tools for determining the nature of relationships to genetic matches.
Plantation records, a research library, records of slaves taken from the area, and detailed documentation of the 33rd US Colored Troops infantry regiment make this handsome site a must-visit for researching the historic rice-growing areas of South Carolina, Georgia and northeastern Florida.
Mapping the Freedmen’s Bureau
Find your freed African-American ancestors in the aftermath of the Civil War with this nifty interactive map to field offices of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands.
Midwest African American Genealogy Institute
The Midwest African American Genealogy Institute (MAAGI) is a place where attendees learn, research, and gain the tools needed to become a stellar genealogists and family history researchers.
Midwest Genealogy Center
This website from the Mid-Continent Public Library in Independence, Mo., was recently redesigned and relaunched. Don’t miss its index of 1.5 million US Railroad Retirement Board pension records, digitized books and how-to guides.
Minnesota Historical Society
Particularly nifty here is the People Records Search, a one-stop combing of vital records, state censuses and military records. And don’t overlook the digitized newspapers, maps, place-name finder and other tools that’d make Paul Bunyan proud.
Missouri Digital Heritage
Show me, indeed: A single click searches more than 9 million records from the state archives, state library and other institutions across Missouri. Or you can explore individual collections including military records, naturalizations and vital records.
My Genealogy Hound
This new, free website from Hearthstone Legacy Publications lets you access thousands of biographies extracted from pre-1900 county history books, plus old county maps. The initial focus is on Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee, with maps also from Oklahoma and Texas.
Build your tree here and MyHeritage will search other members’ trees for connections; plans range from free to $119.40 a year. If you spring for a separate data subscription (also $119.40 annually), you can also get emails as MyHeritage’s SuperSearch scours its 8.5 billion records for matches. The site now offers DNA testing; results are integrated with the site’s family trees.
National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
Maintained by the U.S. Federal government, NARA houses millions of microfilmed, printed, and manuscript records. Excellent for census records; governmental and military history records; military pension files; product patents; also passenger lists, early naturalization records, and much more.
National Archives Resources?for Genealogists
Here’s your portal to the US repository for most federal military, census, immigration and other records. Read excellent descriptions of these record sets and order copies online. Some have been digitized or indexed; click on Online Research Tools, then Access to Archival Databases or Records Digitized by Partners. At the first, find databases to selected records at the National Archives. At the second, find a list (by microfilm number) of records now on Ancestry.com and Fold3.com.
Nationwide Gravesite Locator
This site, updated daily, searches US burial locations of veterans and their family members in VA national cemeteries, state veterans cemeteries and more.
New York Public Library (NYPL)
Among the elite tier of library collections, second only to LOC in the size and scope of its historical and genealogical collections. The NYPL Map Division has one of the best collections in the U.S.; the Milstein Division has extensive local history and genealogical materials related to the all fifty states, including one of the largest American collections of city directories on microfilm; other notable divisions are the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Dorot Jewish Division, Manuscripts and Archives, Performing Arts Division, and the Science, Industry, and Business Library. Plus many accessible online digital collections and image galleries; and use of lntraLibrary Loan through ILL and your local library card.
New York State Archives
From old “lantern slides” to a database of more than 360,000 New York soldiers in the Civil War, this site helps you discover the Empire State’s past. Particularly nifty is the step-by-step Probate Record Pathfinder.
Already a favorite, wherever your ancestors lived, for its Atlas of Historical County Boundaries, this site has beefed up its Chicago-area offerings. New here are full-text searchable PDFs of volumes 1 to 39 (1969-2007) of the Chicago Genealogist.
Before you pay for sites that put old newspapers online, check the more than 69,000 pages of abstracts and extracts from historical newspapers available here. Growing by more than a thousand pages a month, Newspaper Abstracts concentrates on the “good stuff,” genealogically speaking, such as obituaries, births, marriages, deaths, court notices, land sales and tax notices.
Access more than 120 million digitized newspaper pages dating to 1607. The site is easy on the eye and easy to navigate. Browse newspapers by state and city (and for other countries), or enter names and other keywords along with desired dates and locations. Click on Help to take tutorials on using the site.
This Ancestry-owned site claims to be the largest online newspaper archive, with pages from 7,500 publications from the 1700s to 2000s. Viewing and clipping tools make it easy to save and share your finds once you’ve invested $74.90 a year (discounted if you’re an Ancestry member).
North Carolina State Archives
A new North Carolina Civil War Soldiers Timeline uses letters from individual soldiers plotted on a Google Map and tied to a timeline so you can follow a soldier's path both geographically and through time. The Digital Collections link reveals digitized newspapers, family Bibles, marriage and death announcements and historic maps.
