February 21, 2017

Genealogy Research Techniques for Finding Your Free People of Color

Not all people of color were enslaved prior to the emancipation. In fact, many were freed long before that. Researching free people of color can be quite complex. Tracing my own family line (who were free people of color) continues to be a real learning process for me. However, don’t let the challenges deter you from exploring this rich part of your heritage. In this “Getting Started” post, we discuss the manumission process, “negro registers,” and more for tracing your free people of color.

Free People of Color Ohio

Jimmy Jeams Rial, a Randolph Freedmen of Rossville, Ohio. Picture courtesy of Piqua Public Library, Miami County, Ohio.

Who are Free People of Color?

[Note: Throughout our post, we will be using terminology that was used at the time the records were created.] A ‘free negro’ or ‘free black’ was a fairly recent status in the U.S. which differentiated between an African-American person who was free and those who were enslaved prior to emancipation. If a person was referred to as a ‘free negro’ or ‘free black’, that meant the person was not living in slavery. It is a fascinating and little know fact that, as Ancestry Wiki states, “one in ten African-Americans was already free when the first shots were fired on Fort Sumter.”

Step 1 for Tracing Free People of Color: Censuses

Sometimes, the story of your ancestors being free people of color was passed on through oral traditions. In my own family, our “line of color” was not talked about. Instead, my first clue was when I found my ancestor in the 1840 population census listed as free. I also found that one woman (presumably his wife) was marked in the column for “free white persons,” but John and the children were marked as “free colored persons” in this census. This was the first step to identifying my ancestor as a free person of color.

freepeopleofcolor_2

Let’s see another example. The 1850 and 1860 U.S. Federal Censuses included two population schedules. One enumerated free inhabitants, and the additional schedule, referred to as a Slave Schedule, was for making an enumeration of those persons who were enslaved. [We will discuss this further, below.]

If your ancestor appears on the 1850 U.S. Federal Census for free inhabitants, they are considered free, even if their race was listed as “Black.” An example of a Black man enumerated on the 1850 census is shown in the image below. Archibald Giles is recorded as “Black,” but appears on this census for “free inhabitants.” Therefore, he would be considered a free person of color.

freepeopleofcolor_3

If your targeted ancestor does not appear on either the 1850 or 1860 population schedule for free inhabitants, they might have been enumerated on the slave schedules of 1850 or 1860.

freepeopleofcolor_4

1850 Slave Schedule for Henry County, Tennessee. Snapshot via Ancestry.com.

You can check the 1850 Slave Schedule and the 1860 Slave Schedules at Ancestry.com. The 1850 census is also available at Findmypast, MyHeritage, and FamilySearch.

In this example to the left, you will see a portion of the Henry County, Tennessee Slave Schedule for 1850. Notice, only the heads of household or the “owners” were listed by name. Slaves were not named, but rather listed by age and sex under the names of their “owners.”

Step 2: The Manumission Process

Once you have identified that you have free people of color in your family tree, the next step is to determine how they became free. Many free people of color came from families that had been free for generations. This could have been due to a manumission of an ancestor or a relationship between an indentured white woman and a black slave. I make mention of this relationship between races because it is helpful to remember that the status (whether free or enslaved) of the child was based on the status of their mother. If the mother was free, then the child was free. If she was a slave, then the child was enslaved. [1]

Manumission was a formal way in which slaves were set free. There are many reasons why a slave owner may have released or freed his slaves. In some cases, slave owners would free their mistresses and children born to her. In one case, I found the following comment made by the slave owner,  “I give my slaves their freedom, to which my conscience tells me they are justly entitled. It has a long time been a matter of the deepest regret to me…” And thirdly, it was possible for a slave to obtain their manumission through the act of “self-purchase.”

If the mother was free, then the child was free. If she was a slave, then the child was enslaved. [1]

Private manumission through probate. A private manumission decree could be made in a last will and testament. You can find these manumissions in wills, estate papers, or in probate packets. Many of these county level probate records have been microfilmed or digitized and are easily accessible online.

Sometimes, a manumission in a will would be contested. When this happened, a long paper trail of court documents may have been created. A thorough search of all of these proceedings may offer a wealth of genealogical data and clues.

Usually, manumission papers included the name of the slave owner, the name of the slave, and the reason for manumission. In the case of the slaves of John Randolph of Roanoke [Virginia,] his slaves were not named individually in his will written on 4 May 1819. Instead he stated, “I give my slaves their freedom, to which my conscience tells me they are justly entitled. It has a long time been a matter of the deepest regret to me, that the circumstances under which I inherited them, and the obstacles thrown in the way by the laws of the land, have prevented my manumitting them in my lifetime, which is my full intention to do, in case I can accomplish it.”[2]

John freed over five hundred slaves, and though each of them was not listed by name in his will, a codicil at the end of the will did name two of his slaves when he asked that Essex and his wife Hetty “be made quite comfortable.”[3]

freepeopleofcolor_1

Record of Arthur Lee purchasing his freedom.

