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date: 06 August 2020


  • Tony Burroughs


Genealogy is a subset of family history—it is, more specifically, the study of family lineage, tracing a person's ancestors backward into time, or tracing the descendants of a person in the past into the present. Early African American family history consisted primarily of oral history, sometimes adding data from family records (such as Bible entries and funeral programs) and cemetery grave markers. More formally, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History published twenty-eight family histories from 1942 to 1978 in the Negro History Bulletin, and the African American journalist Frank Bolden published eight feature-length histories of black families from western Pennsylvania in the Pittsburgh Courier in 1950, documenting family roots going back 100 to 220 years.

Interest in African American genealogy exploded after the author Alex Haley researched his family history during the late 1960s and published a fictionalized version of his family story ...

A version of this article originally appeared in The Encyclopedia of African American History, 1896 to the Present.

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