Tracing Black Roots
It takes thousands of hours of research, decades of work and sometimes a lifetime of questions for Black people to learn about their geneology. In our special report, we examine the process, challenges and emotional journey of exploring ancestry.
Learning about your heritage can be enlightening, but beginning the process can be challenging.
Asking relatives for all the family names they can recall is a great way to start. You can also record names of relatives’ tombstones and conduct a search.
If you want an in-depth analysis of your family’s history, there are numerous resources available to learn about who your ancestors are, where they lived and how they came to the U.S. You may even end up tracking down a long-lost relative.
Here’s a list of tools you can use to trace your family tree:
Where to learn about your ancestry in Charlotte
If you’re from Charlotte or have relatives who lived here, you can use these local resources to find information about them:
North Carolina-based history resources
These websites have aggregated information on all-things related to North Carolina history:
Ways to learn about your ancestry for free
Government records can help with tracing heritage. You can use these free resources to research and build your family tree:
Free online genealogy databases
There are many free online genealogy databases with thousands of ancestry records available to access. A few of them include:
Access Genealogy: A database with ancestry information from Southern states, military records and small-town newspaper archives
FamilySearch: An international, nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people discover their family story
Olive Tree Genealogy: A website with more than 1,900 pages of free genealogy records, including ship passenger lists, and documents on Huguenots, Native Americans, Canadian immigration and even European Palatines.
RootsWeb: A site with how-to articles, databases of surnames and U.S. locations, mailing lists and pedigree files.
USGenWeb: A project that started in 1996 has grown into a network of more than 3,000 linked genealogy websites, all individually created and maintained by a community of volunteers.
Paying for a DNA test
There are a number of DNA tests on the market you can purchase to gain insight on who your ancestors are, where they lived and when they came to the U.S.
Here is some information on DNA tests you can take from the comfort of your home, including how much they cost, what they offer and how long it takes to get your results:
23andMe offers a comprehensive genetic breakdown, including the origin of your DNA from more than 2,000 regions of the world, a DNA relative where you can find out and message those who share your DNA, and an ancestry timeline where you find out where your relatives lived and when they lived there that goes back more than eight generations.
Each kit comes with instructions on how to provide your DNA (a saliva sample) for the test. Results typically take 3-5 weeks from the time a registered sample is received at the lab.
AncestryDNA can identify which country your family originated with specific regions within them. Results include a pie chart and percentages of ethnic makeup and details from 1,500 different regions from around the world. The service also sometimes provides a description of how and why your ancestors moved.
Similar to 23andMe, your DNA is collected through a saliva sample. It usually takes six to eight weeks for to process the sample after it is received.
With the MyHeritage DNA test, it can reveal your ethnic background and discover specific groups you descend from among 2,114 geographic regions. The service can also match you with newfound relatives and provides access to billions of family records.
DNA for the MyHeritage test is collected through a cheek swab. Once your test kit arrives at the lab, it usually takes about four weeks for the results to be ready.
FamilyTreeDNA offers four DNA tests: Maternal, Paternal, Family and Family + myDNA wellness. With the family ancestry package, you can receive a breakdown of your origins, connect with your DNA relatives within the last five generations and learn whether there are connections with ancient European groups. The maternal and paternal kits allow you to explore your heritage on your mother’s and father’s side, and follow the migration paths of your male and female ancestors.
Results from the cheek swab typically take six-to-eight weeks to process.
FindMyPast looks for the countries your DNA is found, and shows how your family migrated throughout the world from 80,000 years ago until today. The service also accepts DNA tests from AncestryDNA, 23andMe, MyHeritage and Family Tree DNA to connect you to your living relatives for free.
Like MyHeritage and FamilyTreeDNA, DNA gathered from a cheek swab. In six-to-eight weeks, your analysis will be uploaded to a personal private portal.
With the Nebula Genomics DNA test, not only can you learn about your ancestry and find new relatives, but you can also decode all your genes and identify mutations. The test also provided insights to determine an optimal diet, find the right exercise plan to lose weight and learn about the genetics of your mind, behavior and personality.
Results should be available in about 12-14 weeks.