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Genealogy Research at Wilson Special Collections Library: African American Genealogy

African American Genealogy Resources and Guides

Below is a collection of links to online databases that may be of interest to individuals researching African American genealogy. Please note that some of these resources can only be accessed from a computer on UNC's campus or with a UNC Onyen.

The State Library of North Carolina's Government and Heritage Library details some excellent recommendations for researching African American genealogy, focused on records of enslaved people. They also offer a bibliography.

Other resources can be found in the UNC-Chapel Hill library system by searching for the subject African American Genealogy. Books in the results list can be found at many libraries or acquired through Interlibrary Loan, if a visit to UNC is not possible.

Records of Enslaved Persons in Wilson's Manuscript Collections

Although the Southern Historical Collection contains the records of enslavers and white families who owned plantations, it is rare to find any genealogical information related the persons enslaved by these families. Some did keep plantation journals, lists enslaved people, and other transactional records of enslaved persons, but the information contained in these resources is far from comprehensive in most cases. The Southern Historical Collection does not have any slave narratives in its holdings. Published slave narratives can be found in the North Carolina Collection and Rare Book Collection at Wilson Special Collections Library.

The best way to locate records of enslaved persons is to search for the names of the families or individuals who enslaved them using this tool to search Wilson Library manuscript inventories or Finding Aids. After locating a relevant finding aid, use a "ctrl-F" keyword search for the word "slave" to find related records within the collection.

Some manuscripts collections in Wilson Library have comparatively substantial holdings related to enslaved people. There is archival material related to slavery and slaveholding in other collections as well.

See also this research guide Voices of the Enslaved in Wilson Special Collections Library

Printed Resources in the North Carolina Collection

The North Carolina Collection collects printed material related to the history of African American families and communities. Some searches that could be fruitful are African Americans -- (insert NC county name) or African Americans -- Genealogy -- North Carolina.

The following are reference sources for African American genealogy: