Researching African American Family History

Details for the 2017 African American Family History Research class  Join us for this informative event held in conjunction with the exhibition "African American Civic Engagement: 1860s and 100 Years Later Among CSUF Titan Alumni," which is on display October 22 - December 21, 2017, in the Salz-Pollak Atrium Gallery of Pollak Library.


 Program Details

  • Date: Tuesday, November 14, 2017
  • Time: 1:00 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.
      • 1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m. - Lecture
      • 2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. - Extended Q&A and discussion period
  • Location: Pollak Library (Room PLN-130)
  • Admission: Free and open to the public
  • Parking: $8.00 Day Pass (normal campus rules apply)
  • RSVPs: Not necessary

About the Program

This overview discusses key record collections for tracing African American ancestry, challenges and strategies for working with enslaved ancestors, and how DNA testing can help connect to African origins.

If your African American ancestors lived in the U.S. by 1940, researching them back to the Reconstruction era involves the same techniques required for researching any group of people with family here during this same period of time. We will touch on those key building block techniques and record collections applicable to family history in general, as well as collections of particular interest to African Americans.

Not all African Americans arrived in the U.S. during the slavery era, but a significant number did. The manner in which the legal and social structure of that time treated slaves presents significant challenges to those trying to research their slave-era ancestors of African descent. Those challenges should not dissuade you! Tracing your slave-era relatives is not an impossible task. We will discuss some strategies for success.

Although the scope of this lecture focuses on African Americans, the record collections and research methodologies presented are applicable to anyone who had ancestors in the U.S. by 1940, who wants to get started researching their family history. Even seasoned family historians should walk away with a few new tools and strategies.

This lecture provides a very brief high level overview. The audience will be surveyed for more in-depth topics of interest for future programming by the Pollak Library. Attendees will also learn about where and how to learn more about the topics covered in this lecture.

Lecture outline:

  • How to get started
  • Working back to 1870
  • Civil War & Reconstruction Era
  • Pre-Civil War
  • Connections to Africa

A question and answer period will follow the one-hour lecture.

About the Presenter

Colleen Greene is the Marketing Librarian (formerly the Systems Librarian) for the Pollak Library. She is also a Lecturer for the San Jose State University School of Information, where she teaches an online graduate-level course in U.S. genealogy research methods. Colleen has a B.A. in History, a Masters of Library and Information Science, and has been researching her family history for 20 years. She is a professional genealogist who teaches and presents on scholarly methodology, Mexican and Hispanic genealogy, Southwest U.S. research, and strategies for utilizing libraries and archives. Colleen regularly incorporates DNA analysis into her research, and she is a vocal advocate in the genealogical community pushing for more educational offerings focusing on people of color.

Location & Floor Map

 This event is being held on April 25, 2017 in room PLN-303 in Pollak Library's Third Floor North.