African American Genealogy and Spirituality in the U.S.

Cyndi's List of Genealogy Sites on the Internet

AfriGeneas is a site devoted to African American genealogy

Slave Archival Collection

National Archives and Records Administration

Library of Congress

Black People and Ellis Island

I received an email from Denise, Becca, & The Lyndhurst Junior Genealogy Club, saying:

"Becca, suggested that I pass another article your way, "The History of Ellis Island, thought it could be a helpful addition to the resources on your page. It talks about Ellis Island's significance, how to find and read passenger records, and why it's a helpful place to look for those studying ancestry and genealogy."

This had me research Africans and Blacks coming through Ellis Island. While there's nothing on Africans or Blacks in this history on the The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation (and I couldn't easily find a search button for the site, you can find the Passenger Search here: Perhaps you'll get lucky!

I found a couple articles that may be worth reading which state:

  • Due to the outlawing of the slave trade in 1808 as well as restrictions on non-European immigration, the flow of blacks arriving in the U.S. dropped to a trickle for more than a century and a half. Among the black immigrants who voluntarily migrated during this time, most were from the Caribbean.1 
  • The number of black people, especially those from the Caribbean, who migrated to the United States increased dramatically during the first three decades of the twentieth century, peaking in 1924 at 12,250 per year and falling off during the Depression. The foreign-born black population increased from 20,000 in 1900 to almost 100,000 by 1930. Over 140,000 black immigrants passed through United States ports between 1899 and 1937, despite the restrictive immigration laws enacted in 1917, 1921, and 1924. The wave of black humanity entering the United States was focused on the northeastern coast and broke mainly on the shores of Manhattan. Tens of thousands came through Ellis Island, though the voluminous literature on that legendary port of disembarkation takes scant notice of this fact.2

The gist is, most Black people did not come to the U.S. voluntarily therefore few may be listed on Ellis Island Passenger Records, however you may have a greater chance of finding relatives who were from the Caribbean, or who came through in later years. Additionally, there was a fire in 1897 which destroyed a lot, if not all the records (remember the 1921 fire which destroyed the census information of 1890?).

1. A Rising Share of the U.S. Black Population Is Foreign Born, Pew Research Center,
2. In Motion: The African American Migration Experience the Schomburg Center for research in Black Culture of The New York Public Library