Posted by on February 2, 2011 in Content

In honor of Black History Month 2011, we are releasing or updating 9 collections relative to African-American family history research and this year’s theme: African Americans and the Civil War. You can find the new additions, from more compiled service records for U.S. Colored Troops to recently indexed slave manifests from Savannah and New Orleans, and search all our African-American records here.

We also thought this would be a great chance to share some success stories we’ve heard lately from people researching their own African-American ancestry.

The 1870 census is a significant one for African-American family history research, the first that would list millions of black men and women by name.

In fact, names were the first thing Kevin Wilson learned when he found his 4x-great-grandparents, Samuel and Sophia Hodo, in the 1870 census in Jefferson County, Arkansas.

While old family portraits had been handed down from generation to generation, Kevin explains, somewhere along the way “the names of Samuel and Sophia had somehow been forgotten.” Columns 8, 16, and 17 of the census also confirmed the family oral traditions that said the Hodos “were landowners and that the men of the family were able to read and write.”

The Jefferson County location from the census led Kevin to Samuel’s 1877 will, which, Kevin says, “provided great insight into his economic status, family relationships and close relationship with a prominent white man and former slave holder in the community.”

It also provided coordinates for the family’s 120 acres of land. With those coordinates and a 1905 map from the U.S. County Land Ownership Maps database, Kevin was able to locate and then visit the family’s former holdings.

The mix of farm and timberland stayed in the family for some 50 years, and Kevin is currently trying to find out how the family acquired it so soon after the Civil War and why it passed from family hands in the early 1900s.

Kevin found his Henderson relatives as well, this time among military records. A search turned up a Noah Henderson mustered in and out of Union service in eastern Tennessee in the U.S. Colored Troops Military Service Records database.

The name was right, but Kevin knew of no connection between his great-great-grandfather Noah and Tennessee. Still, when this Noah turned up again in the Civil War Pension Index—filed in Arkansas, where he knew Noah and his wife, Mariah, had lived—the possibility of this being his Noah made it worth ordering the pension application file from the National Archives.

Kevin’s reward for following the hunches was a file of more than 100 pages and a host of new details about his great-great-grandfather’s life, from how Noah got from Tennessee to Arkansas to where he met his wife. He even knows now that Noah took his son, Kevin’s great-grandfather James, to the circus on the day he died.

So if you’re just starting your family’s research, take a look at the African-American records on Ancestry.com. Or if you’ve been at it for a while, look again at some of the updates and new additions. You never know where a record might lead. Just ask Kevin Wilson.

9 Comments

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February 2, 2011 at 2:09 pm
Aylarja 

A small detail, but it looks as though J. T. Hodo actually owned 125 acres, as the small strip of land nestled within the bend of the rest of the property indicates 5 acres owned by J. T. H. Definitely a case for exploring land-ownership records in the area, which should identify when and from whom they were purchased and how much the original purchaser paid.

February 2, 2011 at 2:37 pm
Ernie Rivera-Ramos 

Paul,
Would it be possible to see Puerto Rico Slave Registry from the 1800′s. As my great-great-great grand mother was a slave in the planatation located in Moca Puerto Rico, it was owned by the Pellot Family. My great-grandfather & great-grandmother was born in slavery, then became free slave 1865. I will be doing a presentation on February 16 on Puerto Rico Slavery and my ancestor any information would be a plus.

Ernie

February 2, 2011 at 7:30 pm
virginia freeland 

I NEED TO FIND MY FAMILY TREE TO SEE WHO WAS FAMILY ON MY FATHER SIZE OF THE FAMILY. ITS IS VERY INPORTED TO ME TO KNOW THIS ABOT MY FATHER BECAUSE HE GONE WITH THE LORD NOW HE DIE IN 1993 AND WAS BORN IN 1920 AND CALVERT COUNTRY MD PLEASE HELP ME T KNOW ALL ABOUT MY FATHER AMILY IF THET WAS SLAVE ARE NOT. BEACAUSE THE FREELAND NAME GOSE BACK VERY FAR.

February 4, 2011 at 8:20 pm
Shirl Bratcher Howard 

Finding out information on my father Jesro Cruel maternial side was been a challenge. As the story has been told that his mother died in childbirth and I do not know her name nor can I locate anyone that knows his family. Jesro Cruel was born 3/15/1925 – South Carolina. His mother’s last name is Marton and I believe the family lived in St. Matthews, SC I am told that his aunt Laura Marton Robinson DOB 8/15/1902 raised him and her parents were Mose & Mary Dellis Marton. If anyone has any knowledge of this family I would appreciate your help.

February 8, 2011 at 11:11 pm
frances shupe 

How can I go about looking for my sons and one daughter who were adopted in the state of Oklahoma, all three of my children have a sister who wants to find them also. My children are all of a mixed race, they are all African American,is there any way you can help me?

February 13, 2011 at 4:01 pm
Deloris Williams 

How about actually adding the new images to the US Colored Troops database? I’ve noticed that a bunch of them are missing. Even though they are indexed, when you click onto the the “view original image”, they are missing, an “error processing image request” comes up, and I’ve tried this in several different browsers. I’ve reported them on the “Report Problem” link, but this is terribly annoying. What’s up with the missing images?

February 14, 2011 at 11:54 am
Paul Rawlins 

Aylarga,

Right you are. If Keith hadn’t noticed this before, he’ll know now. Thanks.

Deloris,

I don’t know much on the technical side, but I’m wondering if it is a compatibility issue with a browser.

February 14, 2011 at 3:06 pm
Chris 

I was excited to see this topic – until I realised it was only for the United States. What about doing the same thing for Australia, please?

February 16, 2011 at 12:04 pm