Manumission through self purchase. Self-purchase may seem impossible; however, many slaves were not required to work on Sundays for their masters.[4] On this day, men and women could hire themselves out to do work for others. With frugality, they could save their earnings to buy their freedom or the freedom of their loved ones, though this was very, very difficult.

As you can see in this example of Arthur Lee, he was able to pay for his freedom and the freedom of his wife, though it took many years. This type of record could be found in a published book, a record listed in notarial books of the county, civil minutes books, or other courthouse holdings. It is important to speak with a knowledgeable person in your targeted area about where you should look. A knowledgeable person may be those working with the local historical or genealogical society, or a head of the local history department of the public library.

Step 3: “Negro Registers”

If you do not find the manumission in a last will and testament, perhaps due to a courthouse fire or other loss, you may have luck searching the county records where your free people of color later settled. Free people of color where often required to register, using their freedom papers, when they relocated to a new area. These types of records are called ‘negro registers’ or ‘records of free negros.’

Newly freed people carried with them their freedom papers which were given to them when they were manumitted. Once they relocated, they would register with the county clerk. They would need to show the county clerk these freedom papers and a record was made in the register. The record may include the name of members of the family, ages, and most recent place of residence.

The book titled Registers of Blacks in the Miami Valley: A Name Abstract, 1804-1857 by Stephen Haller and Robert Smith, Jr., provides the following information about registers of freed people:

“From 1804 to 1857, black people in Ohio had to register their freedom papers with the clerk of courts of common pleas in the county where they desired residency or employment. State law required this registration, and clerks of court were to keep register books containing a transcript of each freedom certificate or other written proof of freedom (see Laws of Ohio 1804, page 63-66; 1833, page 22; 1857, page 186). Few of these registers have survived to the 20th century.”[2]

Though this author says that only a few of the registers have survived, I found some microfilmed registers listing the names of free people of color who had settled in Miami County, Ohio at the local historical society archives. Again, it is important to ask those people who would be most knowledgeable, and in this case, it was the historical society.

In conclusion, we understand that tracing both our enslaved and manumitted ancestors is often a difficult task. We also know there is much more to learn and share for the best techniques to researching these lines. We encourage you to review some of the additional sources below. Please let us know what other resources have been most helpful to you in researching your free people of color in the comments section below. We want to hear from you!

Source Citations

[1] Kenyatta D. Berry, “Researching Free People of Color,” article online, PBS, Genealogy Roadshow,  accessed 1 Dec 2016.

[2] Lemuel Sawyer, A Biography of John Randolph with a Selection From His Speeches, New York: 1844, page 108, online book, Google Books, accessed 20 Dec 2015.

[3] Ibid.

[4] History Detectives Season 8, Episode 10, PBS, online video, originally aired 29 Aug 2010, accessed 1 Dec 2016.

Additional Reading

Free at Last: Slavery in Pittsburgh,” article and database online, University of Pittsburgh.
John Randolph,” article online, Ohio History Central.
Lemuel Sawyer, A Biography of John Randolph with a Selection From His Speeches, New York: 1844, book online, Google Books.

American Slave Records in New and Updated Genealogical Collections

American slave records contained in the Digital Library on American Slavery at the University of North Carolina Greensboro have recently been updated. Also in new and updated genealogical record collections this week, records from Australia, United States, and Ireland.

dig these new record collections

United States – North Carolina – American Slave Records

An expansion of the University of North Carolina Greensboro University Libraries’ Digital Library on American Slavery has added bills of sales. These records index the names of enslaved people from across North Carolina. When complete the project will include high resolution images and full-text searchable transcripts. This digital library also includes other important record projects such as:

Race and Slavery Petitions Project – A searchable database of detailed personal information about slaves, slaveholders, and free people of color. The site provides access to information gathered over an eighteen-year period from petitions to southern legislatures and country courts filed between 1775 and 1867 in the fifteen slave-holding states in the United States and the District of Columbia.

North Carolina Runaway Slave Advertisements, 1750-1840 Project – Online access to all known runaway slave advertisements (more than 2300 items) published in North Carolina newspapers from 1751 to 1840. Digital images, full-text transcripts, and descriptive metadata, are included in this searchable database.

The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database – Among other things, this database identifies 91,491 Africans taken from captured slave ships or from African trading sites. It includes the African name, age, gender, origin, country, and places of embarkation and disembarkation of each individual.

People Not Property – Slave Deeds of North Carolina – When complete, People Not Property – Slave Deeds of North Carolina will include high resolution images, and full-text searchable transcripts. Though still in the working stages, they hope to open the project to states beyond North Carolina, creating a central location for accessing and researching slave deeds from across the Southern United States. Keep a watchful eye on this exciting endeavor!

