African American Resources for West Virginia

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Introduction[edit | edit source]

Tips and resources for researching African American ancestors who lived in West Virginia.

Online Resources[edit | edit source]

Research Strategy[edit | edit source]

Keys to success in African American Research

You will find the most success researching African American ancestors if you begin with yourself, and follow oral history as well as historical records such as birth, marriage, and death certificates to document the previous generations.

Use the US Census to research your family groups. Many times, you may have difficulty in documenting an ancestor. If you research the collateral lines (aunts, uncles, siblings, and cousins), you will discover more about your common ancestor and have a wealth of resources to explore.See United States Basic Search Strategies.

See the wiki pages Virginia African Americans and United States African American Research. See also Quick Guide to African American Records

See also Finding Records of Your Ancestors 1870-Present in the FamilySearch Learning Center.

History[edit | edit source]

Resources[edit | edit source]

Biographies[edit | edit source]

Cemeteries[edit | edit source]

Census Records[edit | edit source]

Church Records[edit | edit source]

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]

Library of Virginia's Virginia Untold Collection has digitized records pertaining to African Americans in West Virginia counties and may include: bills of sale, certificates of importation, cohabitation registers, colonization registers, commonwealth causes, correspondence, coroner's inquisitions, deeds of emancipation, election records, fiduciary records, Free Negro registrations and tax records, freedmen's contracts, freedom suits, indentures of apprenticeship, judgements, legislative petitions, petitions for re-enslavement, petitions to remain in the commonwealth, public claims, requisitions for public use, and runaway slave records for Virginia counties and independent cities.

Vital Records[edit | edit source]

Birth[edit | edit source]

  • West Virginia Birth Records: Enslaved persons may only be listed by first name with "slave" entered in the surname column. A note in the file lists the slaveholder but this is not a searchable category. To search for an enslaved person, search by full or partial first name and/or "slave" as the last name, narrowed down to the county if known. There are few enslaved persons' birth records with "slave" entered as first name, and no last name.

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]

  • West Virginia Death Records Enslaved persons may only be listed by first name with "slave" entered in the surname column. A note in the file lists the slaveholder but this is not a searchable category. To search for an enslaved person, search by full or partial first name and/or "slave" as the last name, narrowed down to the county if known. There are few enslaved persons' birth records with "slave" entered as first name, and slaveholder surname.

Divorce[edit | edit source]

Voting Registers[edit | edit source]

Archives and Libraries[edit | edit source]

Societies[edit | edit source]

West Virginia Center for African-American Art & Culture
179 Summers Street #507
Charleston, WV 25301
Phone: (304) 346-6339

Jefferson County Black History Preservation Society
P.0. Box 569
Ranson, WV 25438
Contact: Contact JCBHPS

References[edit | edit source]

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