Web Wise: Tracing Your African-American Ancestry

Genealogy, the search for your family’s history, is considered one of the top hobbies in the country. For African-Americans, the search for the past can be a rocky journey, and one not taken often enough, according to Dee Parmer Woodtor, author of Finding a Place Called Home.

In honor of Black History Month, we’ll link you to some online African-American genealogy sites, including Woodtor’s Beginner’s Guide to African-American Genealogy . Woodtor explains how the Internet can help you and offers essential steps for beginners and tips on preserving your history. The guide is just part of the AfriGeneas Web site (, which has sections full of "African-Ancestored Genealogy" resources, including African-American census schedules, surname database and registry, chat rooms, forums and mailing lists.

The subscription-based site, also offers a free beginner’s guide and other articles on the challenges of African-American research. Click on the Learning Center tab and enter "African-American" in the search box.

A good genealogy needs historical context. You’ll find some primers in Black American history and culture in the online Afro-American Almanac and the Encyclopedia Britannica Guide to Black History . The Montgomery (Alabama) County Public Schools offers an incredible links page to African-American history.

The ultimate source of Web links for finding your African-American roots can be found on Cyndi’s List. The amount of resources on this list is mind-boggling, so plan on sampling the links gradually. You’ll find rare manuscript collections, Underground Railroad sites and slave narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project.

Good luck and happy digging!

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