Australia – Victoria – Court Session Records

Over 3 million Victoria Petty Sessions Registers records have just been released in association with Public Records Office Victoria to coincide with Australia Day (January 26th) 2017. This collection includes both transcripts and scanned images of original court registers. If your ancestors had a run-in with the law, you may find them here.

Victoria petty records and american slavery records

Snapshot of Victoria Petty Sessions Record from Findmypast.

This collection covers both civil and minor criminal cases. The Court of Petty Sessions’ brief was wide, making these records a powerful resource for those with Australian ancestors. Your ancestors may appear as a witnesses, defendants, complainants, or even as a Justice of the Peace. Cases include merchants who had not paid duty on their goods, to workers suing for unpaid wages. Debts were also collected and disputes settled. Public drunkenness was a common offence, as was assault and general rowdiness.

The registers available in this collection cover the years between 1854 and 1985. Transcripts will list the event date, your ancestor’s role (whether plaintiff, defendant, etc.), cause or reason for the case, the court it was held at, the date, and a brief description. Images may provide additional details.

Australia – Queensland – Passenger Lists

Also at Findmypast, Queensland Custom House Shipping 1852-1885 passengers and crew with over 107,000 records of passengers and crew that made voyages between 1852 to 1885.

These transcripts list information taken from original documents held by the National Archives of Australia and will allow you to discover your ancestor’s age, nationality, occupation, date and port of arrival, date and port of departure, and the name of the ship they sailed on.

United States – New York – Passenger Lists

The collection New York, Book Indexes to Passenger Lists, 1906-1942 at FamilySearch consists of images of the indexes to passenger manifests for the port of New York. The indexes are grouped by shipping line and arranged chronologically by date of arrival. Additional images will be added as they become available.

United States – Ohio – Tax Records

The records included in the Ohio Tax Records, 1800- 1850 at FamilySearch contain both the index and images to taxation records as recorded with the County Auditor of each county. The records in this collection cover the years 1800 to 1850. However, the majority are from the years 1816 through 1838. Entries are recorded in voucher books and one person per page. Included are the following Ohio counties:

  • Ashtabula
  • Belmont
  • Carroll
  • Columbiana
  • Guernsey
  • Harrison
  • Jackson
  • Jefferson
  • Monroe
  • Trumbull
  • Washington
tax records and american slave records

Snapshot of an Ohio Tax Record via FamilySearch.org

Governments created tax records that vary in content according to the purpose of the assessment. Most are based on personal property, real estate, and income. They are particularly useful for placing your ancestor in a particular area year after year, hopefully leading you to other helpful records.

United States – Massachusetts – Revolutionary War Index Cards

FamilySearch has updated the Massachusetts, Revolutionary War, Index Cards to Muster Rolls, 1775-1783 collection this week. These index card abstracts are of accounts, muster and pay rolls, and descriptive lists and accounts, of soldiers who served in Massachusetts companies and regiments during the Revolutionary War, 1775-1783.

Examples of Card Abstract Types

  • An Account -Mass. Archives Depreciation Rolls
  • Company Return – Coat Rolls Eight Months Service
  • Continental Army Pay Accounts – Continental Army Books
  • A Descriptive List – Mass. Muster and Pay Rolls
  • Lexington Alarm Roll – Lexington Alarms
  • List of Men Mustered – Mass. Muster and Pay Rolls
  • List of Men Raised to Serve in the Continental Army
  • Muster and Pay Roll
  • Muster
  • Order for Bounty Coat – Coat Rolls Eight Months Service Order
  • Order – Mass. Muster And Pay Rolls
  • Pay Abstract – Mass. Muster and Pay Rolls
  • Pay Roll
  • Receipt for Bounty – Mass. Muster and Pay Rolls
  • A Return
  • Statement of Continental Balances

Ireland – Newspapers

How to Find Your Family History in NewspapersThis month’s enormous Irish Newspapers update at Findmypast contains over 1.2 million articles. Seven brand new titles have also been added including the Leinster Leader, Donegal Independent, Kildare Observer & Eastern Counties Advertiser, Wicklow News-Letter & County Advertiser, Longford Journal Wicklow People, and the Ballyshannon Herald.

Newspapers are a great source for vital information when records cannot be found. To learn more about using newspapers for genealogy research, read Lisa Louise Cooke’s top-notch tips in Everything You Need to Know About How to Find Your History in Newspapers.

The Faces of U.S. Military Veterans through the Centuries

When I’m not at the podcast microphone, you can usually find me on a plane. And on one of those recent flights I had the privilege travelling along side a few of the last of the Tuskegee Airmen of WWII.

Toni Frissell [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The History of the Tuskegee Airmen

The Tuskegee Airmen was the common name given to a group of African-American military pilots who fought in World War II. Before the 1940’s, African-Americans had not been admitted to the U.S. Army Air Corps flight training program. In 1940, this changed with the formation of a segregated unit to train black pilots and ground crews at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.

The 996 pilots and more than 15,000 ground crew of the Tuskegee Airmen are credited with over 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses for their service. The Tuskegee Airmen continued flying and fighting until the end of the war in 1945.

