African American Genealogy Records: New and Free!

Explore these African and African American genealogy records in celebration of your family history and Black History Month!

Also this week: see new records online for Southern Claims Commission, GA, NY and VA as well as African heritage sites, Liberia and South Africa. And check out a limited-time offer from Fold3 to view its Black History collection for free.

Black History Collection free this month at

“In recognition of Black History Month, Fold3 is making the records in its Black History collection available for free through the end of February,” states a recent company announcement. “The Black History collection gives you access to more than a million documents, records, and photos that help to capture the African-American experience during five eras of American history: SlaveryThe Civil WarReconstruction & Jim Crow LawsWorld War I & II, and the Civil Rights Movement.

The Fold3 announcement lists several of its richest collections, and we think they’re worth noting individually:

African American genealogy records newly published online

U.S. Southern Claims Commission. The “genealogy giant” has updated its collection of U.S. Southern Claims Commission, Disallowed and Barred Claims, 1871-1880. According to the collection description, “In 1871 the U.S. government created the Southern Claims Commission, an organization through which southerners could file claims for reimbursement of personal property losses due to the Civil War. Claims could only be filed by residents of AL, AR, FL, LA, MS, NC, SC, TN, TX, VA and WV.” Your African American ancestors may be among those listed therein: “Each claimant was required to provide witnesses. The witnesses had to answer the same 80+ questions that the claimant had to answer. Many of these witnesses were former slaves whose names rarely appear on any other legal document from the Civil War era. They also provided names and dates for family members who often lived on other plantations.”

Georgia. “The records of the Georgia Association of Educators (1921-2015)…are open for research,” reports the George State University Library. “The collection, comprised of unique documents and photographs, provides an in-depth look at the history of the organization that represents many of Georgia’s teachers. The collection includes convention proceedings, contracts and constitutions, meeting minutes, newspaper clippings, audio-visual materials, photographs, and periodicals.” Among the topics covered are the mergers of the previously-segregated black and white state teachers’ associations and integration of public schools about 1970. Click here to explore the finding aid to this collection.

New York. A first-of-its-kind free database documents those involved in the institution of slavery in New York from the earliest times. The New York Slavery Records Index “is a searchable compilation of records that identify individual enslaved persons and their owners, beginning as early as 1525 and ending during the Civil War,” reports the site. “Our data come from census records, slave trade transactions, cemetery records, birth certifications, manumissions, ship inventories, newspaper accounts, private narratives, legal documents and many other sources. The index contains over 35,000 records and will continue to grow as our team of John Jay College professors and students locates and assembles data from additional sources.” A hat-tip to for publishing this article that alerted us to this valuable new resource.

Virginia. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education reports, “Students in an introduction to public history class at Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia, created a digital archive of newspaper and other clippings collected during the civil rights era by the Hill Street Baptist Church in Roanoke. The project documents efforts in the area to desegregate lunch counters, movie theaters, and public schools during the 1950s and 1960s.”

African Genealogy and History Resources Now Online

African world heritage sites. recently reported on a new online resource that seeks to provide digital preservation and access to important archaeological sites across Africa. “The archaeological wonders of the world offer a rich window into the past,” states the article. “But many are crumbling, weed-laden and victim to vandalism and conflict….Concerned with the decay of African heritage sites, The Zamani Project, based at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, is seeking to immortalize historic spots in three-dimensional, virtual reality-ready models…. Presently, they’ve mapped around 16 sites including Lalibela in Ethiopia, Timbuktu in Mali and Kilwa in Tanzania.”

Liberia. The free “genealogy giant” has added over 24,000 new record images and nearly 27,000 newly-indexed names to its free collection of Liberia, Marriage Records, 1912-2015. Documents include “applications for marriage licenses, marriage licenses, marriage returns, documents certifying marriages from Liberia.”

South Africa. FamilySearch has also updated two of its existing South Africa records collections with more indexed names:  South Africa, Cape Province, Kimberley, Probate Records of the Supreme Court, 1871-1937 and South Africa, Cape Province, Probate Records of the Master of the High Court, 1834-1989.

Listen to more African American genealogy topics

The free Genealogy Gems Podcast and the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast have both featured inspiring interviews on African African genealogy research. We recommend these:

Genealogy Gems Podcast episode #201: Angela Walton-Raji joins Lisa Louise Cooke with tips for interviewing African American relatives, learning important history and getting past that 1870 brick wall into the era of American slavery. Listen for free!

Genealogy Gems Podcast episode #200: A university professor shares his discoveries about a mother and young daughter separated by slavery. Learn how he pieced together their story from a poignant family heirloom found at a flea market.

Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode #130: Oprah Book Club author Lalita Tademy talks about her book Citizen’s Creek, a novel about an African American and Creek Indian family. This special episode (and all Premium Podcast episodes) is something extra just for our Premium subscribers; click here to learn how to subscribe.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

About the Author: Sunny Morton

About the Author: Sunny Morton

Sunny is a Contributing Editor at Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems; her voice is often heard on the Genealogy Gems Podcast and Premium Podcasts. She’s  known for her expertise on the world’s biggest family history websites (she’s the author of Genealogy Giants: Comparing the 4 Major Websites); writing personal and family histories (she also wrote Story of My Life: A Workbook for Preserving Your Legacy); and sharing her favorite reads for the Genealogy Gems Book Club.

Black Friday Genealogy Freebies and Sales: Grab the Gems before they’re gone!

Our Black Friday genealogy sale is on! Start with a limited-time FREE viewing of  the new Premium video, Your Guide to Cloud Backup. Then snatch up rare and exclusive savings on Backblaze cloud backup service, a new mobile genealogy bundle, and our new Irish guide and Irish genealogy guide bundle!

Backblaze Cloud Backup Sale: A Genealogy Gems Exclusive

Backblaze continually backs up all your computer files to a remote ‘cloud’ server. In the event of any loss (including a computer crash), all of your files can be restored. Ensure your research is protected from disaster with Backblaze!

Use coupon code gems2017cyber for 10% off any new Backblaze subscription. Offer good through November 27, 2017. Check it out at

Not Sure About the Cloud? Watch this Free Video Now

Now through next Monday, November 27, 2017, you can watch the new Genealogy Gems Premium Video for FREE. In this brand new, half-hour video tutorial, Lisa Louise Cooke will provide answers to questions like:

  • What is cloud backup?
  • Why should I use cloud backup?
  • How does cloud backup work?
  • Is cloud backup safe?
  • What should I look for when selecting a cloud backup service?

Click here to watch right now for free!


Mobile Genealogy: NEW Value Bundle

Black Friday genealogy

Included in this special, limited-time bundle:

Mobile Genealogy: How to Use Your Tablet & Smartphone for Family History Research
by Lisa Louise Cooke (paperback book)

Whether you have an iPad, an Android tablet, or a smartphone (or all three), Mobile Genealogy will help you put them to work for your genealogy research. Explore apps in-depth, get the latest cutting-edge strategies for mobile genealogy and family history, and use Lisa’s tips and tricks to make your mobile device a genealogy powerhouse!

Using Social Media for Family History
by Lisa Louise Cooke (45 min. video)

Discover how sharing your research on social media can benefit you, your family, and your research. Lisa will focus on two of the top site that you might not be using: Pinterest and Instagram. They are fun and easy to use, and the perfect place to reach the next generation.

The bundle is a $39.90 value but this weekend you’ll pay just $19.95.
Available through Monday, November 27.
Click here to buy it now!
(Bundle includes print book and video class download. Book ships to U.S. and Canada only.)

NEW Irish Genealogy Guide #3: Land, Tax and Estate Records

Donna Moughty’s Irish Guide series has proven so popular, we’re adding a third one! Jump on our Black Friday pre-order sale (shipping begins approximately Dec. 11, 2017) and you’ll get 30% off Irish Guide #3: Land, Tax, and Estate Records

This Guide explains how and why Griffith’s Valuation was done, and how to use it to glean the most information about your family. After Griffith’s Valuation, the Revision Books allow you to follow the land and in some cases, to the 1970s, possibly identifying cousins still living on the land. Quick reference guide includes:

  • Explanation of the columns in Griffith’s Valuation
  • Rules under which Griffith’s Valuation was done.
  • Tips for using Griffith’s to find your family
  • Using the Revision Books to identify life events
  • The Tithe Applotment, an earlier tax list
  • Landed Estate Courts
  • Estate Records

Get the guide here.

Save even more! Get 40% off the entire 3-guide Irish genealogy research bundle by Donna Moughty:

  • Irish Guide #1: Preparing for Success in Irish Records Research
  • Irish Guide #2: Irish Civil Registration and Church Records
  • Irish Guide #3: Land, Tax, and Estate Records 

Purchase all three for only $20.90 through Monday, November 27, 2017. (Guides ship to U.S. and Canada only. Shipping estimated to begin December 11, 2017 on orders including Irish Guide #3.)

Get the bundle here.

40% off How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers

Lisa Louise Cooke’s tried and true methodology for genealogical newspaper research! If you think you know how to search for newspapers, this book will make you think again.

Retail: $24.95

Sale Price: $14.97
Get it here.

*Sale on paperback only

Please Share these Black Friday Genealogy Gems

Please share these gems with your genealogy friends–or send them as your “wish list” to a loved one. Remind them to act quickly as these offers are only good through Monday, November 27, 2017.

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