10 Books on African American Genealogy & History

African American genealogy
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Welcome back to Tenacious Genealogy! Given that it is February, I figured I’d highlight a list of books for family historians and genealogists who are just beginning or are in the process of researching and learning about their African American genealogy. This is by no means, an exhaustive list, but it is a great place to start.

Help Me to Find My People: The African American Search for Family Lost in Slavery (The John Hope Franklin Series in African American History and Culture)

An academic book on how former slaves tenaciously sought out their relatives after the Civil War, this is a highly recommended book that gives insight into the history of African American families in the late 19th century. While not specifically about genealogy, it is handy for family historians and genealogists who are looking to piece together their family stories to history or find out different documents that their ancestors may have used to find each other.

Black Roots: A Beginners Guide To Tracing The African American Family Tree

Written by a professional genealogist and professor of genealogy at Chicago State University, this is an excellent book for those just starting their journey into researching their African American genealogy. While this book is geared towards beginners, it is also a thorough book that goes through several case studies and gives real-life examples of various phases of genealogical research.

There Is Something About Edgefield: Shining A Light on the Black Community through History, Genealogy & Genetic DNA

Another fascinating book on African American genealogy & history – this book focuses on the African American community in Edgefield, South Carolina. As well as talking about the history of the area and the families that lived there, the authors – Edna Gail Bush and Natonne Elaine Kemp – also dive into the genetic genealogy side of the story. A great read for those researching their ancestors, especially those who lived in the American South, as well as those who have taken DNA tests to help find their heritage.

Finding Your African American Ancestors: A Beginner’s Guide (Finding Your Ancestors)

Another great beginner’s guide for those researching their African American genealogy. An older book (published in 2001), some of the materials it refers to may have been updated (or researchers now have easier access to – such as the Freedman’s Bureau records),  but this book is still a great place to start.

A Genealogist’s Guide to Discovering Your African-American Ancestors. How to Find and Record Your Unique Heritage

More hands-on than some of the other genealogy books on this list, this book has a variety of forms, outlines, examples, and maps to help researchers find and record African American genealogy from the post-Civil War era to the ‘modern day’. (This book was published in 2002, so it only goes to about that point.) The authors, Franklin Carter Smith and Emily Croom are both well versed in genealogy and particularly in African American genealogy.

Black Genealogy

Another older genealogy book (this particular edition published in 1991), this is still a good starting point for many people researching African American genealogy. Considered to be a standard genealogical reference, it was originally published in 1977. While there are more modern books that cover African American genealogy and more in-depth, this is still a good book to have on hand for reference (and to compare and contrast with more recent books).

Black Genesis: A Resource Book for African-American Genealogy (Gale Genealogy and Local History)

Another great reference book for African-American genealogy, this is a bit more up to date than Black Genealogy. It gives information on different records one can find state-by-state, even detailing into county and city records for some locales. While it doesn’t necessarily go step by step for beginners, it is a great book for looking up what resources exist.

Finding a Place Called Home: A Guide to African-American Genealogy and Historical Identity

A great book for both beginner and intermediate level genealogists and family historians dealing with African American genealogy. It’s great for figuring out what resources are out there for a specific project and how to correctly verify and note research for future use. It also talks about the different eras in American history and which documents you will most likely find in each one.

Genealogy at a Glance: African American Genealogy Research

Not necessarily a book, but a quick reference sheet (technically 4 pages) of how to do African American genealogy. This is perfect for someone who either has already read other genealogy books on African American history and doesn’t want to browse over and over for a certain topic OR who just wants a quick introduction to doing African American research.

Slave Genealogy: A Research Guide with Case Studies

Lastly, there is a research guide for those researching slave genealogies. The interesting part of this book is that it focuses on non-plantation slave genealogies and gives case studies from Kentucky records. It also outlines the various research types and methods that can be used for this kind of genealogy.

Hopefully, this list helps you (or someone you know) as they research African American genealogy.

Questions? Comments?

Have questions or comments on this subject? Know any other good books on African American genealogy? Let me know down in the comments. And if you like what you’ve been seeing here on Tenacious Genealogy – please subscribe to our email list. Not only will you stay up to date with the latest blog posts, but you’ll also get access to freebies such as ’10 Tips for Starting Your Genealogy’ and other fun ‘subscriber only’ items!

4 thoughts on “10 Books on African American Genealogy & History

  1. Phil says:

    Am really enjoying this book, trying to savor the information and really admire the hard work involved in tracking down leads. Have used some of the methods and am developing the necessary patience to go down blind alleys for discoveries. Thank you so much for this book. My Mothers family are from Calhoun Falls, SC so i feel a real kinship.

    • Natonne Elaine Kemp says:


      Glad you are enjoying the book. Thanks for your kind words. Continue researching, unlocking doors and uncovering “The Hidden Figures” of your family trees.

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