Quick Guide to African American Records
This section describes strategies for discovering African American ancestors in various periods of history. Most of these records are available through the FamilySearch or other similar websites, such as Ancestry or MyHeritage.
Focuses on providing guidance and links to records for passenger lists from about 1820 to the early 1950s. It includes suggestions for finding records for ports of arrival and immigration records.
From censuses to vital records, foreign calendars to alphabets, Steve Morse empowers visitors to drill down into genealogy and related databases. You can skip intros and tedious forms and use more-flexible search options. To view results on a fee-based website, you do need a subscription to that site.
One of the first genealogical resources on the internet; it still offers excellent help with mailing lists; Ancestry Wiki; obituaries; connect to USGenWeb; Family Trees; queries; and more.
Slavery in America and the World: History, Culture & Law
Free registration unlocks information published about slavery, primarily prior to 1880, from HeinOnline, one of America’s top online legal library services.
South Carolina Department of Archives and History
Tucked away under the Online Research link are indexes and images including Confederate veterans’ records, wills, court paperwork and land-grant plats.
The Genetic Genealogist
Don’t know your mitochondrial DNA from your Y-STR? This informed but accessible blog by Blaine Bettinger puts you painlessly on the cutting edge of genetic genealogy. A genealogy buff for 20 years, Bettinger also has a PhD in biochemistry with a concentration in genetics, and authored the Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy [LINK TO https://www.shopfamilytree.com/guide-to-dna-testing-and-genetic-genealogy].
The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database
These databases describe more than 35,000 slave voyages, with the African names of 91,491 individuals taken from captured slave ships or from African trading sites.
Click the free site’s Humanities tab, then History & Culture > Genealogy to dive into dozens of free how-to articles covering genealogy research basics, online searching, and sharing and preserving the past. You won’t do actual research on this site, but you’ll learn a lot. Because each article leads to more detailed and related articles on the same site, it’s easy to lose track of what you’ve read. Refer back frequently to the main topics tabs (Basics, Surnames, Genealogy Fun and Vital Records around the World) if you want to read systematically through everything offered.
U.S. Census Bureau
Discover explanations on all federal census years and access copies of original forms and questions. Also see Census Online for links to state censuses; tools for research; and calculators to convert year of birth.
US Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management, General Land Office Records
Start looking for your ancestors’ federal land records here by searching the more than 5 million land patents dating from 1788. Click to view the documents in PDF form. Other digitized records here include survey plats, field notes and Control Document Index records.
US Geological Survey
New satellite images add to the “wow” here, complementing the National Atlas, Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) and National Map. Find your ancestral places, no matter how obscure, and then see them on historical topographic maps.
Free county/state historical and genealogical resources; research resources and content projects driven by volunteers of local and state genealogical societies throughout the United States. Also see WorldGenWeb Project for records beyond the U.S.
Not just for Virginia research, this Library of Virginia site is also strong on all things Confederate. New projects spotlight WWI records and slavery in the commonwealth.
This free, wiki-style site aims to build “a unified family tree containing the best information from all contributors.” It’s up to 2.8 million ancestral individuals, so you know webmasters are doing something right.
Western States Historical Marriage Records Index
Not just for locating Idaho ancestors, this Western States Marriage Index searches more than 913,000 matrimonial records from 12 western states.
This collaborative family tree wiki site boasts more than 17 million people profiles contributed and edited by a half-million researchers worldwide. It’s now incorporating DNA results, with 3.7 million profiles that include DNA test connections.
Wisconsin Historical Society
There’s nothing cheesy about this compendium of more than 3 million records, among them vital record indexes, newspaper clippings, photographs, and old property records.
Connect to the catalogs of 10,000 of the world’s libraries and search 2 billion items with a single click, then find holdings closest to you. An app gives you WorldCat to go on your phone. Sign in to create lists and bibliographies to keep track of your research.
What USGenWeb does for US family history, this volunteer-run site aims to do for the whole world. As you’d expect with such a lofty mission, coverage can be sparse for some places. Do keep an eye on this website, as its chairperson promises helpful updates coming soon.
Your favorite Family Tree Magazine authors, “Genealogy Roadshow” and other family-history TV shows, Ancestry experts and more are in the quarter-million videos that pop up when you search for genealogy.
Your DNA Guide
A hands-on, try-this-now approach to finding answers from DNA testing—whether you’ve tested already or not. Under Resources, find easy-reading introductions to specific questions you can ask your DNA, such as ethnicity and geographical origins; finding biological relatives; and identifying unknown ancestors on your family tree.