African American Resources for Pennsylvania

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African American Resources

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Introduction

Online Resources

Research Strategy

History

An important history is Edward Raymond Turner, The Negro in Pennsylvania: Slavery-Servitude-Freedom, 1639-1861 (New York, NY: Negro Universities Press, 1969; FHL book 974.8 F2t. It includes an extensive bibliography.

See also:

  • Charles L. Blockson, African Americans in Pennsylvania: A History and Guide(Baltimore, Maryland.: A DuForcel book published by Black Classic Press, 1994); FHL book 974.8 F2bL.
  • Blockson, Charles L. African Americans in Pennsylvania: Above ground and underground, an illustrated guide. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: RB Books; Seitz and Seitz, Inc., c 2001 FHL 974.8F2bl 2001
  • Blockson, Charles L.ed. by Louise D. Stone. Pennsylvania's Black History. Philadelphia: portfolio Associates, 1975. E185.93.P41 B56

Online resources:

A potential source for information about individuals is Pennsylvania Abolition Society (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), Manumissions and Indentures, ca. 1780-1840, Arranged by Name of Master or Slaveholder FHL films 1731983 (first of 7 films). Records are from various eastern states, including New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Georgia, and Virginia.

Resources

Biographies

Cemeteries

Census Records

The "septennial" census (see Pennsylvania Census), beginning in 1800, often listed the name, age, and sex of slaves and the names of slave owners.

Church Records

Emancipation Records

Funeral Homes

Genealogies

Land and Property

Plantation

Oral Histories

Other Records

Military Records

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.[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

Slavery Records

Pennsylvania began the gradual emancipation of slaves in 1780. Slaves are sometimes mentioned in deeds, in wills, in tax records, and in court order books. A few parish registers (Pennsylvania Church Records) list slaves who attended church with their masters.

At the taking of the 1790 Census, ironmasters were the largest slave owners in Pennsylvania counties where charcoal and iron were produced: Berks, Chester, Montgomery, Lancaster, Dauphin and York.[2]

The "septennial" census (see Pennsylvania Census), beginning in 1800, often listed the name, age, and sex of slaves and the names of slave owners.

Vital Records

Birth

Marriage

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

Pennsylvania State Archives
801 North 3rd Street
Harrisburg, PA 17102
Phone: (717) 783-3281

A brief but helpful reference to sources at the State Archives is David McBride, The Afro-American in Pennsylvania: A Critical Guide to Sources in the Pennsylvania State Archives (Harrisburg, PA.: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1979); FHL book 974.8 A1, no. 199.

African American Museum in Philadelphia
701 Arch Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Phone: (215) 574-0380

Central Pennsylvania African American Museum
119 N. 10th Street
Reading, PA 19560
Phone: (610) 371-8713

Societies

References

  1. "African American Records: Freedmen's Bureau," "African American Heritage," National Archives, accessed 11 May 2018.
  2. Joseph E. Walker, "Negro Labor in Charcoal Iron Industry of Southeastern Pennsylvania," The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 93, No. 4 (Oct. 1969):467. For free online access, see WeRelate.