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Use Internet resources to research genealogy

By Mariah Smith
MSU Computer Applications and Services

February is African-American history month. If celebrating your heritage has you digging for the roots of your family tree, consider using the Internet for help.

Smith Click to enlarge Genealogy research is one of the fastest-growing hobbies in America. More and more people want to know where they came from and how they ended up here. The Internet offers many useful tools to those of us who cannot travel to visit historical archives in other states or the Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

African-American genealogy is perhaps one of the hardest to research because records are often scarce. However, there are many reputable websites that can help you jump-start your search.

With any genealogical research, you must first start with what you know. Use living relatives to create a timeline of people, places and events. Be sure to note where family members were born and where they died.

Once you have traced back as far as you can, continue your search on the Internet or your local library. Many databases, such as the federal census, are available at your local library or at your home if you have a library card. Otherwise, you will need to use websites, such as, to access the census records. The 1940 census will be made available to the public for free in the next three months. The 1880 federal census is available for free on the website.

Census records are a great place to find information. Remember that Mississippi and some other states conducted their own censuses in the years between the federal censuses. Mississippi’s information can be accessed online at from the Mississippi Department of Archives.

African Americans have a long history of serving in the military, and military records are an excellent source of information. The Mississippi Department of Archives keeps an extensive list of records online at However, they have access to pension files only for those who served in the Confederate army or navy. If you are looking for someone who served in the Union army, consider searching the National Archives at Records from World War II are difficult to come by because most were destroyed by fire.

The Freedmen’s Bureau Labor Contracts, available at, can be very helpful to African-American researchers looking for other records. The Freedmen’s Bureau of Marriage Records can be found at

The Mississippi Enumeration of Educable Children from 1850-1892 and from 1908-1957 list school-aged children in Mississippi from those time periods. This resource can be found at

If using the Internet to find your family’s roots has you confused, consider contacting your local Extension office or e-BEAT representative at to schedule a class in your county.


Released: Feb. 16, 2012
Contact: Mariah Smith, (662) 325-3226

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