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, Ancestry.com 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 Ancestry.com.
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 Ancestry.com's OneWorldTreesm database.
View the family trees of four influential African Americans.
James Earl Jones
Martin Luther King, Jr.
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 Ancestry.com's slave narratives.