Genealogical research for African Americans

The most difficult part of genealogical research for African Americans is finding and identifying slave ancestors and their owners. This lecture will focus on the clues and resources needed to recreate an African American ancestor’s journey from freedom back to slavery. Using a case study, learn basic tools of family history research. Learn the importance of analyzing the information that you find, identifying potential records, as well as realizing how important collateral/cluster line research is to the success in the genealogical process. Using the 1940 U.S. Federal Census as the starting point, we will follow an African American family back through pre-1870 records to identify the potential slave holder. In addition to the census, this journey will utilize a number of records groups that will help prove how two families, one black, and one white, are intertwined.

Deborah A. Abbott, PhD, is a professional genealogist specializing in genealogical methodology, manuscript collections, and African American family research. She is a member of the Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Archives Commission, an affiliate with the Kentucky-Tennessee Associates, past president of the African American Genealogical Society, Cleveland, Ohio, and a retired professor of Counseling from Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland. She holds both the BS and MEd degrees from Tuskegee University in Alabama and the PhD degree from Kent State University in Ohio.

Dr. Abbott is coordinator of the African American Track at the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR) and the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP), in addition, she teaches at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG) and the Texas Institute of Genealogical Research (TIGR). She also presents lectures and workshops for national, state and local genealogy conferences, colleges, businesses, and libraries across the country. She has had articles published in the Ohio Genealogy News and Family Tree magazines. Dr. Abbott can be found teaching African American genealogy in a segment entitled “Needles & Threads” on Ancestry Academy, an educational video course for

This program is FREE to WVGS members. If you are not a member, you may join this meeting and all of the following meetings in 2022 by sending $15 per individual, or $20 per family to Wabash Valley Genealogy Society, P O Box 7012, Terre Haute, IN 47802-7012. If you wish to pay using Paypal, add $2 to each choice. You can obtain the application by going to Click on membership. Watch this site to see more upcoming events or check WVGS Facebook page. Send application at least one week before the meeting date.

For this fee, you will be able to obtain assistance from other members when you reach a “brick wall” in your research. You will also receive a bi-monthly newsletter. Handouts and recorded videos will be available for periods of time for members only . . . so join to take advantage of the WVGS offerings.