African American Genealogy

African American?  Hire the Expert…

Johni Cerny, Chief Genealogist for African American Lives 1 & 2Faces of America & Finding Your Roots with Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.!

The 1860 census counted 3,953,760 slaves living in the southern states. Documenting the lives and relationships of those slaves may be impossible without the help of experienced professionals. African American research is so difficult that few full-time genealogists specialize in that field of study. Years ago Lineages, Inc. saw the void and became experts in African American genealogy. Our services are designed to meet the needs of anyone who hires us to trace their ancestry. African Americans share several research goals, including:

  1. Untangle the truths in their family’s oral history from the embellishments that have been introduced with each retelling of the story.
  2. Trace their ancestors back as far as possible in the time allowed for each project.
  3. Identify who owned their ancestors and where they lived as slaves.
  4. Determine if any of their ancestors were free persons of color before 1865.
  5. Find out where their ancestors lived in Africa.

Oral history plays a very important role in tracing African American ancestors. Over time bits and pieces of family stories change. Some become so distorted that they lead amateur researchers far from the truth. A professional genealogist does not have an emotional attachment to oral history and will attempt to document each fact and set aside those that cannot be proved.

After tracing an African American family back to 1865, our focus will turn to identifying who owned former slaves before the Emancipation.  During slavery, we have to look for your ancestor’s names in public records filed by their owner.  We’ll search property, estate, and court records, as well as slave schedules, to prove the owner-slave relationship. Sometimes public records are silent about that relationship, which limits the number of generations that one family line can be traced. If we hit a dead-end on one family line, we’ll move to another and see where it goes. All during this process, the story of your slave ancestors will unfold.

New customers will download a “Family Tree Research Packet” to complete and return before research can begin. Each completed project is compiled into a printed booklet that includes a Research Report, Document Calendar (a listing all  documents used to prove your ancestry generation by generation), photocopies or extracts of the documents found for each ancestral family, and computerized pedigree charts and family group records. A digital version (PDF) of the booklet is available upon request, along with a GEDCOM file at no additional cost.  Questions? Please call us at 1-801-571-6122 (best choice) or email  Lineages charges 40% less per project than most competitors!

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