Skip to main content
Five African American women and a baby

Getting Started in African American Family History Research

A 10 Million Names Event
February 24, 2024 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. ET
Cynthia Evans
Danielle Rose
Jonathan Hill

Want to learn more about your family’s past, but don’t know how to begin? This full-day, virtual seminar will provide you with the first steps in tracing your African American roots. We will look at common challenges and myths, key records and resources, and strategies for making real headway in your research. Our instructors will also share how to utilize and get involved with the 10 Million Names Project, a collaborative endeavor dedicated to recovering the names of the estimated 10 million men, women, and children of African descent who were enslaved in pre- and post-colonial America between the 1500s and 1865.

Registrants may attend all or some of the seminar. All presentations will be recorded and shared with registrants following the live broadcast.

Credit:  Harrison, R. W, photographer. Six generations / R.W. Harrison, Selma, Ala. Alabama, ca. 1893. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. 

10:00 a.m. ET– Getting Started
Presented by Cynthia Evans

Learn about the first steps in tracing your family’s history! This session will introduce you to the genealogical research process, useful tools, and techniques that support your research. We will also address some common challenges—and myths—specific to uncovering the stories of African Americans.

12:00 p.m. ET– Records, Resources, and Repositories: An Introduction
Presented by Danielle Rose

Gain a valuable overview of the key records—including vital records, censuses, church records, probate, court and manumission documents, newspapers, and more—resources, and repositories that you’re likely to use during the course of your research.

2:00 p.m. ET- Strategies for Breaking Down the 1870 Genealogical Brick Wall
Presented by Jonathan Hill

Breaking through the 1870 brick wall to discover more about ancestors prior to the end of slavery can prove challenging. Changing surnames, families ripped apart, and identifying the former enslaver are just a few roadblocks when researching enslaved families. This session will dive deep into creating a research strategy and organizing the records uncovered, plus provide tips for making sense of all the information unearthed in the search and constructing a proof argument when records are limited. Best suited for those with intermediate genealogical skills.

4:00 p.m. ET- The 10 Million Names Project: How to Get Involved
Presented by Danielle Rose

The 10 Million Names project seeks to amplify the voices of people who have been telling their family stories for centuries, connect researchers and data partners with people seeking answers to family history questions, and expand access to data, resources, and information about enslaved African Americans. Learn how you can get involved today!

Research and Library Services
Cynthia Evans
Cynthia Evans holds an M.A. in Museum Science. She is a researcher, historian, and genealogist with more than ten years of experience in African American history and research and five years of experience managing a genealogy center.
Research and Library Services
Danielle Rose
Revolutionary War
African American
Areas of interest: Colonial Massachusetts, Revolutionary War veterans, African American history
Research and Library Services
Jonathan Hill
Military Records
New England
Southern States
Areas of expertise: Military records, New England and southeastern United States records, deeds and property records.