FamilySearch’s African American records are filled with useful genealogical information. For example, FamilySearch has records supporting the family history of famous African Americans such as Frederick Douglass, George Washington Carver, and Harriett Tubman—and the records are readily accessible for no charge!
Records of Frederick Douglass on FamilySearch
Among the gems on FamilySearch is the marriage certificate and marriage register for Frederick Douglass’s second marriage at age 60 on 24 Jan 1884, to Helen Pitts, age 46, in Washington D.C. Images of records for Douglass’s son, Charles Ramond Douglass’s birth, marriage, and death record, are also on FamilySearch.
Born into slavery as Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey—a dignified name his mother gave him—Frederick dropped his middle name and, like many of his contemporaries, adopted his new last name when he escaped to the North. His death certificate, also on FamilySearch, honored that last name, listing him simply as Frederick Douglass.
George Washington Carver
George Washington Carver was also born into slavery in Newton County, Missouri, sometime in the early to mid-1860s. He lived a long life, struggled against the odds, gained an education, and became a gifted plant researcher.
The 1870 U.S. census record for Newton, Missouri, available on FamilySearch, illustrates circumstances during his childhood. George Carver, age 10, and his 12-year-old brother, James Carver, lived with a family next door to their owners and adopted parents, Moses and Susan (Blue) Carver.
Census records are not considered final proofs, but they do provide a snapshot of a family. More importantly, they provide clues to other records, show family structure, and help establish approximate ages of birth and death. FamilySearch’s indexed census collections range from the inception of the U.S. census in 1790 to the last one available in 1940.
FamilySearch.org has a host of records useful for African American Genealogical Research. It also provides links to records on other sites. For example, Carver, famous for his innovative research on peanut uses, obtained a Land Patent in Ness County Kansas in December of 1889. He used it to build a conservatory and experiment with many kinds of plants.
FamilySearch has a record of the patent and provides a link to the Bureau of Land Management General Land Office Records, where the image of the actual certificate can be found.
Harriet Tubman was born into slavery as Arminta Ross in about March of 1822, in Dorchester County, Maryland. She escaped to the north and took her mother’s given name, then courageously helped other slaves escape through the clandestine Underground Railroad. She was a social activist throughout her long life until she died in Auburn, New York, on March 10, 1913, at the age of 91.
She appeared on the 1910 U.S. census record as T. Harriet Davis, widowed, after her first husband died. The record is at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. The Family History Library has a digitized book online at FamilySearch containing her biography, titled Americana, by Charles Dennis. Americana was published while Tubman still lived. Sources found through FamilySearch can trace the life of Harriet Tubman.
Find Your Ancestors on FamilySearch
As with all genealogy, begin your African American genealogy with the known—then seek the unknown. Start with general records, and then focus on records specific to your family. The FamilySearch Wiki is an excellent place to begin. It can teach you about any research topic, available records, and where to find them.
One of the best FamilySearch Wiki helps is the African American Online Genealogy Records, accessible using a button on genealogy pages, for a collection of links to useful online researchable databases. Indexing is ongoing. Collections grow as new records are added, and other options are listed as they become available.
FamilySearch has more records than just those for famous African Americans; it’s highly likely that there’s information on your family, as well. If you know your ancestors’ names, try searching for them in FamilySearch’s records collections, and see what you can discover!