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African American Research Tips
February is Black History Month. It would be a good time to reflect on our ancestors and update your medical records.
If a Reunion is planned for this Spring/Summer, mail out pedigrees and family group sheets. This will allow relatives to find the information and write down their family stories.
Here are some tips in doing your research:
Search as many kinds of records as you can find to document from your family back to the 1870’s (the period right after slavery)
Study ALL family members including aunts, uncles, and cousins; not just direct ancestors.
Look for changing surnames. Some African Americans change surnames several times. If you can’t find your family in a census record, but you know the family’s location at the time of the census, look for the first names and approximate ages of family members. You may find a match!
If you ancestor is not listed in the index, check the original records. Some indexes did not include African Americans.
Understand that some old records may have described your ancestor in terms that are not appropriate. In some cases, they may have been listed as property.
If you can not find your ancestor in the colored section, check the white section to be sure. Same situation applies to the white families. The families were not always documented as to race properly. Mulatto was a term used to indicate mixed race. This could also apply to black/indian or white/black, etc.
Updating your medical history and interviewing your relatives for the medical history is very important part of your research. It can aid in early medical intervention to prevent illnesses that are genetic...As you review the death certificate, make note of the cause of death. This is very important in documenting your medical history and something to inform your doctor if a history in the family of heart disease, diabetes, sickle cell among other disease.
As finances permit, add to your genealogical library. "Black Roots" written by Tony Burroughs is a great tool in African American research.
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