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Resources for Finding Free African Americans Before the Civil War

DiscoverFreedmen.org (http://www.discoverfreedmen.org/) – Completed in 2016 by a partnership of FamilySearch International, the NARA, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, the California African American Museum, and over twenty-five thousand volunteers, is a free online indexed search of over 1.8 million Freedmen with document images

United States Census, 1850 (https://familysearch.org/search/collection/1401638)

United States Census, 1860 (https://familysearch.org/search/collection/1473181)

The Freedmen’s Bureau Online (http://www.freedmensbureau.com/) – Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands

United States Freedmen’s Bureau records (https://familysearch.org/wiki/en/African_American_Freedmens_Bureau_Records) – Various records from 1861 to 1878 can be searched online for free through FamilySearch.org

Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company records (https://familysearch.org/wiki/en/African_American_Freedmans_Savings_and_Trust_Company_Records) – Also called the Freedman’s Bank, the company was created to help newly freed slaves and African American soldiers at the end of the Civil War.  The records from 1864 to 1871 include the names, residence, and a great deal more information of about 480,000 depositors and their relatives

Habeas Corpus Case Records – Some habeas corpus records issued by the US Circuit Court for the District of Columbia are related to African Americans accused of being runaway slaves, but are disputing in court that they are free and being illegally detained.  These records from 1820-1863 are part of Record Group 21, Records of District Courts of the United States, and are arranged in order of year on microfilm as National Archives Microfilm Publication M434.  A database index of about 1,400 names of people appearing in the files is available in the National Archives Building Research Center.

Charles City Free Negroes and Mulattoes published by the Charles City County Historical Society is an abstract of about 800 certificates of freedom that were issued in Charles City County, Virginia between 1823 to 1864.  A database can be searched online at http://www.charlescity.org/fnr/fnrsearch.php?display=all, and a copy of the full abstract can be downloaded at http://www.charlescity.org/documents/FreeNegroRegister.pdf

A print publication series called Free African Americans of North Carolina, Virginia, and South Carolina From the Colonial Period to About 1820 by Paul Heinegg (Genealogical Publishing Co.)

A print publication series called North Carolina Slaves and Free Persons of Color by William L. Byrd (Heritage Books)

A print publication called Black Slaveowners: Free Black Slave Masters in South Carolina, 1790-1860 by Larry Koger (Mcfarland)

A print publication called Register of Black, Mulatto and Poor Persons in Four Ohio Counties, 1791-1861 by Joan Turpin (Heritage Books)

 

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