African American Resources for New York

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Introduction

A list of resource for researching African American ancestors who lived in New York.

Online Resources

Research Strategy

History

African American slavery was common in New York during the colonial period. Hoff prepared a guide for tracing African American colonists:

  • Hoff, Henry B. "Researching African-American Families in New Netherland and Colonial New York and New Jersey," The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Vol. 136, No. 2 (Apr. 2005):83-95. Digital version at New York Family History ($); FHL Book 974.7 B2n v. 136.

A law passed 29 March 1799 declared that "any child born of a slave after the 4th of July next shall be deemed to be born free." Owners discovered a loophole to keep these children enslaved by registering them in certain counties. Such lists have been located and published for the Town of Castleton (Richmond County), Kings County, and New York County.[1]

Several lists of manumitted slaves have been discovered and published:

  • 1659-1846 - O'Neill, Terri Bradshaw. "Manumissions and Certificates of Freedom in the New York Secretary of State Deeds," The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Vol. 139, No. 1 (Jan. 2008):72-73. Digital version at New York Family History ($); FHL Book 974.7 B2n v. 139.
  • Record of Slave Manumissions in New York During the Colonial and Early National Periods. By Harry B. Yoshpe, University of the State of New York, State Education Department, Albany. Journal of Negro History Vol. 26 January, 1941 No. 1 pages 78-107
  • 1700s-1810s - Eichholz, Alice and James M. Rose. "New York State Manumissions," The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Masters' Surnames A-B: Vol. 108, No. 4 (Oct. 1977):221-225; Masters' Surnames C-D: Vol. 109, No. 1 (Jan. 1978):22-24; Masters' Surnames E-I: Vol. 109, No. 2 (Apr. 1978):71-74; Masters' Surnames J-N: Vol. 109, No. 3 (Jul. 1978):145-149; Masters' Surnames O-S: Vol. 109, No. 4 (Oct. 1978):229-233; Masters' Surnames T-Z: Vol. 110, No. 1 (Jan. 1979):39-42. Digital version at New York Family History ($); FHL Book 974.7 B2n v. 109-110.

Online resources:

To learn more:

Resources

Biographies

Cemeteries

Census Records

Church Records

Emancipation Records

Funeral Homes

Genealogies

Land and Property

  • Estate papers, 1817 of Brush, Ichabod, d. 1809. Mentions James Williams. Queens Borough Public Library Long Island Division 89-11 Merrick Blvd., Jamaica, N.Y. 11432
  • Wilson and Jane Rantus papers, ca. 1830-1890Largely bills submitted by individuals and the village and town government. Letters written to Wilson Rantus from Thomas Hamilton, pioneer black journalist, 1854-1861. Other items include insurance policies for private homes, and estate papers.

Plantation

Oral Histories

Other Records

Railroad

Military Records

  • Patriots of Color. Free database at Archives.com. Includes details about 50 black New Yorkers in the Revolutionary War.[2]

Newspapers

Probate Records

Reconstruction Records

Freedman’s Bank

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

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.[3] 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

Slavery Records

Vital Records

Birth

Marriage

  • New York, County Marriages, 1847-1848; 1908-1936 - information may include the bride and groom’s name, residence, race, age, occupation, no. of marriage, birthplace, marital status, parents and their birthplaces, and the marriage date and place

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

Divorce

Voting Registers

Archives and Libraries

African American Museum of Nassau County
110 North Franklin Street
Hempstead, New York 11550
Email: taags.aam@gmail.com
Phone: 516-572-0730

New-York Historical Society Museum & Library – African Americans Archives
170 Central Park West
at Richard Gilder Way (77th Street)
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
515 Malcolm X Boulevard
New York, NY 10037-1801
Phone: (212) 491-2200

Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853
Carl A. Knoch Library Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections
Samuel J. May Anti-Slavery Collection

Societies

Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society – New York Chapter
Email: info@aahgs-newyork.org
Phone: (212) 330-7882

References

  1. Alice Eichholz and James M. Rose, "Slave Births in Castleton, Richmond County, New York," The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Vol. 110, No. 4 (Oct. 1979):196. Digital version at New York Family History ($); FHL Book 974.7 B2n v. 110.
  2. Dick Eastman, "Archives.com to Publish the Patriots of Color Database," Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter, 24 February 2012, http://blog.eogn.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/2012/02/archivescom-to-publish-the-patriots-of-color-database.html.
  3. "African American Records: Freedmen's Bureau," "African American Heritage," National Archives, accessed 11 May 2018.