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Studying and determining ancestral lineage is like putting together a puzzle. You have to know certain things to get to other information. Below are some beginner tips.

  1. Talk to your oldest relative; oral history is key. As African Americans, many things have been stripped from us, but do not underestimate the power of learning from elders. Though these relatives may not have memorized information for ancestral research such as exact dates of birth, you may find that they know names, locations of birth/death and life occurrences that will aid you in your research.
  2. Talk to your family’s genealogist. Send an email to your family members and see who has been studying your family tree; the results will surprise you. You may not know you have a genealogist in your family, or they may not consider themselves a genealogist, yet their work of tracing lineage and knowing where family members live can prove beneficial.
  3. Join a local genealogy group. There are national as well as state and local genealogical societies that can teach you how to do more in-depth research. Simply Google your city and “genealogical society” and something will come up in. If a genealogy society does not appear, try starting with your local historical society and go from there.
  4. Join or These two websites, and surely others, have basically uploaded all vital documents that would pertain to ancestry, including birth and death records; census records; marriage records; etc. These documents are necessary to trace lineage.
  5. Hold your local public library accountable. I have contacted my local library several times about researching my enslaved ancestors; and generally to no avail. Libraries are supposed to be bastions of information, yet they always fall short here. Be vocal with your local library about American slavery research.