Explore Your Ancestry: Best No-Cost Sites
African Americans can do a surprising amount of online genealogical research at no cost.
The Freedmen's Bureau Online: According to the home page, "The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands ... often referred to as the Freedmen's Bureau, ... supervised all relief and educational activities relating to refugees and freedmen, including issuing rations, clothing and medicine." Related links on the page include those for the Freedmen and Southern Society Project, as well as Freedmen's Bureau marriage registers in Arkansas and Tennessee. Records are categorized into labor records, marriage records, murder and outrages. How the site can advance your research: Provides access to the Freedmen's Bureau extensive records.
HeritageQuest Online: Described as "a comprehensive treasury of American genealogical sources -- rich in unique primary sources, local and family histories, and finding aids," this site provides free access through most public libraries to the census, Freedman's Bank records, the Periodical Source Index (PERSI), genealogy and local history books, Revolutionary War records and the LexisNexis U.S. Serial Set. Contact your local library to see if you can access the site with your library card number. How the site can advance your research: Allows access to the census and to Freedman's Bank records, which have detailed financial info about account applicants, dependents and heirs going back to the end of the Civil War.
Lowcountry Africana: Research is limited to Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. The site has its own freestanding research aids, including a custom search engine, an online research library, videos, articles about research methods, and search capabilities for user-submitted documents. How the site can advance your research: Subscribe to the Lowcountry Africana Collection and receive emailed updates of user-submitted records.
Karin D. Berry is a newspaper journalist and freelance writer who has been researching her family history since 1987. Her articles, book reviews and op-ed articles have been published in Essence, Black Enterprise, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Macon Telegraph, the Baltimore Sun, the Evening Sun, Emerge and the Philadelphia Daily News.
For more on geneaology and help in finding your roots, check out our Geneaology Guide.