Researching African American Ancestors - February 2023

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Researching African American Ancestors

In this 4-week course, join instructor Shamele Jordon and learn how to trace the lives of your African American ancestors. While this research is very similar to that of other groups, it changes dramatically prior to 1870. This course will help you access, analyze, and uncover sources that document your family's past.

DATE: February 21, 2023 - March 20, 2023

Tracing the lives of African Americans is an exciting journey. In general, this research is very similar to researching other groups until the reconstruction and pre-emancipation eras. It is during these times that documenting the African American experience becomes very interesting, offering unique challenges.

Learn how to find African American ancestors using proven techniques and creativity.

Together we will travel back in time using traditional and special sources. After a historical and genealogical overview, we will delve into records from the antebellum through the civil rights eras. Reviewing records from each period with an African American lens you will learn how to access, analyze, and uncover clues about lives previously hidden. Searching record post-1870 we will build a strong foundation. Then we will cover the pivotal pre-emancipation period, viewing records of both free people of color and the enslaved.

In this course you will learn:

  • An overview of African American History
  • How to locate and analyze special sources
  • Tips for gathering information to bridge the gap between slavery and freedom
  • Strategies for finding missing records
  • Techniques for finding the slave owner

Course Outline

    • Overview of Course
    • Historical Background
    • Genealogy Research Overview
  • LESSON 2: POST 1870
    • Starting from yourself and working backwards
    • Overview of Records available
      • Census - 1940 - 1870
      • Vital Records - birth, death, marriage
      • City Directories
      • Newspapers
      • WW1 Draft
      • Social Security Death Index
      • Cemetery
    • Records Unique or Best Suited to African American Research
      • Freedman's Bank
      • Slave Narratives
    • Case Study with use of records
  • LESSON 3: PRE-1870
    • Getting Started: Researching before 1870
      • Genealogical Context
      • Historical Context
    • Researching Federal Records
      • Census - 1870, 1860s, 1840
      • Freedmen's Bureau - Marriage, Rations
      • Military - Pension Index
    • Researching State Records
      • Census
      • Voters
    • Researching County Records
      • Register of Free People of Color
      • Probate - Tax, Wills, and Deeds
    • Case Study with use of records
      • o Enslaved: Finding Nancy Atkins
  • LESSON 4: Challenges, Issues, Problems & Solutions
    • Challenge: Organization
    • Issues:
      • Missing records/burned records
      • Separate listings for African Americans
      • Finding the Slave Owner
    • Conclusion


Meet the Instructor

Shamele Jordon
Shamele Jordon is a professional genealogist, producer, writer, and lecturer. Her biographical highlights include: award winning TV producer of Genealogy Quick Start; 2018 Best Independent Producer, Instructional/Training, presented by Alliance for Community Media; 2017 Learning Award Cammy presented by PhillyCAM, Philadelphia's public access station; 2019 Lawnside Education Foundation honoree; researcher for the PBS series Oprah’s Roots: African American Lives I and II; NJ State Library grant recipient, researching Civil War Burials in Lawnside, NJ; board member and faculty at the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research, University of Athens, Ga, former president of the African American Genealogy Group in Philadelphia, workshop volunteer at the Family History Center in Cherry Hill, NJ.


How do Family Tree University workshops work?

Take the course at your own pace! 

From the course start date, you’ll be able to log in to view and access your lessons and start interacting on the discussion boards. Your instructor will check in regularly to answer all of the questions and provide feedback. You will have access to your courses anytime, anywhere, with a computer, tablet or smartphone, and can study when it's most convenient for you.

After the course end date, the course will become read-only for one year. You will continue to have access through your dashboard to the materials, but the discussion boards will be closed. The materials are yours to keep. You can download them onto your desktop to access online or offline.

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