How Do I Track Deep South Roots?

Tracing Your Roots: A reader seeks help doing pre-Civil War research in Mississippi and Tennessee.

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Other sources of information are the local cemeteries and churches. If you are unable to find a record of Alford/Alfred on cemetery-transcription sites, such as and, another option you have is to contact various cemeteries in Clarksdale to see if they have any records of a man named Alford/Alfred Anderson who was buried between 1900 and 1910. Occasionally there is a fee for a record lookup, but this varies by cemetery. The Coahoma County Mississippi Genealogy and History Network has a listing of cemeteries in Coahoma County on their website, which also has other useful genealogy links for Coahoma County that may help your research.

If you cannot find a record of Alford/Alfred in any of the Clarksdale cemeteries, you may also want to find local African-American churches to see if they have any parish registers from 1900 to 1910.

Finding the Parents

As with most genealogical research, to find Alford/Alfred's parents, it is best to start with the most recent documents and keep working backward. The 1900 U.S. Federal Census lists him under the name Alfred. It also gives his birthplace as Tennessee, shows that he was born in May 1854 and lists other kin in the household whom you have mentioned. However, when searching the 1880 U.S. Federal Census, we did not find a record that matches this description. Keep in mind that the accuracy of census records can vary greatly, depending on who was giving the information to the census-taker or how the information was recorded. Given this, in searching for earlier records of Alford/Alfred be sure to use a range of ages and variation in places of birth for each census year.

We did find a possible record for him in the 1870 U.S. Federal Census. This record shows a 16-year-old boy named Alfred Anderson who was born in Tennessee circa 1854. He was living with Moses and Nancy Anderson, presumably his parents, in Nashville, Davidson County, Tenn. You will want to investigate this couple more to determine whether or not they were the parents of Alfred. One way to do this is to find a record of them in the 1880 U.S. Federal Census to determine whether or not their son named Alfred was still living with them.

In our search of the 1880 census, we found that there was a Moses and Nannie Anderson, who were both born in Tennessee but living in Indianapolis, Marion County, Ill. Their son, Alfred, was no longer living with them. It was not uncommon for many African-American families to move to Northern cities during the Jim Crow era in the South. Indianapolis was a popular destination for many families looking to start a new life in the North. You will want to continue to research this couple to see if they had any additional children, possible siblings of Alford/Alfred, and find death records or obituaries, which might prove a connection to the Alford/Alfred Anderson who moved to Coahoma County, Miss.

King and Anderson Plantation

You mentioned that Alford/Alfred Anderson might have a connection to the King and Anderson Plantation. This large, 17,000-acre plantation was located just outside of Clarksdale, and its operations began in the 1830s and continued into the mid- to late-20th century. Given his surname and proximity to the plantation, it is possible that he worked there. The records of the King and Anderson are not available online, so we searched to see if there are physical copies available for research. We used the website ArchiveGrid, a search engine for physical archival collections. In our search, we found that some of records and ledger books dating from 1882 to the 1970s for the King and Anderson are currently held at the University of Mississippi Libraries in Oxford, Miss. The library has posted a finding aid online, which gives you some more detailed information about the collection and how to access the records.

We also found the list of slaves for the King and Anderson Plantation in the 1860 U.S. Federal Census Slave Schedules. In that year, they enumerated 80 slaves, including 5- and 6-year-olds, which was the approximate age of Alford/Alfred in 1860. 

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