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Jefferson County History Center at Jefferson College: African American Genealogy

African American Genealogy Research

Researching ancestors who were enslaved presents numerous challenges for families. This guide presents a variety of resources to help those beginning the process of creating a family history and those who are interested in continuing their research. Some resources require a Jefferson College ID or Jefferson College Library Community Card; these have been noted in most cases. Other resources are freely available.

Image: Library of Congress

Family Search’s Guide to African American Genealogy

Family Search offers this guide to help those researching African American family histories.

Jefferson County History Center Resources

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. on DNA Testing

As host of the PBS series Finding Your Roots, Gates tells celebrities about their family history. He reflects on his own history and some of the more controversial aspects of DNA testing.

Missouri State Archives: What's Your Story?

Mapping Slavery

Image:A View of the Slave Population of the Several Counties of Missouri, Showing the Whole Number of Slaves in Each County

Description: "This map by Leigh shows visually that Missouri was not split over slavery north to south or east to west, from 1820 and before, slavery followed the Missouri River valley and rich agricultural and industrial heartland of the state out of St. Louis, straight to Kansas City."

From Bird's-eye Views of Slavery in Missouri / by E. Leigh, M.D. St. Louis: Woods et al, 1862.

Image Source: Saint Louis Mercantile Library at the University of Missouri Saint Louis.

Burns v Eastwood Sale of Enslaved Persons--1854 Jefferson County Circuit Court

The complete file pertaining to this case can be viewed online here. You may also visit the Jefferson County History Center at Jefferson College Library to view the original file. This, and other cases, can be used to find family connections and stories. Though not numerous, the files from the Jefferson County Circuit Court held in the Jefferson County History Center contain important information for those who wish to learn more about the role of slavery in the county.

Tips for finding records containing family members who were enslaved.

Getting Started

Jefferson College Library Genealogy & History Databases

These resources are available to all Jefferson College students, faculty, and staff. They are also available onsite to the public and offsite to those with Jefferson College Community Library cards. Please call 636-481-3166 for information about how to obtain a library card.

Jefferson County History Center at Jefferson College Library

Photo:Section 3 at CCC Co. 1743 – De Soto, MO (courtesy Missouri State Parks)

The mission of the Jefferson County History Center is to encourage an interest in the Historical Culture of Jefferson County by collecting, preserving and making available materials of historical value related to the development of Jefferson County and the history of its people. A variety of print and online tools are available to researchers

1850 & 1860 Jefferson County Slave Schedules

1850 Jefferson County, MO Slave Census

1860 Jefferson County, MO Slave Census

Prior to 1850 slaves were enumerated on the general population schedule.  The 1850 census included separate enumerations of slaves.  These schedules list names of slave owners; how many slaves they owned; the enslaved person’s age, color, and sex;  whether they were a fugitive from the state or whether they had been manumitted; whether the enslaved person was deaf, dumb, blind, insane, or idiotic.  Slave names were NOT listed in 1850.

The 1860 slave schedule adds a column for the number of slave houses on the property.  Also, census enumerators were instructed to include the names of slaves who were 100 years old or older.  Only about half of those over 100 actually included names.  A list of the 43 slaves in Missouri who were 100 years old or older was compiled by RootsWeb.  To view the list, open this PDF PDF file.

PBS—African American Lives: Listening to our Past

This 2005 series explores the lives of African Americans, including how the history of slavery makes genealogy research challenging. It is a precursor to the popular “Finding Your Roots” program hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. It is available through Films on Demand or from PBS.It is available in the Library and off-campus to current Jefferson College faculty, staff, and students and community card holders.

Screen shot of image from African American Lives: Listening to our Past from PBS

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