Tracing African-American genealogy

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HIGH POINT, N.C. -- There is something exciting and fascinating about digging into your family history -- discovering many untold stories.

There can be challenges in the process for all families, but there are unique obstacles within African-American genealogy.

However, with a variety of resources those difficulties can be overcome.

"The biggest misconception about doing African-American history is that people think you can't get past a certain point,” Marcellaus Joiner, supervisor at High Point Library’s Heritage Research Center, said.

Joiner says thanks to census records, most people can trace history to the early 1900s without any problems.

"Typically the years 1860 to 1865 are problematic for African-Americans and that's where the difficulty comes in,” Joiner said.

Slaves are not listed on the free schedule of the 1860 census and are not listed by name on any schedules before 1870.

Another challenge is that there was a fire in the basement of the commerce building located in Washington, D.C. in 1921 resulting in the loss of census data from the late 1800s.

Joiner says people can overcome these challenges by using other resources such as family Bibles, church records and even newspapers.

The Heritage Research Center relies on a variety of resources including It is free to the public as long as it is used within the library.