Researching Your African American Ancestors

Researching African American ancestors can present unique challenges; NEHGS has the tools you need to get started, including several databases, a primer for conducting African American research, articles from American Ancestors magazine, and much more.

To sample NEHGS resources, consider signing up as a free Guest User. Guest User accounts allow web visitors to use a limited suite of AmericanAncestors.org databases and access content such as making purchases from the online store. To receive unlimited access to more than a billion names and other benefits, become a member of NEHGS.


African American Databases

Five collections for family research

People of Color in the MA State Census, 1855-1865; Hampden County, MA: Black Families in Hampden County, 1650-1865; MA: 1855 State Census; MA: 1865 State Census; Free Negro Heads of Families in the United States in 1830

Find African American Records

Search tips for our databases

A closer look at using search techniques to locate African American records in our databases.

Get Started Researching

African American genealogy

Read a how-to guide on African American genealogical research, and watch a webinar by an expert family historian.

Devil at the Crossroads

Research Stories from Vita Brevis

Blues musician Robert Johnson's family history, Mississippi's Educable Children Records, letters from 19th century African Americans, and more stories from our blog, Vita Brevis.

Paul Cuffe: A Remarkable Life

Patriot, Navigator, Educator

Read about the life and lasting influence of Quaker ship captain Paul Cuffe, abolitionist, school founder and visionary.

Were My Ancestors Slaves?

Dive deep into historical research

Our researchers tackle your toughest questions about African American genealogy in partnership with The Root.com, the premier news, opinion and culture site for African American influencers.

Portraits of a People

From the NEHGS archives

One of the first black American Army regiments ever. An influential sea captain. Records from an African-American funeral business. This gallery features highlights from our African American collections.

Nancy Minor Washington

A Woman of Three Centuries

Follow the storied life of the woman once known as Boston’s oldest resident, from an article in American Ancestors magazine.

Find Resources in our Bookstore

African American Resources

Looking for more? Browse our bookstore for even more African American history and genealogy.