United States Minorities

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It is important to learn the history of the ethnic, racial, and religious groups your ancestors belonged to. For example, you might study a history of the Irish in New York or Huguenot immigration to the United States. Some people have American Indian ancestors. Many people came to America as indentured servants or as slaves. This historical background can help you identify where your ancestors lived and when they lived there, where they migrated, the types of records they might be listed in, and other information to help you understand your family's history.

Minorities usually appear in the same records as other Americans, so search for members of minority groups in the same records you would search for anyone else. Then search for additional records of a particular minority.

For most minorities in the United States, some unique records and resources are available. These include histories, newspapers, and periodicals (such as The Swedish-American Historical Quarterly). In addition, various local and national societies have been organized to gather, preserve, and share the cultural contributions and histories of many groups. Some examples are the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies in Philadelphia and the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Brief histories, addresses of societies, periodicals, handbooks, and other resources for minority research are available. The Family History Library and most large libraries have books like the following:

  • African American Genealogical Sourcebook. Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research, 1995. (FHL book 973 F27afg.)
  • Blessing, Patrick Joseph. The Irish in America: A Guide to the Literature and Manuscript Collection. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1992. (FHL book 973 F22bpj.)
  • “Canada.” Volume 1, Chapter 12, and “Ontario.” Volume 2, Part 2, Chapter 1 of Genealogical Research: Methods and Sources. Revised Edition. Two Volumes. Washington, D.C.: American Society of Genealogists, 1980-1983. (FHL book 973 D27gr 1980.)
  • Colletta, John Philip. Finding Italian Roots: The Complete Guide for Americans. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1993. (FHL book 973 F2cf.)
  • Hispanic American Genealogical Sourcebook. New York, New York: Gale Research, 1995. (FHL book 973 F2hag.)
  • Native American Genealogical Sourcebook. Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research, 1995. (FHL book 970.1 B991n.)
  • Smith, Jessie C., editor. Ethnic Genealogy: A Research Guide. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1983. (FHL book 973 D27sj.)
  • Thernstrom, Stephen, editor. Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1980. (FHL Ref 973 F2ha, fiche 6051321.)

In the Family History Library Catalog, look for published histories and other minority records in these searches:

In the Place Search, see [STATE] - MINORITIES.

In the Subject Search, look for:

  • Handbooks on how to research specific groups (such as Czech, German, Hispanic, Indian, Irish, Polish, etc.). For example under the heading “POLES - UNITED STATES,” you can find a book called Polish Genealogy & Heraldry.

Under the heading “JEWS” you can find this excellent handbook: Kurzweil, Arthur. From Generation to Generation: How to Trace Your Jewish Genealogy and Personal History. New York, New York: William Morrow, 1980. (FHL book 929.1 K967f; film 1055468 item 4.)