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Genealogy 101

Getting Started with African American Family Research


So how do you get started? You start with yourself!

This is a critically important step to ensure you that you are actually researching the correct people.

Remember no one can tell your story better than you

so began to make notes about different times in your life. List your earliest memories, and if you’re more comfortable speaking instead of writing create a video on your smartphone telling your own life story.

Next begin to work your way back.

Start with your parents, note everything you know about them then move to your grandparents and great grands and 2x great grands if you know who they are.

List birth dates, marriage dates, and death dates if you have that information.

Next begin to gather information

Take a look around your house. What family information do you already have?

Do you have graduation, wedding or funeral programs, newspaper clippings, family reunion documents or photos of relatives?

Interview all living family members starting with the elders!

Interview all your living relatives. Start with the elders but don’t overlook anyone who may have known now deceased relatives.

We have smartphones now so it’s easy to record phone calls or safe in-person interviews


Once you have your information and some interviews take the time to review everything and organize it by each generation. You can use notebooks or journals,  create file folders if you prefer paper, or you can set up electronic files.

Just be sure save your information to the cloud and make sure at least two other family members have copies or access to the information.

Blogs, Books, and Podcasts

Blogs, books, and podcasts can provide insight into the methods and strategies used to identify our ancestors. Check out the resources from featured AAHGS members.


Melvin Collier

Robyn Smith

Dr. Shelley Murphy

Angela Walton-Raji

Renate Yarborough Sanders


Bernice Alexander Bennett

Margo Lee Williams 

LaBrenda Garrett Nelson 

Angela Walton-Raji


Speak On It! 
Janice Gilyard and Cherekana Feliciano (Blog-Talk Radio)

Journey Through the Generations
Phillip and Trisha Cummings (Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pandora, etc.)

Research at the National Archives & Beyond
Bernice Alexander Bennett (Blog-Talk Radio)


Find Your African American Ancestors

National Archives (NARA)

10 Million Names 

Additional Online Resources

African American Resource Guide (PDF)

Mapping the Freedman’s Bureau

Library of Congress - Chronicling America

US Census Overview

Genetic Genealogy
National Office

Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, Inc.

P. O. Box 73067
Washington, DC 20056-3067


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