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Public claims, slaves and free blacks, 1781-1865

Contains tax records for free blacks and slaves, records of condemned blacks who were executed or transported out of state, and records of runaway slaves who were caught and whose owners could not be found. The runaway slaves became the property of the state and were sold to new owners.

The General Assembly of Virginia passed restrictive laws in response to white fears of slave rebellion. Free blacks were also subjected to harsh laws and taxes.

Library of Virginia              FamilySearch                

10 Million Names

10 Million Names is a collaborative project dedicated to recovering the names of the estimated 10 million men, women, and children of African descent who were enslaved in pre- and post-colonial America (specifically, the territory that would become the United States) between the 1500s and 1865.

The project seeks to amplify the voices of people who have been telling their family stories for centuries, connect researchers and data partners with people seeking answers to family history questions, and expand access to data, resources, and information about enslaved African Americans.

10 Million Names

Burned Counties

Local courthouse or repository was wiped out by  fire, tornado, war, flood, hurricane, earthquake, insects, rodents, mold, neglect, foxing, theft, tsunami, or cleaning-streak.

Burned Counties​​



Learn about Homesteading

Black Homesteading

The Homestead Act of 1862, in U.S. history, significant legislative action that promoted the settlement and development of the American West. It was also notable for the opportunity it gave the formerly enslaved  to own land. President Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act into law on May 20, 1862.


Black Church Fires and Bombings

Attacks against African-American churches in the United States have taken the form of arson, bombings, mass murder, hate crimes, and white supremacist-propelled domestic terrorism. This timeline documents acts of violence against churches with predominantly black leadership and congregations. 

This topic was added by Jajuan Johnson


1850 and 1860 U.S. Census Slave Schedules

The 1850 and 1860 U.S. Census Slave Schedules were specialized sections of the decennial population census conducted by the United States government in those years. Unlike the regular population schedules that listed free individuals, these slave schedules focused on recording information about enslaved individuals. The main purpose of these schedules was to provide demographic data about the enslaved population, which was vital for various economic, social, and political purposes during that time.

Since enslaved individuals were considered property rather than citizens, they were not listed by name in the same way as free individuals. Instead, the slave schedules provided aggregated data for slaveholders and slave-owning households. The information recorded on these schedules typically included:

1.     Name of Slaveholder: The name of the individual who owned or controlled the enslaved individuals.

2.     Number of Slaves: The number of enslaved individuals owned by the slaveholder, categorized by age, gender, and sometimes race.

3.     Age, Gender, and Race of Enslaved Individuals: Although not listed by name, enslaved individuals were grouped by age ranges, gender, and race (usually denoted as "B" for Black, “M’ for Mullatto). These categories could include "under 5 years old," "5-10 years old," "10-24 years old," "24-36 years old," etc.

4.     Other Statistical Data: In some cases, the schedules might also include information about the number of enslaved individuals who were fugitives, deaf, blind, or otherwise disabled.

These slave schedules served multiple purposes, including assisting local and federal governments in understanding the size and demographics of the enslaved population. The data collected through these schedules helped lawmakers make decisions related to representation, taxation, and various policies. It was also used to gauge the economic value of enslaved individuals and the productivity of slaveholders' estates.

For genealogical research, the absence of enslaved individuals’ names on these schedules presents a significant challenge. As mentioned, this makes it difficult to directly identify specific ancestors among the enslaved population. Researchers often need to rely on other historical records, such as wills, estate inventories, plantation records, church records, and oral histories, to try to piece together information about their enslaved ancestors. Collaborative efforts by genealogists, historians, and archivists have been crucial in documenting and uncovering the lives of enslaved individuals and their families.

In recent years, there has been increased attention to and efforts in uncovering the stories of enslaved individuals through digital archives, community projects, and academic research. This work aims to honor their experiences, contributions, and the challenges they faced while living under the system of slavery in the United States.

The 1850 and 1860 U.S. Census were both important decennial enumerations conducted by the United States government, aimed at collecting demographic and socio-economic data about the population. However, they had a distinct difference when it comes to the information they gathered regarding slavery.

Population Schedule:

The population schedule of the U.S. Census refers to the standard enumeration of all individuals living in a household during the respective census years. This schedule collected information about each individual's name, age, sex, race, occupation, place of birth, and more. It aimed to provide a comprehensive picture of the population's demographic makeup and socio-economic characteristics. This data was vital for government planning, policymaking, and various other purposes.

Slave Schedule:

The slave schedule, on the other hand, was a separate part of the census that recorded information about enslaved individuals. In both the 1850 and 1860 censuses, the slave schedule gathered data about the enslaved population, including the names of slaveholders, the number of enslaved individuals they owned, and some basic demographic information about the enslaved population, such as age, sex, and color. This schedule provided insights into the extent of slavery and the conditions of the enslaved individuals at that time.

Key Differences:

The primary difference between the population schedule and the slave schedule lies in the focus of their data collection:

  1. Population Schedule (1850 and 1860):
  • Focus: Captured information about the entire free population living in households, including citizens, immigrants, and individuals of all races and backgrounds.
  • Information Collected: Name, age, sex, race, occupation, place of birth, marital status, etc.

Slave Schedule (1850 and 1860):

  • Focus: Specifically targeted the enslaved population and the slaveholders who owned them.
  • Information Collected: Names of slaveholders, number of enslaved individuals owned, age, sex, and color of the enslaved individuals.

In essence, while the population schedule provided a general overview of the entire population, the slave schedule provided specific information about the enslaved individuals and their owners. This distinction highlights the deeply entrenched practice of slavery in the United States during that era, and the government's recognition of enslaved individuals as property rather than as free citizens. The data from these schedules serves as crucial historical records for understanding the complexities of American society and its demographics during this tumultuous period.

