African American Resources for Illinois

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Introduction[edit | edit source]

A list of resources for researching African American ancestors who lived in Illinois.

Chicago American Giants 1919

Online Resources[edit | edit source]

Research Strategy[edit | edit source]

See these books to learn more about how to do African American research:

History[edit | edit source]

Slavery was banned by 1818 when Illinois became a state, though the southern part continued to allow slavery for several more years. This part, called "Little Egypt", was mostly settled by Southerners. By 1853 laws were passed prohibiting all African Americans, including freedmen, from settling in the state. This eventually changed after the Civil War.

The Great Migration of African Americans brought many from the rural South to Chicago. Most came from Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas. By 2008, 15.0% of the population in Illinois was African American, with the majority living within the city of Chicago and the surrounding areas.

To learn more, see A History of African Americans in Illinois and African Americans in Illinois.

Explore a Timeline of African Americans in Illinois.

Also read:

  • Hine, Darlene Clark. The Black Women in the Middle West Project: a Comprehensive Resource Guide, Illinois and Indiana; Historical Essays, Oral Histories, Biographical Profiles, and Document Collections. Indianapolis [Indiana]: Indiana Historical Bureau, 1986. Many libraries (WorldCat); FHL book 977 F2h.
  • Miller, Edward A. The Black Civil War Soldiers of Illinois: the Story of the Twenty-Ninth U.S. Colored Infantry. [Columbia, South Carolina]: University of South Carolina Press, 1998. Many libraries (WorldCat); Google Books; FHL book 977.3 M2mi
  • Smith, John David. Black Soldiers in Blue: African American Troops in the Civil War Era. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002. Many libraries (WorldCat)
  • Davis, Elizabeth Lisdsay. The Story of the Illinois Federation of Colored Women's Clubs. Chicago, 1922. Read online at Internet Archive. Available at many libraries (WorldCat).
  • Tregillis, Helen Cox, comp. River Roads to Freedom: Fugitive Slave Notices and Sheriff Notices Found in Illinois Sources. Bowie, Maryland: Heritage Books, 1988. The information was obtained from newspaper microfilm available at the Illinois State Historical Library. Available at many libraries (WorldCat); FHL book 977.3 H6t 
  • Hodges, Carl G., and Helene H. Levene, comps. Illinois Negro Historymakers. Chicago: Illinois Emancipation Centennial Commission, 1964. Available at many libraries (WorldCat); FHL film 982206 Item 5; book 977.3 A1 no. 15.
  • African American Genealogy has more information about researching African Americans
  • Parrish, Randall. "The Battle Against Slavery," in Historic Illinois: The Romance of the Earlier Days. Chicago: A.C. McClurg and Co., 1905; pages 318-332. Free online at Google Books
  • Additional books at the Family History Library

Resources[edit | edit source]

Biographies[edit | edit source]

Cemeteries[edit | edit source]

Census Records[edit | edit source]

Mortality Schedules

  • Illinois Mortality Schedules, 1850-1880 - lists name, age, gender, race, marital status, birthplace, parents' birthplaces, occupation, death month, cause of death, and length of residency in county

Church Records[edit | edit source]

Emancipation Records[edit | edit source]

Funeral Homes[edit | edit source]

Genealogies[edit | edit source]

Land and Property[edit | edit source]

Plantation[edit | edit source]

Oral Histories[edit | edit source]

  • History Makers has the largest collection of African American video oral histories

Other Records[edit | edit source]

Military Records[edit | edit source]

Newspapers[edit | edit source]

Probate Records[edit | edit source]

Reconstruction Records[edit | edit source]

Freedman's Bank[edit | edit source]

An excellent source is the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company (visit the African American Freedman's Savings and Trust Company Records page to learn more). 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.

Online collections of Freedman's Bank records:

Freedmen's Bureau[edit | edit source]

The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands was created by the US government in 1865 until 1872 to assist former slaves in the southern United States. The Bureau created a wide variety of records extremely valuable to genealogists. Such documents include censuses, marriage records, and medical records. These records often include full names, former masters and plantations, and current residences.[1] For 1865 and 1866, the section on abandoned and confiscated lands 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.

To find Freedmen's Bureau records:

Other FamilySearch collections not included:

Visit the African American Freedmen's Bureau Records page to learn more about utilizing these records.

School Records[edit | edit source]

Slavery Records[edit | edit source]

Vital Records[edit | edit source]

Birth[edit | edit source]

Marriage[edit | edit source]

The Freedmen's Bureau (1865-1872) was created by the US government to assist former slaves in the southern United States. One of their responsibilities was to record the marriages (past and present) of the former slaves. These records can be found in the collections below and include the lists of marriages that occurred previously, marriage certificates, and marriage licenses. The information contained on the records may include the name of the husband and wife/groom and bride, age, occupation, residence, year or date of marriage, by whom, number of children, and remarks.

Death[edit | edit source]

Divorce[edit | edit source]

Voting Registers[edit | edit source]

Archives and Libraries[edit | edit source]

Illinois State Archives
Margaret Cross Norton Building
Springfield, IL 62756
Phone: (217) 782-4682
The Illinois State Archives has a "Illinois Servitude and Emancipation Records" database available to search online for free. See the Databases to find this database and others that may contain names of African Americans. Read Illinois Servitude and Emancipation Records (1722-1863) to learn more about this database. Also, see the African-American Records pdf to learn more about how to find and use these records.
DuSable Museum of African American History
740 East 56th Place
Chicago, IL 60637-1495
Phone: (773) 947-0600
Springfield Illinois African American History Foundation
883 Roanoke Drive
Springfield, IL, 62702
Phone: (217) 698-6339
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library
112 N. Sixth Street
Springfield, IL 62701
Phone: (800) 610-2094 or (217) 782-5764
Holdings include materials on various ethnic groups and ethnic migration patterns as well as a collection of oral interviews conducted by the Springfield African-American History Foundation. Search the card catalog.
Newberry Library
60 West Walton Street
Chicago, IL 60610
Phone: (312) 943-9090
"African American Genealogy" lists sources and helps for African American research. See African-American Genealogy for a list of African American resources at the library.
Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature
Chicago Public Library, Woodson Regional Library
9525 S. Halsted Street
Chicago, IL 60628
Phone: (312) 745-2080
The collection contains family papers, organizational files, annual reports, conference files, family newsletters, reunion books, funeral programs, and more.
Springfield and Central Illinois African American History Museum
1440 Monument Avenue
Springfield, Illinois 62702
Phone: (217) 391-6323
The museum seeks to tell the stories of African American life in central Illinois.

Societies[edit | edit source]

African-American Cultural and Genealogical Society of Illinois
235 W. Eldorado Street
P.O. Box 25251
Decatur, IL 62525
Phone: (217) 429-7458

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "African American Records: Freedmen's Bureau," "African American Heritage," National Archives, accessed 11 May 2018.