Many avid researchers hit a stumbling block in identifying more about their ancestors, and they do not know how to overcome it. They get stuck for long periods of time not being able to find historical documentation. You must know how to keep your own research going. What do you do after you have exhausted all the records at your disposal online or in local repositories?
Letter from Freedmen Robert Hamilton and Patrick Allston Requesting Rations, Beaufort County, SC, 1868
Freedmen’s Bureau records are such a rich resource for African American genealogy and history. From these records, you can learn so much about what was happening where your ancestors were living just after the end of the Civil War. But, even in Freedmen’s Bureau records, it’s rare to find a document written by a freed person, and to be able to hear that person’s voice in the document.
You can discern a lot about the life of your ancestor from the descendants of those formerly enslaved that lived in communities that they established. If you are not fortunate enough to know of living descendants or surviving communities with which to start, search the following resources that mention the locality where your ancestor lived and names of people that lived in those areas.
In Sold on the Courthouse Steps, we discussed three types of sales of enslaved people through the local court system. We suggested that you search through newspapers to discover sheriff sales, equity court sales, and chancery court sales. Here are a few more...
An auction block at a commercial slave market is probably the most common visual that comes to mind when you think of people being separated from families during enslavement. You may be familiar with the sale of enslaved people through private parties, but numerous people were also sold through local courts with the courthouse as their backdrop. How would you find documentation of such cases, and what are examples of situations that would have brought about this end result? One quick way to find clues would be through historical newspapers.
Even though a vital record or a census can help you learn the names of forbears and where they lived, this minimal information is not sufficient enough to tell their story. Delve a little deeper in your search, and you may uncover the sweet finds that help you tell the story of your ancestor’s life.
When you begin researching, one of the first events that you should look to document is the most recent in your ancestor’s life. The most common recent events are death and burial.
In “Where a Death Certificate Can Lead,” we showed how you can use the census and city directories to learn more about the spouse and children of a deceased ancestor. We were able to identify the children of Joseph Barnett from census records, and we used a city directory to locate his daughter, Janie, and her husband. Hopefully, you also submitted the records you were able to find using the death certificate. We will now discuss other details on a death certificate that could make your genealogy come to life.
You can increase the chances of finding more information if you research your ancestor’s descendants to find living family members. You may benefit from what they know. You can use the process outlined in the next few blog posts to find extended family.
In our last post, we began the journey of discovering extended family by searching for Arthur (Atall, Arthol, Athol) Blake and his wife on the 1900 through the 1920 Censuses. We left you with the challenge of finding them on the 1930 and 1940 Censuses. If you...