The Importance of the 1870 Census

The 1870 Census in the United States was significant for genealogical research related to enslaved ancestors for a few key reasons:

1. First Census After Emancipation: The 1870 Census was the first census conducted after the Civil War and the abolition of slavery. It was conducted on June 1, 1870. This was crucial because it marked the first time that formerly enslaved individuals were listed by their names in an official government document. Prior to this, enslaved individuals were often only recorded as numbers or listed under their owners' names.

2. Inclusion of Previously Excluded Individuals: Enslaved individuals were not included in earlier census records as individual people. Instead, they were often tallied as property or part of their enslavers' households. The 1870 Census aimed to rectify this by listing each individual, including their names, ages, and other personal information.

3. Identification of Family Units: The 1870 Census allowed researchers to identify family units among formerly enslaved individuals, as family relationships were recorded. This made it possible to trace family connections and relationships that had often been broken due to the institution of slavery.

4. Race and Ethnicity: The 1870 Census did include information about the race of individuals. This was a reflection of the social and racial dynamics of the time. Enumerators were instructed to identify individuals as "White," "Black," "Mulatto" (mixed-race), "Chinese," "Indian," or "Other." While the racial categories can be problematic from a modern perspective, they can still provide valuable insights into the demographics and social structure of the time.

5. Enslaved Individuals' Self-Identification: In some cases, formerly enslaved individuals who were listed in the 1870 Census had the opportunity to self-identify their ages, family members, and occupations. This self-identification aspect can provide a more accurate representation of individuals' experiences and circumstances.

6. Genealogical Research: For researchers and descendants of enslaved individuals, the 1870 Census serves as a crucial starting point for tracing family histories and genealogies. It can provide leads to further research, such as examining earlier records, oral histories, and other historical sources.

It's important to note that while the 1870 Census was a significant step in recording previously excluded individuals, it wasn't without its limitations. Census data can sometimes be incomplete, inaccurate, or difficult to interpret due to various factors, such as illiteracy, language barriers, and enumerator bias. Researchers should use multiple sources and approaches to build a comprehensive understanding of their ancestors' lives.

U.S. Census Information​​

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Canada Censuses

​Census returns are official Government of Canada record​s that enumerate the country's population. They are an invaluable source of information for genealogy research. Starting in 1851, most census records included the names of every resident, their country or province of birth, age and many other details.

Library and Archives Canada holds an extensive collection of Canadian census records from 1640 to 1926, and for Newfoundland from 1671 to 1945. Our holdings are listed in the sections below.

Canada Census Info.

Dates of States Recording Birth Records

  • Understanding Delayed Birth Records. 
  • What year did each states begin recording birth records? 

Birth Records Dates​​​

Dates of States Recording Death Records

  • What year did each states begin recording death records? 

Death Records Dates

Bureau of Land Management - Land and Patent Records

Federal Land Patents offer researchers a source of information on the initial transfer of land titles from the Federal government to individuals. In addition to verifying title transfer, this information will allow the researcher to associate an individual (Patentee, Assignee, Warrantee, Widow, or Heir) with a specific location (Legal Land Description) and time (Issue Date). We have a variety of Land Patents on our site, including Cash Entry, Homestead and Military Warrant patents.

Land Records

1867 - 1868 Voter Registration

Voter Registra​tion

 When discussing the Civil War, many people understand that the Confederate states seceded as a definitive act, but how these states returned to the Union is often ignored. Part of the process of readmittance to the United States involved affirming U.S. law—including the abolition of slavery and the voting rights of African American men. 

In order to do this, the former Confederate states would have to hold constitutional conventions to pass new state constitutions.  A constitutional convention could only be called by popular vote. On 23 March 1867 the U.S. Congress passed “An Act supplementary to an Act entitled ‘An Act to provide for the more efficient Government of the Rebel States,’ passed March second, eighteen hundred and sixty-seven, and to facilitate Restoration” (40 Stat. 2). The first clause of this act required that, by 1 September 1867, each district would register all male citizens of the United States over the age of twenty-one years that were qualified to vote. In most states, this voter registration constitutes the earliest record containing information about newly-freed African American men.

The voter registration records contain the following information:

  • Name;
  • Time of residence in the state, in the county, and in the precinct;
  • Place of nativity;
  • When and where naturalized;
  • Remarks.

The quality of the evidence varies from state to state, county to county, precinct to precinct. In some cases, the time of residence is universally recorded as “twelve months” and the place of nativity is no more specific than “United States.” In other cases the time of residence can be used to determine a precise migration time, and the place of nativity identifies the place of origin. These two factors can help you identify antebellum migration routes. African American families enslaved prior to the Civil War did not have the right to move about on their own. Certainly some families escaped, but these are the minority. For most families antebellum migration routes for enslaved families indicate antebellum migration routes for their slave owners. These voter registration lists, if nothing else, may provide the necessary evidence.

Unfortunately the lists do not survive for every state. Most of the surviving lists are held by their respective state archives, and many have been microfilmed by the FamilySearch Library in Salt Lake City. Use the FamilySearch Library catalog to check the availability. In addition to these, the Alabama records have been digitized on the website of the Alabama   Department of Archives and History 

Universities Studying Slavery (USS) Within the United Stated

Universities Studying Slavery (USS) Outside the United Stated

  • Liverpool John Moores University (United Kingdom)
  • McGill University (Canada)
  • Universidad del Rosario (Colombia)
  • University of Aberdeen (United Kingdom)
  • University of Bristol (United Kingdom)