Meeting A Tuskegee Airman

After the flight, I collected my luggage and found a spot on the curb outside to wait for my husband to pick me up. It was then I noticed I was standing next to one of the Tuskegee group who was sitting quietly alone waiting for his ride. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to shake his hand and thank him for his service. A warm, friendly grin greeted me from under the Tuskegee baseball cap and we easily fell into conversation.

Faces of U.S. Military Veterans WWII
He explained that a handful of retired Airmen were returning home from a national conference held each year. I also learned, to my great surprise after looking at the patch on his suit coat, that I was speaking with Brigadier General James T. Boddie! Tim (as he likes to be called) is a retired deputy director for operations J-3 of the National Military Command Center and Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, D.C.

Boddie was born in Baltimore in 1931 and graduated from Frederick Douglass High School in 1949, just behind the Tuskegee Airmen of WWII. Later in his career (starting in 1961,) Tim served as the Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program commandant of cadets at Tuskegee Institute, Alabama. He also taught military aspects of world political geography and international relations to senior cadets.

When I asked him what some of his most cherished memories were, he didn’t hesitate. Although he has a long and decorated history of service, he fondly reminisced about the young men he has met and assisted along the way. “Our country needs good men now more than ever,” he stated emphatically. He said that he has made it his mission since retiring in 1983 to mentor servicemen in their military careers. He pulled out his smartphone and happily whisked through a series of photographs he had taken with young up-and-coming cadets.

Great! He likes pictures, I thought. There was no flinching when I asked the 85-year-old to take a selfie with me. “Absolutely!” he said enthusiastically as he set down his own smartphone.

Boddie’s face radiated with pride and patriotism, wisdom and strength. This brought my thoughts to the United States heroes who bravely faced peril and sacrificed their lives for our country. Wouldn’t it be stunning to be able to see the faces of our ancestors who fought in the American Revolutionary War, The War of 1812, and the wars that followed? Well, it’s not as unlikely as you might think.

The American Revolutionary War

I didn’t think it was possible to find pictures of the faces of American Revolutionary War heroes, but it is! The pictures are exceptionally rare because few of them lived long enough to have their faces captured on film.Revolutionary War Faces of U.S. Military Veterans

A Utah journalist named Joe Bauman spent three years collecting images of the faces of these veterans. To view his collection of these great men, click here.

The last known Patriots of the American Revolutionary War were John Gray, who died in 1868 and Daniel Frederick Bakeman, who died in 1869. [1]

See more riveting faces of Revolutionary War veterans in Maureen Taylor’s books The Last Muster: Images of the Revolutionary War Generation and The Last Muster, Volume 2: Faces of the American Revolution

   

The War of 1812

Sometimes considered the “second war for independence,” the War of 1812 was in part due to the desire for Americans to expand west.

The fighting that originally started between the U.S. and Britain, soon included the American Native tribes. The defeat of the British at the Battle of Tippacanoe convinced many Indians in the Northwest Territory (including the celebrated Shawnee chief Tecumseh) that they needed British support to prevent American settlers from pushing them further out of their lands.

The valiant faces of the this war can be more readily found, perhaps even in your own family history. Many wonderful images can be found by simply Googling War of 1812 Veteran, and then clicking the Images results tab.

Hiram Cronk was the last surviving veteran of the War of 1812 at the time of his death in 1905. He died at the age of 105.[2]

The American Civil War

Did you know that children of American Civil War veterans still live among us? Two such “children” share their fathers’ stories in an article titled “Children of the Civil War Veterans Still Walk Among Us, 150 Years After the War.”

Not only will you find inspiration in the children’s stories, but the stories of many Civil War Veterans who lived to tell their remarkable tales. You can see faces of Civil War veterans in many places online, but the collection of Portraits of Named Civil War Enlisted Men at the Library of Congress is especially moving.

The last known surviving Union Army soldier was Albert Henry Woolson. He died in August 1956. [3] 

Spanish American War

The Spanish American War of 1898 led to the U.S. control of Cuba (who later became an independent nation), Guam, the Philippine Islands, and Puerto Rico. The war only lasted a short 10 weeks.

Whether your ancestors were fighting for the Spanish side or the American side, there are lots of fantastic pictures of our fighting heroes. Check out the 917 pictures of the Spanish American War at GettyImages.com.

Spanish American War

World War I

Frank Buckles, August 1917.

Frank Buckles, August 1917.

The handsome Frank Buckles born in Bethany, Missouri was the last surviving veteran of WWI, dying at 110 years of age. You can see his name among a list of last surviving WWI veterans by country here.

WWI, also known as the Great War, ravaged the European continent for nearly three years before the United States joined their allies to fight in the war. Many of our young men and women lost their lives to serve and protect in the first of two World Wars.

You can enjoy hours of viewing images at the Library of Congress’ digital collection titled World War I in Pictures: An Overview of Prints & Photographs Division Collection.

