African-American Research


Contributing Writer
Janet Wahlberg

For those with African American ancestry, research prior to the Civil War has been very challenging as those who were enslaved were rarely named in the records. Louis Gates on Finding Your Roots gave all of us a window into records that are available. However, many of them are hidden deep in libraries and archives that require travel or hiring a professional to navigate them. A recent magazine article introduces us to a great resource that has recently been upgraded and made easier to use.

In the January/February 2017 Family Tree magazine, published a terrific article titled Finding Freedom by Leslie Albrecht Huber. It is an in-depth description of the Freedman’s Bureau Records. These records have been available for many years at the National Archives but were not indexed so were very difficult to navigate. In 2015, Family Search led a project to index these records. They are now available and searchable on . These records link newly freed slaves to people and places from the slavery period. They cover the years from 1865-1872 and primarily cover the states that were part of the Confederacy. I highly recommend that you order a copy of the magazine as it contains much valuable information on what is available in the records as well as how to best use them. To order on-line go to Family Tree Magazine, select shop in the banner, then select Family Tree magazine, and then Family Tree Magazine Print Articles. This will open up a selection of issues that you can purchase. The cost for the January/February issue is $8.99. We do have one copy of the magazine at the Hall House that may be used on site.

The Hall House Research Library on Forest Avenue has other resources to help you. Included are an At A Glance Laminated Sheet, Black Roots: A beginner’s guide to tracing the African –American Family Tree, Bibliographic checklist of African-American newspapers, and Genealogies of African- American families in southwestern New York State 1838-1955 among others.

In addition we have a volunteer there every day Monday thru Saturday to offer assistance as well as computers that are available for your use and include an Ancestry membership that may be used by patrons. There is a modest charge to use the library of $10/day or an annual membership for $40/person that allows you to search every day that the library is open for a year as well tour the Fenton Museum. There are other special membership rates for students, seniors and families. Call 664-6256 for more information. Please join us and begin the search for your family today.

To read Janet Walberg’s previous genealogy columns or to delve deeper into her writings and insights for searching out and recording your own family’s genealogy, please go to and visit Janet’s own web page.