African American Genealogy Research Guide

Researching African American ancestors requires creative search methods, a knowledge of the types of records available, and patience. While the process can be challenging, the effort is extremely rewarding.

Old photograph of family, Gainsville, FL


GU272 Memory Project

In 1838, the Maryland Jesuits sold more than 300 enslaved people to sugar plantations in southern Louisiana in order to raise funds for Georgetown University. The GU272 Memory Project is a collaboration between the descendants of the enslaved, the Georgetown Memory Project, and American Ancestors to provide a searchable online database of genealogical data for GU272 families.


United States 1850 Census (Slave Schedule)

Name index to the slave schedules listing slave owners and only age, gender and color data of the slaves in census states or territories in 1850. This was the first time that slave information was captured as a separate schedule.

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Hampden County, MA: Black Families in Hampden County, 1650-1865

Hampden County, Massachusetts, was a significant center of African American life between the years 1650 and 1865. Its location at the “crossroads of New England,” close over the border from Connecticut to the south and across the wide Hudson River and a mountain range away from slavery in New York to the west, made Hampden County a haven for escaped slaves.

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Pittsburgh, PA: Gaines Funeral Home Records, 1925-1934

The Gaines Funeral Home was established by George W. Gaines in 1919 in the historically African-American neighborhood of Homewood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Most people in this database were buried in Monongahela Cemetery in Monongahela or Allegheny Cemetery in Pittsburgh.

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Archived Lectures

Researching Enslaved Ancestors

June 16, 2022

Uncovering enslaved ancestors prior to the end of slavery in 1870 can prove challenging. This session will dive deep into creating a research strategy and organizing records found.

Researching African American Ancestors in New England

February 17, 2022

This online lecture will highlight useful collections for researching African American ancestors including court and account records, local histories, original manuscripts, rare documents, and more.

Black Families of Revolutionary-Era Plymouth, MA

February 25, 2021

Plymouth’s Mayflower families have been well-studied, but the biographies of the Black men, women, and children who were enslaved by those families and their descendants are vastly under-represented in historical research.

Researching the Deep South

June 10, 2021

Learn about researching your ancestors from South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana and get tips and solutions for getting ahead.

Introducing the GU272

May 23, 2019

In 1838, Georgetown University sold 272 enslaved men, women, and children to plantations in Louisiana.

African American Resources at NEHGS

March 26, 2015

There are hundreds of resources available at NEHGS to assist you with researching African American ancestors: from published genealogies to local histories, original manuscripts and rare documents to online databases.

Archived Author Events


Portable Genealogist: African American Resources


This guide is designed to help you through the challenging process of locating your African American ancestors.

Black Families in Hampden County, Massachusetts, 1650-1865, Revised Edition


By Joseph Caravalho III

Published: September 2011

Hardcover, 400 pages

Four Families of St. Mary’s County


By David Watson Kruger

Foreword by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. 

6 x 9 hardcover, 796 pages, illustrated

A Gentleman of Color: The Life of James Forten


Author: Julie Winch

Published: 2002

Paperback, 501pp