Remembering Faces of U.S. Military Veterans

I hope my story of meeting Brigadier General James T. Boddie has inspired you to look for the faces of your family’s military veterans. Even if you never find a photograph of your veteran hero, it is important to learn their stories of bravery and sacrifice, both on and off the battlefield.

Do you have a special veteran hero in your family history? We would love to hear about them in the comments below. While you are at it, if you have a picture of your veteran, please post it to our Genealogy Gems Facebook page. We love to hear from you. Thanks for reading, friends!

More Gems on Finding Your Military Veterans

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Be a Hero! 4 Ways to Rescue Military Memories and Artifacts

Researching Revolutionary War Ancestors

 

England Emigrants and More: New Genealogy Records Online

England emigrants to its U.S. colonies appear in new genealogy records online this week. Also: the 1891 New South Wales census; Czech church, land and school records; English parish records; and U.S. collections from the Freedmen’s Bureau, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and New England towns and cities.

dig these new record collections

Australia – New South Wales census

Findmypast.com has published over 200,000 records from the 1891 New South Wales census. The census collectors’ books are the source, as these are the only surviving documents. “While they provide less detail than a full census would, they can still be a useful aid to historians and genealogists alike in placing people at a specific moment in time,” states the collection description. “Each result will provide you with a transcript and image of the original collector’s books from the 1891 census. Original images may provide you with additional details, such as the number of individuals living in the same household or the number of residents who were Aboriginal or Chinese.”

Czechoslovakia – Church, Land and School

FamilySearch.org has added to its collection of Czech Republic Church Records spanning more than 400 years (1552-1963). You’ll find “images and some indexes of baptisms/births, marriages, and deaths that occurred in the Roman Catholic, Evangelical Lutheran, and Reformed Church parishes, as well as entries in those registers for Jews.” These are taken from parish registers and synagogue records now in regional archives. Though not fully indexed, the browse-only records number over 4 million! (Click here to learn how to use browse-only collections on FamilySearch.org; remember you can use the FamilySearch wiki for help in translating records in another language.)

FamilySearch has also added more than 850,000 browsable images to its existing collection of Czech Republic Land Records 1450-1889 and more than a million browsable images to the existing collection Czech Republic School Registers 1799-1953.

England Emigrants

Remember recently when we blogged about emigrant records, or those created about people leaving a country? Ancestry.com recently posted a new database called Emigrants in Bondage, which it says is “the most important list of ships’ passengers to be published in years.” Indexed are names of “more than 50,000 English men, women, and children… sentenced to be deported to the American colonies for crimes ranging from the theft of a handkerchief to bigamy or highway robbery.” The collection dates cover 1614 to 1775, after which time the British empire was not permitted to ship its “undesirables” to U.S. shores.

England – Parish records – Staffordshire and Sussex

Findmypast has added to its collections of church vital records for Staffordshire, England. Its browsable parish registers, 1538-1900 now includes 300,000 full-color page-by-page images. Separate databases of baptisms, wedding banns, marriages and burials have also been updated.

Also, more than 1.2 million indexed records have been added to FamilySearch’s collection of England, Sussex, Parish Records, dating 1538-1910.  Sussex parish registers contain baptisms, marriages/banns, and burials. Date ranges of available records vary by locality; you will want to use the coverage table at the FamilySearch wiki to see what’s available.

U.S. – Freedmen’s Bureau Records

Now that the Freedmen’s Bureau collections have been fully indexed, FamilySearch is dumping them onto its website in batches. This week, they added these new databases:

U.S. – Military

FamilySearch.org has added just over 4 million indexed records to its database of United States Muster Rolls of the Marine Corps (1798-1937). The collection is described as an “index and images of muster rolls of the United States Marine Corps located at the National Archives. The records are arranged chronologically by month, then by post, station or ship.”

This week, the Fold3.com blog reminds us of its Coast Guard collections, in honor of the Coast Guard’s 226th birthday. Hundreds of thousands of search results on the site relate to Coast Guard history, from disapproved Navy survivors pension files to photos dating to the Civil War; accounts of shipwrecks or accidents, WWII war diaries for several units, images of insignia and Navy cruise books.

U.S. – New England

FamilySearch has posted a new index of New Hampshire Vital and Town Records Index for the years 1656-1938. It contains shy of half a million records of births, marriages and deaths. Entries were sourced from multiple archives in New Hampshire; the citation for each record is included in the index entry at the bottom of the record screen.

The New England Historic Genealogical Society has announced improvements to its databases for three New England cities, which now include more searchable fields and images. “Hartford, CT: General Index of Land Records of the Town of Hartford, 1639-1839, is now searchable by grantee and grantor name, and results provide the record type and volume and page of the record (available on microfilm at the Connecticut State Library). Boston, MA: Births, 1800-1849, and Dover, NH: Vital Records, 1649-1892, are now searchable by first name, last name, record type, family member names, date, and location.”

