African American Family History

Maybe your family story was hidden, but it isn’t lost.

Most people whose African ancestors were on the American continent before 1860 had enslaved ancestors. For some families, this period lasted until the Emancipation Proclamation; some secured freedom by the early 18th century. Even if branches of your family tree lived outside of slavery before 1865, they might be difficult to trace because discrimination complicated their existence and led them to change their names, move in search of work or safety, or circulate in complex family networks that aren’t always accurately recorded in censuses or other basic record types used for genealogy.

My own ancestors of African descent can be traced back to, in my mother’s family, the era of slavery in New York and New Jersey; and on my father’s side, to the Eastern Shore of Virginia and eastern North Carolina and South Carolina. I know how powerful it is to reconnect family members who were involuntarily separated from one another and see family histories unfold despite others’ attempts to suppress and erase them. Whether the earliest known locations of your ancestors are in northern or southern states, through careful analysis of evidence drawn from sources such as court and probate records, family papers, and, if you are interested, DNA, we can bring the layers of your family story back into the light.