African American Resources for Kentucky

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Introduction[edit | edit source]

Resources for African American research fall into two periods: pre- and post-Civil War. Post-Civil War research consists of consulting the same record types as non-African Americans. Some sets of records such as school censuses and marriages and tax records are segregated by race. Pre-Civil War records consist of slave importation declarations, plantation records, emancipation records, apprenticeship bonds for freedmen, Kentucky hiring practices, census records, slave owner records, church and cemetery records, military records, vital records, and numerous Kentucky court records. Slaves were gradually emancipated by Kentucky law, beginning in 1865.

Slaves are sometimes mentioned in deeds (see Kentucky Land and Property), wills (see Kentucky Probate Records), tax records (see Kentucky Taxation), and court order books (see Kentucky Court Records). A few parish registers (see Kentucky Church Records) list slaves who attended church with their masters.

Online Resources[edit | edit source]

  • 1846-1867 U.S., Freedmen’s Bureau Marriage Records, 1846-1867 ($) at Ancestry ($)
  • 1861-1872 United States, Freedmen's Bureau Marriages, 1861-1872 at FamilySearch
  • 1863-1878 U.S., Freedmen's Bureau Records of Field Offices, 1863-1878 at Ancestry - index and images ($)
  • 1865-1872 Kentucky, Freedmen's Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1872 at FamilySearch - images
  • 1865-1874 Freedman's Bank Records, 1865-1874 at FamilySearch
  • African American Digital Bookshelf - a growing list of digital books on FamilySearch and other websites
  • Discover Freedmen - this site searches all of the Freedmen's Bureau record collections on FamilySearch altogether (and redirects there)
  • Notable Kentucky African Americans Database
  • Research Strategy[edit | edit source]

    A source for African American research in Kentucky can be found in:

    • Hogan, Roseann Reinemuth. Kentucky Ancestry—A Guide to Genealogical and Historical Research. Salt Lake City, Utah: Ancestry, 1992. (Family History Library book 976.9 A3ho.) This is a guide to African American records located in Kentucky. Pages 140 to 153, African-American Genealogy and Records in Kentucky, and Appendix 4, pages 369 to 372, African-American Bibliography for Kentucky, provide important information for the African American researcher.

    History[edit | edit source]

    For a history of African Americans in Kentucky, see:

    • Lucas, Marion Brunson and George C. Wright. A History of Blacks in Kentucky. 2 vols. Frankfort, KY: Kentucky Historical Society, 1992. (Family History Library book 976.9 F2L.) This history of African Americans from 1760 to 1980 contains an index and a bibliography of sources.

    For records and histories of ethnic, racial, and religious groups in Kentucky do a Place Search on the FamilySearch Catalog under:


    Resources[edit | edit source]

    Biographies[edit | edit source]

    Notable Kentucky African Americans Database seeks to record stories of all notable African Americans in Kentucky, along with a brief description of pertinent names, places, and events and a list of sources to find additional information.

    Cemeteries[edit | edit source]

    Kentucky African Americans in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were generally buried in race-specific cemeteries.

    Census Records[edit | edit source]

    The first Kentucky census to list freed slaves by name was taken in 1870. In 1850 and 1860, slave schedules identified the numbers, ages, and genders of slaves, but census takers were not instructed to record their names.

    Church Records[edit | edit source]

    Kentucky African Americans in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries typically had separate churches, apart from white congregations. A few parish registers (see Kentucky Church Records) list slaves who attended church with their masters.

    Emancipation Records[edit | edit source]

    Funeral Homes[edit | edit source]

    Genealogies[edit | edit source]

    Land and Property[edit | edit source]

    Slaves are sometimes mentioned in deeds (see Kentucky Land and Property).

    Plantation[edit | edit source]

    Law and Legislation[edit | edit source]

    Oral Histories[edit | edit source]

    Other Records[edit | edit source]

    Naturalization Records

    Military Records[edit | edit source]

    Newspapers[edit | edit source]

    Probate Records[edit | edit source]

    Slaves are sometimes mentioned in wills (see Kentucky Probate Records).

    Reconstruction Records[edit | edit source]

    Freedman’s Bank[edit | edit source]

    An excellent source is the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company (visit the African American Freedman's Savings and Trust Company Records page to learn more). This company was created to assist African American soldiers of the Civil War and freed slaves. Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company signature cards or registers from 3 March 1865 to 25 July 1874 may list the name of the depositor, date of entry, age, birthplace, residence, complexion, name of employer or occupation, wife or husband’s name, death information, children’s names, name of father and mother, brothers’ and sisters’ names, remarks, and signature. Early books sometimes contained the name of the former master or mistress and the name of the plantation. Copies of death certificates were sometimes attached to the entries. The collection is organized alphabetically by state, then city where the bank was located, then date the account was established, then account number.

    Online collections of Freedman's Bank records:

    Kentucky had two branches of this bank at:

    • Lexington, Kentucky 1870–1874
    • Louisville, Kentucky 1865–1874

    Freedmen's Bureau[edit | edit source]

    The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands was created by the US government in 1865 until 1872 to assist former slaves in the southern United States. The Bureau created a wide variety of records extremely valuable to genealogists. Such documents include censuses, marriage records, and medical records. These records often include full names, former masters and plantations, and current residences.[1] For 1865 and 1866, the section on abandoned and confiscated lands includes the names of the owners of the plantations or homes that were abandoned, confiscated, or leased. It gives the county and location, a description of the house, the number of acres owned, and the number of cabins of former slaves. These films do not appear to contain the names of former slaves.

    To find Freedmen's Bureau records:

    Other FamilySearch collections not included:

    Visit the African American Freedmen's Bureau Records page to learn more about utilizing these records.

    School Records[edit | edit source]

    Slavery Records[edit | edit source]

    Vital Records[edit | edit source]

    It is not uncommon to find separate "colored" marriage registers in Kentucky courthouses. For a few years after the Civil War, many African Americans had their marriages legally recognized and recorded in "declaration" books. Couples could go before the judge and declare that they were husband and wife and how long they had been together. Few of these non-white registers were microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah.

    Birth[edit | edit source]

    Marriage[edit | edit source]

    The Freedmen's Bureau (1865-1872) was created by the US government to assist former slaves in the southern United States. One of their responsibilities was to record the marriages (past and present) of the former slaves. These records can be found in the collections below and include the lists of marriages that occurred previously, marriage certificates, and marriage licenses. The information contained on the records may include the name of the husband and wife/groom and bride, age, occupation, residence, year or date of marriage, by whom, number of children, and remarks.

    Death[edit | edit source]

    Divorce[edit | edit source]

    Voting Registers[edit | edit source]

    Archives and Libraries[edit | edit source]

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    Societies[edit | edit source]

    African American Genealogy Group of Kentucky
    P.O. Box 1211
    Frankfort, KY 40602
    Phone: 502-422-4457

    References[edit | edit source]

    1. "African American Records: Freedmen's Bureau," "African American Heritage," National Archives, accessed 11 May 2018.