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African American Resources for Wisconsin

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Beginning Research
Record Types
Wisconsin Background
Cultural Groups
Local Research Resources

Introduction

A list of resources for African American research of ancestors who lived in Wisconsin .

Online Resources

  • 1846-1867 U.S., Freedmen’s Bureau Marriage Records, 1846-1867 at Ancestry ($)
  • 1861-1872 United States, Freedmen's Bureau Marriages, 1861-1872 at FamilySearch
  • 1865-1874 Freedman's Bank Records, 1865-1874 at FamilySearch
  • African American Digital Bookshelf - a growing list of digital books on FamilySearch and other websites
  • Discover Freedmen - this site searches all of the Freedmen's Bureau record collections on FamilySearch altogether (and redirects there)
  • Kansas African American Genealogy
  • Research Strategy

    History

    Many African Americans settled in Wisconsin. They were trappers and boatmen in the 1700s. Settlers from the Southern states brought slaves with them. There were many free African-Americans in Wisconsin also. For more information, you may wish to contact:

    Helpful sources for learning about African-Americans in Wisconsin is:

  • Zachary Cooper, Black Settlers in Rural Wisconsin (Madison, Wisconsin: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1997; Family History Library book 977.5 A1 no. 51).
  • Cooper, Zachary. Black Settlers in Rural Wisconsin. - Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin. 1977. - E185.93.W58 C66 FHL book 977.5 Al #51
  • Negro Business Directory of the State of Wisconsin. - [Milwaukee: S.n., 1950/51-1953.54] 2 vol. E185.93W58 N4
  • Slave Movement During the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries
  • The few slaves that may have been in Wisconsin before the Civil War may be listed in the United States Census Slave Schedules. Wisconsin was not highly populated before the Civil War but after the War movement brought all groups, including African Americans. See also:

    Resources

    Biographies

    Cemeteries

    Census Records

    Church Records

    Emancipation Records

    Funeral Homes

    Genealogies

    Land and Property

    Plantation

    Oral Histories

    Other Records

    Military Records

    Many of those involved in the Civil War moved after the War.

    Newspapers

    Probate Records

    Reconstruction Records

    Freedman’s Bank

    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

    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

    Slavery Records

    Vital Records

    Birth

    Marriage

    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

    Divorce

    Voting Registers

    Archives and Libraries

    Societies

    Wisconsin Black Historical Society
    2620 West Center Street
    Milwaukee, WI 53206
    Phone: 414-372-7677
    Email: info@wbhsm.org

    References

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