click to view original photo

Black History Month: Tracing your African-American Ancestors

It was Alex Haley's "Roots" that revived an entire generation's interest in genealogy. In his landmark novel, Haley traced his family history back seven generations to the western coast of Africa.


Content Details

Type: Article
Word Count: 443 (approx.)
Labels: Census 
Short URL:

Add Comment

In Search of Roots: Tracing Your African-American Ancestry

Ancestor's First Name
Ancestor's Last Name

It was Alex Haley's "Roots" that revived an entire generation's interest in genealogy. In his landmark novel, Haley traced his family history back seven generations to the western coast of Africa. But how close was this work of fiction to actual fact?

In reality, African Americans face more challenges than almost any other ethnic group. Yet tracing one's roots to Africa is indeed a viable possibility. It all comes down to a question of time, persistence and even a little luck.

To make your search a bit smoother, has compiled a list of the top online sources for those with African-American ancestry.

The US Federal Census For many African Americans, the paper trail begins with the 1870 Census. This is the first US Census that lists former slaves as citizens. The 1870 Census might also include the last-known residences of your earliest free ancestors. Another great resource is the Census Free Population Schedules. These schedules list the names of African-American citizens living in the northern free states prior to the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863.

Click here to search the US Federal Census at

Family Trees Many researchers assume that their efforts are pioneering. But in fact many genealogists have unknowingly researched the exact same family lines. So in reviewing the family trees submitted by fellow genealogists, you might find a few of your own ancestors.

Click here to search's OneWorldTreesm database.

View the family trees of four influential African Americans.

James Earl Jones
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Rosa Parks
Condoleezza Rice

Slave Narratives Many rare slave narratives are now available online, allowing researchers to easily search for specific names and events. More importantly, these records provide first-hand accounts of slave life in America.

Click here to search's slave narratives.

Source Information:, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2006.

In compliance with guidelines published by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on December 1st, 2009, please be advised that Genealogy Today LLC (the owner of this site) has an affiliate agreement with (and/or the parent company) and may receive commissions from banners and links hosted on this page.

Recent Feedback:
  • No matches for this listing.
  • << Helpful Articles


    Suggested Next Steps (BETA)

  • Would you like to keep up-to-date with the latest releases from Genealogy Today, along with news from a variety of other sources by receiving The Genealogy News (a FREE service) by email? Yes, sign me up
  • Would you like to become a Genealogy Today member and be able to manage your research experience, post messages to forums, add comments to resources and much more? Yes, show me how
  • Would you like to tap into our community of over 85,000 members by posting a query and get assistance breaking down your most difficult brickwalls? Yes, show me how
  • Would you like to go shopping in a marketplace of over 700 items, including charts, scrapbooking materials, books and a variety of unique gifts and supplies? Yes, take me there
  • Would you like to search for your ancestors in a collection of over 6,000 transcribed documents that includes Masonic lodge rosters, funeral notices, school catalogues, telephone directories, insurance claims, directories, church member lists, prison records, etc.? Yes, take me there