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

We dig these gems new genealogy records onlineHere’s our weekly roundup of interesting and new genealogy records online for Brazil, Denmark, England, Ireland and the U.S.

BRAZIL CIVIL REGISTRATIONS. Over 200,000 indexed records have been added to a free collection of Pernambuco, Brazil civil registrations (1804-2014) at FamilySearch.org.

DENMARK DEEDS AND MORTGAGES. FamilySearch.org has added nearly 3 million digitized images to its collection of browsable deeds and mortgages for South Jutland, Denmark (1572-1928).

ENGLAND COURT. Ancestry subscribers now have access to a new collection of Yorkshire, England, Quarter Session Records, 1637-1914(1637-1914). According to the database description, these courts “had both a civil and a criminal jurisdiction, and before 1888 they also had an administrative function. Civil cases usually appear in the court’s order books and criminal cases in the indictment books.”

ENGLAND PROBATE. New Yorkshire, England, Probate Records, 1521-1858 are now available to Ancestry subscribers. These include wills, letters of administration and inventories.

ENGLAND TAX. About a quarter million land records are now included in FindMyPast’s database of Devon, Plymouth & West Devon Land Tax and Valuation Records 1897-1949. Use these to learn about an ancestor’s residence, property ownership and wealth.

IRELAND PARISH RECORDS. Ancestry has posted an Ireland, Catholic Parish Registers, 1655-1915 from the National Library of Ireland. Access to this index is already free on FindMyPast.

U.S. – AFRICAN-AMERICAN. About 35,000 indexed records and associated images have been added to a free collection of Freedmen’s Bureau marriages (1861-1872) at FamilySearch.org.

U.S. – ILLINOIS MARRIAGE. Nearly 200,00 total indexed marriage records for Illinois have been added to FamilySearch.org across three collections: church marriages, 1805-1985; civil marriages, 1833-1889 and county marriages, 1810-1934.

U.S. – MARYLAND CHURCH. A new collection of nearly 140,000 free, indexed records from a variety of Maryland churches (1668-1995) has been added to FamilySearch.org.

U.S. WAR OF 1812. 1.3 million indexed records have been added to a free United States War of 1812 Index to Service Records at FamilySearch.org.

 

New Resource for African American Family History

african american family history portal nehgs with titleAmericanAncestors.org has created a new portal for African American family history research. Explore it for FREE in honor of Black History Month.

The New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) has created a new portal for African American family history research on its website, AmericanAncestors.org. Highlights include a webinar and study guide on African American genealogy and articles on several important African American historical figures.

During Black History Month in February 2016, “Guests Users may access several African American databases free in order to get a sample of the variety of information to be found in the collection of African American resources at NEHGS. Among them is a large database Free Negro Heads of Families in the United States in 1830, a list compiled from the 1830 census and published in 1925. It contains the name, age range, family size, and county and state residence of 47,300 individuals in 27 states and one territory—a valuable source of records on free African Americans in that period.”

New England (and therefore a New England archive) is not the first place people typically think of for researching African-American ancestry. But NEGHS is home to many relevant published genealogies and local histories; Bible, cemetery, and court records; original manuscripts and rare documents as well as many online databases, states a press release.

Marriage records created by the Freedmans' Bureau. Wikimedia Commons image; click to view.

Marriage records created by the Freedmans’ Bureau. Wikimedia Commons image; click to view.

More Gems on African American Family History

“We’re Cousins?” DNA Reveals Surprising Relationship

Citizens Creek by Lalita Tademy: Genealogy Gems Book Club Featured Title

New Video Tutorials on African American Family History in Freedmen’s Bureau Records

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

We dig these gemsEvery week, we post about exciting new genealogy records online. Scan this week’s list for anything you should search (or share with a friend): a colonial North American digital archive; Revolutionary War-era residents of Alabama; U.S. military burials; Freedmen’s Bureau records; California naturalizations and British WWI databases.

AFRICAN-AMERICAN RECORDS. Over 130,000 indexed images were added to the United States Freedmen’s Bureau Hospital and Medical Records 1865-1872 collection, searchable for free on FamilySearch. The index includes “patient registers, registers of sick and wounded, prescription books, and other medical records from freedmen hospitals and dispensaries….Records include letters and endorsements sent and received, account books, applications for rations, applications for relief, court records, labor contracts, registers of bounty claimants, registers of complaints, registers of contracts, registers of disbursements, registers of freedmen issued rations, registers of patients, reports, rosters of officers and employees, special and general orders and circulars received, special orders and circulars issued, records relating to claims, court trials, property restoration, and homesteads.”

ALABAMA REVOLUTIONARY WAR. A new database of indexed images at Ancestry “contains biographies, news clippings, and cards in paragraph form detailing persons who were residents in Alabama during the Revolutionary War in America.”

