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Discover Your African American Roots

From plantation records to DNA testing, there's a wealth of genealogy tools at your disposal

  • Check county courthouses if you know where your family homestead was located. Look for wills, deeds and plantation account books that include slave births and deaths. Most are not online. Tips: Former slaves often took the slave owner's last name. Deeds include slave sales.
  • If you are in Washington, D.C., attend the Natural Archives and Records Administration (NARA) lectures on using their records for black family research.

    The NARA has a wealth of resources, most not online, including pension applications and records of pension payments for veterans, their widows and other heirs. Pension application files usually provide the most genealogical information, including pages from family Bibles, family letters and discharge papers. One shortcut: Check out military service records and pension files online at, a subscription database, or see NARA's tips for searching military records.
  • DNA testing is one sure way to connect with family, but it costs hundreds of dollars. Go to and for details. These sites contain hundreds of names of people who have been tested and databases to connect with people who match your DNA.

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