Illinois Ancestors | Plenty of news on black history

Illinois Ancestors | Plenty of news on black history

Black History Month, celebrated every February in the United States and Canada, is an appropriate time to acknowledge special people and events pertaining to that ethnic group.

For example, the City University of New York has compiled that state's first Slavery Records Index. This free database enables researchers to search over 35,000 records, including the names of slave owners and those individuals who escaped slavery through the Underground Railroad.

Some records date as early as 1525 and they end during the Civil War. The data comes "from census records, slave trade transactions, cemetery records, birth certifications, manumissions, ship inventories, newspaper accounts, private narratives, legal documents and many other sources." Read about this unique resource at

The toolbar across the top of this website provides links to search, search instructions, sources, and more. It is suggested that researchers begin "with a quick and easy 'tag' search on a topic." The tags include "BON: records of slaves who escaped to the British during the Revolutionary War and who subsequently emigrated to Canada as free persons." Also, "RAN: These are records based on runaway slave notices and ads."

The team of John Jay College professors and students is continuing to gather data from additional sources, thus enabling this database to grow.

Black genealogy resources

A helpful website, "Best Locations To Find Resources for Black Genealogy and Family History," at provides links to seven websites that researchers should not overlook. Each site also provides its own list of additional resources.

Happy discovery after Hurricane Harvey

A resident of Victoria County, Texas, made an unexpected discovery while cleaning up his property following the flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey in August 2017.

Cody Shugart was mowing along his fence line when his mower hit something. It turned out to be the tombstone of a Civil War soldier, Pvt. Henry Mack, a member of the 7th U.S. Colored Infantry. ("Mack was born a slave in Maryland and had joined the Union Army to gain his freedom.")

Watch a video and read of this discovery and about the veteran himself at The gravesite is now marked with an American flag and a cross — "a proper memorial."

African-Americans in the 1870 Census

Genealogist, author and African-American Tony Burroughs published a helpful article in HeritageQuest magazine several years ago that remains pertinent today. "Finding African-Americans on the 1870 Census," at, uses several real case studies to show how such census research can be successful. He does stress, however, that such research takes "time, perseverance and sometimes a little ingenuity."

Free blacks in Revolution listed online

Over 900 African-Americans who were born free during the colonial period served in the American Revolution from Virginia, North and South Carolina, Maryland and Delaware.

Paul Heinegg has posted, at, "List of Free African Americans in the Revolution: Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland and Delaware (followed by French and Indian Wars and colonial militias)."

His homepage at provides links to other websites with African-American data. Questions and comments (and thanks) can be sent to the author at

Queries, 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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