Research Black Family History State by State

Local archives and libraries are great resources for African-American genealogy research.


State archives and libraries are the go-to genealogical source for records relating to births, deaths, marriages, the military, courts, land, maps, taxes, state institutions, agencies, state censuses, naturalization, family histories and historical collections.

Several state archives’ websites have sections dedicated to African-American and slave research, either showing how to research African Americans in that state or providing direct access to state records of blacks.

You can visit a state archive yourself or hire a researcher to do your legwork out of state. If you are researching out of state, you may be able to order copies of records online, usually for a fee. Some archive websites allow you to download research-request forms, make research requests and ask questions or search online records.

If you live in-state, you may be able to order copies of records for free. You can also use archives’ sites to plan a research trip — taking note of operating hours, fees and records available to the public. Search any online records by subject, using the keywords “African American,” “slave,” “Negro,” “colored” and the surnames of the slaves, freedmen and slave owners you are researching to find available books, microfilms and collections. Print out the list to prepare for your visit.

For an online list of direct links to state archives, go to Cyndi’s List and search the U.S. State Level Records Repositories.

Some sites have links to African-American-specific state databases: Digital State Archives and the Princeton Public Library — African American Genealogy on the Web State Guides.

Here are the statearchive websites with the most detailed sections dedicated to African-American genealogy.


The Butler Center for Arkansas Studies: Genealogy & Research Tools. The center is a department of the Central Arkansas Library System. Records: Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands records for Arkansas.

The Black History Commission of Arkansas, part of the Arkansas History Commission. Records: African American Funeral Home and Cemetery Records on microfilm; school yearbooks.


Connecticut State Library: “Research Guide to African-American Genealogical Resources at the Connecticut State Library.” Records: Connecticut Census Index and cemetery inscription records; the logbook of slave traders between New London and Connecticut, 1757-58.