African American Resources for Kentucky

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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

U.S., Freedmen's Bureau Records of Field Offices, 1863-1878 ($) index and images

Research Strategy

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.


For strategies to determine the master of slaves in pre-Civil War Kentucky, see [article].


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.




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

Census Records

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

Kentucky African Americans in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries typically had separate churches, apart from white congregations.

Emancipation Records

Funeral Homes


Land and Property


Oral Histories

Other Records

Military Records


Probate Records

Reconstruction Records

Freedman’s Bank

Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company signature cards or registers may list depositor’s birth date and place, occupation, residences, death information, parents, children, spouses, siblings, or former masters. Kentucky had two branches of this bank at:

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

The signature registers for these branches are listed as:

  • Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company (Washington, D.C.) Registers of Signatures of Depositors in Branches of the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company, 1865–1874. National Archives Microfilm Publications, M0816. Washington, DC: National Archives, 1969. (Family History Library films 928571–91.) These films are alphabetical by state, then by city. In each city depositors are in order by account number. Films 928581–2 contain the records for Lexington and Louisville, Kentucky.

Freedmen's Bureau

School Records

Slavery Records

Vital Records

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.





Voting Registers

Archives and Libraries

Family History Library

Other records and histories of ethnic, racial, and religious groups in Kentucky are listed in the Place Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under:


Or see the Subject Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under subjects such as:

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See also United States Minorities and United States Emigration and Immigration  for additional resources.