Most research on minorities consists of consulting the same types of records as research for non-minorities. The purpose of this section is to identify a few special sources that influence research on minority families in Alabama.
Records and histories of minorities and ethnic groups may provide clues to immigrant origins, migration information, and previous residences. Some records, histories, and periodicals of African-Americans, Germans, Jews, and others are available at the Family History Library.
Resources for African-American research fall into two periods: pre-and post-Civil War. Post-Civil War research consists of consulting the same record types you would use to research non–African-Americans. Pre-Civil War records consist of slave importation declarations, plantation records, emancipation records, apprenticeship bonds for freedmen, Alabama hiring practices, census records, plantation owners’ family records, church and cemetery records, military records, and Alabama court records.
An excellent source is the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company. This company was created to assist African-American soldiers of the Civil War and freed slaves. Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company signature cards or registers from 3 March 1865 to 25 July 1874 may list the name of the depositor, date of entry, age, birthplace, residence, complexion, name of employer or occupation, wife or husband’s name, death information, children’s names, name of father and mother, brothers’ and sisters’ names, remarks, and signature. Early books sometimes contained the name of the former master or mistress and the name of the plantation. Copies of death certificates were sometimes attached to the entries. The collection is organized alphabetically by state, then city where the bank was located, then date the account was established, then account number.
Alabama had a branch of the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company in Huntsville and Mobile. In each city depositors are listed by account number. The records are in:
Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company (Huntsville, Alabama). Registers of Signatures of Depositors, 1865–1874. National Archives Microfilm Publications, M0816. Washington, D.C.: National Archives, 1969. (Family History Library film 928571.)
Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company (Mobile, Alabama). Registers of Signatures of Depositors, 1867–1874. National Archives Microfilm Publications, M0816. Washington, D.C.: National Archives, 1969. (Family History Library film 928572.)
Freedman’s Bureau. Additional government records are:
United States. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. Records of the Assistant Commissioner for Alabama, 1865–1869. National Archives Microfilm Publications, M0809. Washington, D.C.: National Archives, 1969. (Family History Library films 1612338–60.) These reports primarily contain statistical and historical information. For 1865 and 1866, the section on abandoned and confiscated lands (Family History Library film 1612358) includes the names of the owners of the plantations or homes that were abandoned, confiscated, or leased. It gives the county and location, a description of the house, the number of acres owned, and the number of cabins of former slaves. These films do not appear to contain the names of former slaves.
The separate Freedman’s Bureau records do not usually name relatives or give genealogical information. They can be found in the Family History Library Catalog Subject Search under:
- FREEDMEN - ALABAMA
Slaves are sometimes mentioned in deeds (see "Land and Property"), wills (see "Probate Records"), tax records (see "Taxation"), and court order books (see "Court Records") under their owner’s name. A few parish registers (see "Church Records") list slaves who attended church with their masters.
A record was made of men of African descent who served in the Confederate Army:
Alabama. Department of Archives and History. Negroes in the Confederate Army, 1860–1907. (Family History Library film 1653243 item 4.) This source lists the name of the soldier and his duty. It may indicate the name of the slave owner, the date of pay, master’s place of residence, where the soldier served in the military, and his military expenses.
Plantation Records. Some plantation records mention slaves. The Family History Library has many plantation records on microfilm. These records are described in a series of booklets by Kenneth M. Stampp. Guides for Series A–M are available at the Family History Library:
Stampp, Kenneth M., ed. A Guide to Records of Antebellum Southern Plantations from the Revolution through the Civil War: Series A–M, Selections from the Manuscript Department, Duke University Library. Frederick, Maryland: University Publications of America, 1986. ( Family History Library book 975 H2sm.) The Family History Library has microfilms of most of the records described in the guide. Alabama plantation records are scattered throughout.
For example, the booklet for Series F describes records of many plantations in Alabama and other states of the Deep South. The records were microfilmed at Duke University, in Durham, North Carolina. They are:
Records of Ante-bellum Southern Plantations from the Revolution Through the Civil War: Series F, Selections from the Manuscript Department, Duke University Library. Frederick, Maryland: University Publications of America, 1986–1987. (On 84 Family History Library films beginning with 1549774.)
Biographies. Several biographical dictionaries, compendia, and histories may contain information you need, for example:
Black Biographical Dictionaries, 1790–1950. Alexandria, Virginia: Chadwyck-Healy, 1980. (On 1070 Family History Library fiche beginning with 6049870.) This publication is sometimes referred to as "The Black Biography Project." Three of the sources included in this collection are:
Bothe, Charles Octavius. The Cyclopedia of the Colored Baptists of Alabama: Their Leaders and Their Work. Birmingham, Alabama: Birmingham Alabama Publishing, 1895. (Family History Libraryfiche 6078965 [set of 3].) This book contains biographies, birth dates, parents’ names, and sometimes pictures. It also provides information on associations and state conventions.
Mixon, Winfield Henri. History of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Alabama, with Biographical Sketches. Selma, Alabama: A.M.E. Church Sunday School Union, 1902. (Family History Library fiche 6079113 [set of 3].) This book provides pictures, church minutes and history, and speeches. There is no index.
Moorman, Joseph H. and E. L. Barrett. Leaders of the Colored Race in Alabama. Mobile, Alabama: News Publishing, [198–?]. (Family History Library fiche 6079115 [set of 2].) This source contains biographical sketches with birth dates, educational information, a history of each minister’s service, and a history of churches. It includes an index.
For a history of slavery in Alabama, see:
Sellers, James Benson. Slavery in Alabama. Tuscaloosa, Alabama: University of Alabama Press, 1950, 1994. (Family History Library book 976.1 F2s.) This 426 page book includes a bibliography, on pages 399–409.
Records of African-Americans may be listed as "colored" in birth, marriage and death records. See Alabama Birth, Marriage, and Death Records for those records.
Taylor, Frazine K. Researching African American Genealogy in Alabama A Resource Guide. Montgomery, Alabama: NewSouth Books. 2008.
Online Resources for African-American Research
- Alabama Department of Archives and History
- Alabama Statewide Deaths 1908-1974 (Record Search)
- Researching African American Genealogy in Alabama by Frazine K. Taylor (Google Books)
- Birmingham Public Library: Collections and Research
- Alabama African American Genealogy Research - A list of Alabama genealogy resources, including records and databases.
- Access Genealogy: Alabama African American Records
Italian immigrants settled in Birmingham in the early 20th century. For a list of books and articles about these families, see Alabama History: An Annotated Bibliography mentioned in Alabama History.
See also United States Minorities for additional resources.
Other records and histories of ethnic, racial, and religious groups in Alabama are listed in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
- ALABAMA - MINORITIES
- ALABAMA, [COUNTY] - MINORITIES
- ALABAMA, [COUNTY], [TOWN] - MINORITIES
You will also find records in the Subject Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
- AFRO-AMERICANS - ALABAMA