BRITISH WWI RECORDS. Findmypast has released new databases relating to World War I service: Surrey, Military Tribunals, 1915-1918 (military exemptions for the county of Surrey); and two British Army memorial rolls for employees of Lloyds of London and the London Stock Exchange who died in service.

CALIFORNIA NATURALIZATIONS. A database with indexed images of over a century’s worth of California naturalization records (1887-1991) has been updated at Ancestry.com.

COLONIAL NORTH AMERICA. A new digital archive has been launched: The Colonial North American Project at Harvard University. Its goal is to post digitized versions of “all known archival and manuscript materials in the Harvard Library that relate to 17th and 18th century North America.” According to the site, its “documents reveal a great deal about topics such as social life, education, trade, finance, politics, revolution, war, women, Native American life, slavery, science, medicine, and religion. In addition to reflecting the origins of the United States, the digitized materials also document aspects of life and work in Great Britain, France, Canada, the Caribbean, and Mexico.” (Click here to read our blog post about the project’s announcement in 2013.)

U.S. MILITARY BURIALS. BillionGraves.com recently added over 8 million U.S. military veterans’ burial records to the Special Collections that can be accessed by BG+ subscribers. These records include burial and cemetery records from the Veterans Affairs office, as well as military headstones from civilian headstones around the world.

thank you for sharingThanks for sharing these new genealogy records online with friends and fellow genealogists and through your genealogical society social media channels. It’s fun to spread good news!

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

Millions of marriage and divorce records in the U.S. lead the pack for new genealogy records online this week. Alabama Civil War and post-Civil War records, along with British and U.S. newspapers, round out the list. Take a look! Which of your ancestors may be newly-mentioned online?  

We dig these gems

ALABAMA CIVIL WAR SOLDIERS. A Civil War-era database of soldiers (including those exempted from service, those who served in the militia or home guide and soldiers from other states who have Alabama connections) is now on Ancestry. Data was extracted from the state archives’ card file that was created throughout the 1900s. (Not an Ancestry subscriber? Click here to get started.)

ALABAMA VOTER REGISTRATIONS. Now available on Ancestry is an 1867 Alabama voter registration that was one of the first statewide records to name African-American adult male residents. Some counties’ records are missing and others did not fully include all qualified residents, but this is still a valuable record collection, with name, race, county of residence, precinct, length of residence, loyalty oath reference information and sometimes other remarks.

BRITISH NEWSPAPERS. Over 3.5 million new articles from 22 newspaper titles from England, Scotland and Wales are newly available on Findmypast.

US MARRIAGES AND DIVORCES–ANCESTRY. Ancestry has added new marriage indexes for West Virginia (1931-1970), Maine (1892-1985) and Jackson Co, Missouri (1840-1895), updated its Idaho divorce collection (1947-1964) and added a new collection of Oregon divorce records (1961-1985).

U.S. MARRIAGES–FAMILYSEARCH. FamilySearch has added hundreds of thousands of indexed county marriage records to free collections for Colorado, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Washington. Louisiana’s collection alone contains over a million entries, and Pennsylvania’s dates to the 1600s.

U.S. NEWSPAPERS. Nearly half a million digitized newspaper pages from the Oakland Tribune (1874-1975) are among the newly listed or updated collections at Newspapers.com. So are nearly 200,000 pages each from The Des Moines Register and DeKalb, Illinois’ The Daily Chronicle.

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“We’re Cousins?!” DNA for Genealogy Reveals Surprising Relationship

Two cousins recently chatted after learning that they share DNA. The first asked whether the second is white. “No,” she answered. The response: “Are you sure?”  

A family and its female slave house servants in Brazil, c.1860. Wikimedia Commons image. Click to view full source citation.

A family and its female slave house servants in Brazil, c.1860. Wikimedia Commons image. Click to view full source citation.

In our modern society, families are defined in a myriad of different ways. Using DNA for genealogy is certainly contributing to these changing definitions, as families find themselves genetically linked across social and cultural boundaries to kin they never expected.

Such is the case for a Bartow, Florida resident who submitted a DNA test out of curiosity and found more than she expected. Through a combination of DNA testing and social media, Mary McPherson, who is white, met one of her cousins, Dolores Washington-Fleming, who is black.

Peter Williams entry in 1850 U.S. Census Slave Schedule, St Bartholomews Parish, Colleton, South Carolina. Image from Ancestry.com.

Peter Williams’ entry in 1850 U.S. Census Slave Schedule, St Bartholomews Parish, Colleton, South Carolina. Image from Ancestry.com.

According to an article on The Ledger, the two women share a great-great-grandfather, Peter Edward Williams, who was born in South Carolina two centuries ago. Peter was a slaveholder. The 1850 census slave schedule shows that he held a female slave who was a few years younger than she was. Dolores believes that’s her grandmother’s grandmother.

The two finally met this past May for the first time and enjoyed this new definition of family. I think what I like most is what Dolores’ son said about the situation: “My mom and I are fascinated by history, and this is history. We represent what the times were like back then.” It still boggles my mind just a little that we are able to use the DNA of living people today to resurrect the past, and bring depth and meaning to the present, and possibly even prepare us for the future.

