How to Find Out If Your Family Were Slaves

family tree image by Judy Ben Joud from

Many people have a great interest in their family's past. Knowing where we came from, what our ancestors did and where they lived convince many people to create family trees to help map out the family's historical timeline. If you are interested in finding out if your family were slaves, you can take a few steps to find out.

Talk to your relatives. Ask older relatives first about your family's history. Take notes to help you in further research.

Assemble your family records. Family records can help you track your ancestors in historical documents, newspaper articles and other files. Collect any birth records, obituaries, divorce records, insurance papers, membership cards, church programs, military papers, property deeds and photographs.

Research Federal Census records. Federal Census records keep track of where people live, when they were born, what they did for a living and when they died. Use the names from your family records to track as far back into history as you can. You can access Federal Census records at state archive departments, city libraries and some colleges and universities on online at the U.S. Census Bureau website at can help you in your search for a subscription fee.

Search for slave owner names. If you have not found any information that labels your family as slaves in the research you have completed so far, you should search for slave owner names. Use the information gathered thus far to narrow down which part of the country, what year and perhaps even what city your family would have lived in if they were slaves. Then, use the Federal Census records to research slave owners in those areas. In the slave owners records, you should have the ability to find information on the slaves they owned and when they bought and or sold them.