African American Probate Records

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African American Genealogy Wiki Topics
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Beginning Research
Original Records
Compiled Sources
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Finding Aids

Introduction[edit | edit source]

For the most part, besides being counted as chattel on tax, land deed, and slave schedules, African Americans were not counted as people until the 1870 census. Other records of interest would be church records, which notes people of color being allowed or dispelled from the church, etc., but they are not always given a surname. Sometimes they are noted by their first name and "as belonging to "X" slaveowner." Therefore, African American researchers are very dependent upon getting information from the slaveowning family's documentation.

Resources for Marriage, Census, and Cemetery Data[edit | edit source]

The following site provides an example of what Church Records can show:

Wills[edit | edit source]

Public Auction notices for slaves can be found in probate records.

Documentation of names of African Americans mentioned in the 1790-1865 wills of white slaveholders in Liberty County, Georgia.

Many people in conducting research in their families run across slave related information. It is both painful, embarrassing and confusing all at once. It is my hope that when anyone runs across Missouri slave-related data that they would post it to my website at:

Missouri State Archives[edit | edit source]

Roll-by-roll listing County Record on microfilm by county:

Description of Records on Film

For African American researchers; the items below are of interest. If a family owned slaves, records of purchase, sale, rent, mortgage, gift, lawsuits, etc., can be found under the various listings related to probate. Of particular interests are books and other resources that transcribe or are abstracts of Wills, Administrations, and Probate. The following websites are helpful.



Land Deed Records[edit | edit source]

Final Settlement and Inventory Records

These records show the final disposition of an estate, including who the slaves in the family were sold to or given to and for how much. Land Deed records are equally important. Tax records will note how many slaves a person owned.

Registers of Slaves, Registers of Freedmen, and Manumission Papers. By the time of start of the Civil War in 1861 about ten percent of African Americans were free. Most free African Americans carried their own papers, but these could be stolen. In order to distinguish between slaves, runaways, and free African Americans, many counties or states in the upper South, and border states kept one or more sets of registers or papers. Some had registers of slaves. Some kept registers of blacks, freedmen, "free men of color," or "free negroes." Some kept copies of manumission papers of people freed from enslavement. To find these kinds of registers or papers look in county courthouse records. They are most likely found in the court papers, or among the land and property deeds, or occasionally in probate records, or even with taxation records. Sometimes these kinds of records are found at state libraries, archives, or historical societies.

Websites[edit | edit source]