I find myself in a similar situation to Dolores and Mary. My mom was adopted, and even though we have had DNA testing completed for several years, we didn’t have any close matches, and honestly, we weren’t looking. Though she did have a passing interest in her health history, my mom did not feel the need to seek out her biological family. But then over the last few months various pieces of her puzzle have started to fall into place. This is much because of a key DNA match that popped up in March.

With that one match and subsequent correspondence, our interest in my mom’s biological family has skyrocketed. Why? I think it is because our DNA match, sisters from Texas, have shown us genuine kindness and interest. They have truly shown us what it means to be family. Even though we are unexpected, even though we aren’t sure yet how exactly we are connected, they have embraced us without reservation without hesitation.

To me, this is what family is. They accept you in whatever condition you come in and do their best to make you feel like you belong. Now, that kind of welcome isn’t felt by everyone who meets their genetic cousins, and people should carefully consider whether they’re ready for unforeseen results or unanticipated reactions from DNA matches before they get started.

But what about you? If you’ve started down the genetics path, how has DNA testing expanded or strengthened your definition of family?

Learn more about DNA testing for genealogy–how to get started or how to make sense of testing you’ve already had–with my quick guides available at the Genealogy Gems store, and then contact me at YourDNAGuide.com to arrange your own personal DNA consultation.

Resources for DNA for Genealogy

Using DNA for Genealogy Ancestry Family Tree DNA GuidesDNA Quick Guides for Genealogy (Bundle them for savings!): Getting Started, Autosomal DNA, Y Chromosome DNA, Mitochondrial DNA, Understanding Ancestry, Understanding Family Tree DNA

New AncestryDNA Common Matches Tool: Love It!

Confused by Your AncestryDNA Matches?

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Citizens Creek: NEW Genealogy Gems Book Club Featured Title

Citizens Creek, the newest novel by New York Times best-selling author Lalita Tademy, is the featured Genealogy Gems Book Club title for the last quarter of 2015. In December, we will bring you an exclusive interview with the author. Why not start reading now?

 

Citizens creek cover book club logo2We are pleased to announce the newest Genealogy Gems Book Club selection: Citizens Creek, a new novel by New York Times best-selling author Lalita Tademy.

Some of you have probably read her previous novels, Cane River and the sequel Red River. Cane River  was an Oprah Book Club selection. I read these a few years ago and really enjoyed them. So I was really excited when I heard she had a new novel out. And even more excited when she said she’d be happy to join us on an upcoming Genealogy Gems podcast to talk about the book!

Citizens Creek is a novel, but it’s based on the lives of real people. The publisher describes it as “the evocative story of a once-enslaved man who buys his freedom after serving as a translator during the American Indian Wars, and his granddaughter, who sustains his legacy of courage.” Here’s more to whet your appetite:

“Cow Tom, born into slavery in Alabama in 1810 and sold to a Creek Indian chief before his tenth birthday, possessed an extraordinary gift: the ability to master languages. As the new country developed westward, and Indians, settlers, and blacks came into constant contact, Cow Tom became a key translator for his Creek master and was hired out to US military generals. His talent earned him money—but would it also grant him freedom? And what would become of him and his family in the aftermath of the Civil War and the Indian Removal westward?

“Cow Tom’s legacy lives on—especially in the courageous spirit of his granddaughter Rose. She rises to leadership of the family as they struggle against political and societal hostility intent on keeping blacks and Indians oppressed. But through it all, her grandfather’s indelible mark of courage inspires her—in mind, in spirit, and in a family legacy that never dies.

“Written in two parts portraying the parallel lives of Cow Tom and Rose, Citizens Creek is a beautifully rendered novel that takes the reader deep into a little known chapter of American history. It is a breathtaking tale of identity, community, family—and above all, the power of an individual’s will to make a difference.”

We first considered this book for the Genealogy Gems Book Club because of the compelling history. As I started reading, I realized that this book was all about family, relationships and legacy. The experiences of one generation shape them and deeply affect future generations. Specifically we as readers see how Cow Tom’s grand-daughter, living after the time of slavery, looks back on her grandfather’s life for inspiration, support and guidance, even while trying to keep his deepest secret.

Click here to purchase Citizens Creek in hardcover, paperback, Kindle and even as an Audible or MP3 file for those of you who like to listen to books. We thank you for using our links when you purchase anything we recommend. You support free Genealogy Gems programming and content, like the Genealogy Gems podcast, website and videos on our YouTube channel.

The Genealogy Gems Book Club is our free, no-commitment online book club. Every 3 months, we share a favorite history and family-themed book: fiction and non-fiction, best-sellers and lesser-known titles. During the third month, the author joins us to chat about his or her book from the point of view of someone who {hearts} family history. Click here to see other titles we’ve recommended.

 

 

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