African American Resources for California

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Beginning Research
Record Types
California Background
Cultural Groups
Local Research Resources

Introduction[edit | edit source]

Online Resources[edit | edit source]

Record Collections

  • 1861-1872 United States, Freedmen's Bureau Marriages, 1861-1872 at FamilySearch
  • 1865-1874 Freedman's Bank Records, 1865-1874 at FamilySearch
  • 1800-1994 California, County Birth and Death Records, 1800-1994 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)
  • William Alexander Leidesdorff, Jr. (October 23, 1810 – May 18, 1848), one of the earliest mixed-race U.S. citizens in California

    Lists of Sources

  • African American in California at ArchivesDigital Collection - Genealogy related information for various States and Provinces is available from a variety of servers which may be official government services, genealogy society efforts, or maintained by interested individuals.
  • California African American Genealogical Society - Links to various genealogical sites
  • Research Strategy[edit | edit source]

    History[edit | edit source]

  • African Americans in California - a helpful historical timeline that highlights people and events from the Spanish Era until 2003.
  • The California Underground Railroad - a collection of documents, letters, photographs, and newspapers documenting the experiences of African Americans in California. Compiled by California State University in Sacramento.
  • The Negro trail blazers of California - a compilation of records documenting the history of African Americans in California from the beginning of statehood.
  • Resources[edit | edit source]

    Biographies[edit | edit source]

    • Beasley, Delilah Leontium. The Negro Trail Blazers of California : a compilation of records from the California archives in the Bancroft Library at the University of California in Berkeley; and from the diaries, old papers, and conversations of old pioneers in the State of California. Los Angeles:[s.n.], - 317 p.: ill, ports F870.N38 B3 1919b FHL Collection   WorldCaDigital version
    • Goode, Kenneth F. California's Black Pioneers: A Brief Historical Survey. Santa Barbara, Calif.: McNally Loftin, 1974 [c1974].- xiii, 222p.:ill. E185.93 C2G66 1974
    • Lapp, Rudolph M. Blacks in Gold Rush California New Haven:Yale university Press, 1977 - xiv, 321 p., (Yale Western Americana Series; 29) E185.C2 L36
    • Vivian, Octavia B. The Story of the Negro in Los Angeles County. compiled by Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration under the supervision of Hugh Harlan. - [S.l.:s.n.], 1956. - 43 p. F868.L8 V5 1970
    • Los Angeles Negro Business Directory. - [Vol.1] 91952/53)- [Vol.2] (1953/54). - Los Angeles, 1953-1954 F869.L8 L82
    • History of Black American in Santa Clara Valley. [Prepared by the staff of the Garden City Women's Club]. - [Sunnyvale, Calif.: Lockheed Missiles & Space Co., c 1978]. - xxx, 220 p.:ill. F868.S25 G37 1978
    • Parker, Elizabeth L. and James Abajian. A Walking tour of the Black Presence in San Francisco during the nineteenth century: A Black history week event; - [San Francisco]: San Francisco African American Historical and Cultural Society 1974. - 23 p.: ill F869.S3 P22

    Cemeteries[edit | edit source]

    Census Records[edit | edit source]

    • California State Census of 1852 ($) - lists name, age, sex, race, profession, place of birth, residence, and number of negroes, mulattoes, domesticated Indians, and foreign residents.

    Church Records[edit | edit source]

    Los Angeles

    First African Methodisy Episcopal A.M.E. Churtch,(1872- ) History

    Sacramento

    St Andrews A.M.E. Church, (1850-) History

    San Jose

    Antioch Baptist Church, (1868-) History

    Emancipation Records[edit | edit source]

    Funeral Homes[edit | edit source]

    Genealogies[edit | edit source]

    Land and Property[edit | edit source]

    Plantation[edit | edit source]

    Oral Histories[edit | edit source]

    Other Records[edit | edit source]

    Military Records[edit | edit source]

    Newspapers[edit | edit source]

    Probate Records[edit | edit source]

    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:

    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]

    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]

    The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers Project
    UCLA African Studies Center
    10244 Bunche Hall, 405 Hilgard Avenue
    Los Angeles, CA 90095-1310
    Phone: (310) 825-3686
    Website: UCLA African Studies Center

    Societies[edit | edit source]

    California African American Genealogical Society
    P.O. Box 8442
    Los Angeles, CA 90008-0442
    Phone: (323) 806-5634
    Website: CAAGS

    References[edit | edit source]

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