Illinois Ancestors: Slavery issues and online resources

Illinois Ancestors: Slavery issues and online resources

Researchers who are interested in African American information and records that pertain to slavery can find many helpful sites on the Internet. A good place to start is the article in the National Archives and Records Administration's (NARA) publication, Prologue, "Living With The Hydra The Documentation of Slavery and the Slave Trade in Federal Records" (Winter 2000, Vol. 32, No. 4), which can be viewed at (It is useful to know that Webster defines "hydra" as an "ever-increasing evil with many sources and causes.")

Author Walter B. Hill Jr. was a NARA archivist when the article was written, and his documented account is essential for a better understanding of records that were created at the federal level.

Hill's notes include a list of 32 references that should be consulted for further study. For example, it is mentioned that the U.S. Customs Service maintained manifest records of "both legal (before January 1.1808) and illegal (after 1808) importation of Africans into the US." Also, the U.S. African Squadron was established in 1842 to allow the U.S. Navy to patrol the west coast of Africa to suppress the slave trade.

NARA's records

NARA has many records pertaining to American slavery and the international slave trade in Congressional records, civil records (e.g., records of the U.S. Customs Service), military records, and judicial records. A website that identifies the record groups in these categories (with brief descriptions and locations) can be accessed at The actual documents are not available online.

NARA has a helpful website pertaining to African American Research. Titled Introduction to Research and Links to Resources and accessible at — the website should be bookmarked for repeated use.

The list of 40-plus links include several to additional articles from issues of Prologue magazine, photographs of African Americans during World War II (accessible directly from, teaching materials related to the Armistad Case and many links pertaining to the Freedman's Bureau. For additional links, visit Cyndi's List (at and search her website for "African-American Slavery."

Her website provides links to 87 websites having related information.

Grant to study D.C. Africana

A half-million dollar grant has been given to George Washington University and five other city organizations to establish the D.C. Africana Archives Project at Gelman Library and to document African American culture, history and politics in the District of Columbia.

The project will enable access to over 125 important African-American collections by creating a centralized database that includes records from these groups. The director of the program, Jennifer James, says that such "increased access will generate surprising discoveries about black life in Washington, D.C. and lead to new and groundbreaking research."

Faculty from the program will develop interdisciplinary research projects, undergraduate courses, and scholarly forums making use of the collections.

McLean County biographies

The My Genealogy Hound website has added 1,257 McLean County family biographies to its website at This latest addition is from the 1879 History of McLean County and is available free. This website provides over 22,500 biographies from 143 counties in 10 states and also has an extensive map collection available. Additional information is continually being added to this website; thus it would be wise to bookmark the site and visit often.

50th anniversary open house

The Illiana Genealogical & Historical Society (IGHS) is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and special events are planned. From 1-4 p.m. May 31, there will be an open house at the Illiana Genealogy Library, 215 W. North St., Danville.

There will be teaching stations in the various areas, volunteers will be available to assist researchers, duplicate books will be for sale and refreshments will be served. The public is cordially invited. For more information, phone 217-431-8733. Visit the IGHS website at for membership information as well as links to other resources and the IGHS research page.

Queries and genealogical questions from researchers and genealogical materials readers would like to share will be printed in this column free. Joan Griffis may be reached via email at or by sending a letter to Illinois Ancestors, c/o The News-Gazette, P.O. Box 677, Champaign, IL 61824-0677.

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