Research Sources

African Americans, regardless of whether their ancestors were free or slaves, are usually able to trace their ancestry back to the end of the Civil War without too much difficulty using the same sources white Americans use. Pre-Emancipation slaves were considered the personal property of their owners and are identified by the plantation records. Research then focuses upon the owner's family and the records it produced as slave owners, as well as on the slave family itself. Searching for slave ancestors always requires a thorough investigation of the white slave-owning family in all public and historical records.

The census records of 1870 are the first to list blacks by name. In 1850 & 1860 slave statistics were gathered, but did not list slaves by name, just tallied, and are useful as circumstantial evidence that a slave of a certain age and sex was the property of a particular owner. Free blacks and their families' names were included in 1850 & 1860.

Military records from the Revolutionary War are available. Birth records are available, as the slave owners need to protect his personal property by officially recording it. If you know the birthdate, you can search the birth records for a male or female slave born on that date and an owner/plantation name will be given. Bills of sale will be found among land records, estate records, or miscellaneous county records. Slave trade manifests are available at the National Archives, Washington, DC.

African-American Records Needed

African Ancestored Researchers (aka Afrigeneas) are gathering and compiling records containing slavery information during a seven-year project. They will make this slave data available to all African-American researchers. Records kept by the slaveowners are frequently the only clue to African-American ancestors, particularly during the period of 1619-1870. If you have any of the following records which may contain "slavery information", please share them with the African Ancestored Researchers.



Bible Records

Bills of Sale

Birth Records

Census Schedules

Church Records


Court Records

Day Books/Logs

Death Records



Legislative Acts


Marriage Records

Military Records

Misc. Records

Pension Records

Plantation Records



Slave Sales

Tax Records


Please contact Linda Ball ( for more information regarding the project or to submit records. The information will be placed in the forum to assist all African-American researchers. Your assistance is appreciated.

If you have any slave records, African-American data, research tips, or links you would like to submit to the Marshall County website, please email me at the link below. Thanks!!!

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