Researching Your African American Family History in North Carolina

UPDATED Oct 2021: has loaded a new database on their site from the “US, Freedman’s Bank Records, 1865-1874”. The original records are housed at the National Archives and Records Administration on microfilm. Ancestry is making them available in fully digitized and searchable format to make it easier to find your African American ancestors.  The database is free to use as a guest on or as a paying member of

Freedman’s Bank Records on Ancestry is a copy of an article written for USA Today on October 11, 2021 and it illustrates how some families are finding lost ancestors from before and after the Civil War, a difficult time for them to find records about their families. The day-to-day documents describing the lives of their freed ancestors after the Civil War may not be readily available in other databases.

To answer more questions, we found an informative video from the BNC News (Black News Tonight) called “Genealogist Nicka Sewell-Smith on Importance of Tracking Down Ancestors”. She explains why these records are so important to black Americans searching for their ancestors.


Early Buncombe County slave deeds and cohabitation records have become available to the public on the Buncombe County website. The Register of Deeds office is very progressive and has made all kinds of vital records available publicly. They set a fine example for other municipalities and are making a huge difference in helping descendants trace their families back to the earliest settlers of Buncombe County. See below for a link to the deeds.

You might also be interested in other projects designed to make NC government records like Court Petitions, Runaway Slave Advertisements and Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Information available. An important collaboration between UNC-Greensboro, NC State Archives and NC Registers of Deeds has been established to “create a unique, centralized database of bills of sales indexing the names of enslaved people from across North Carolina” and you can find more information here: “People Not Property – Slave Deeds of North Carolina”

Buncombe County Slave Deed List

  1. The Slave Deed List is organized by what deed book they are located within.
  2. There is a printable form for you to use if ordering a copy of the deed.
  3. If you want to print the deed yourself, you can click on the page number in the chart and it will take you to the database on the Buncombe County website and you can click on the page icon to the right to read the deed or save it to your computer.
  4. If you want to download the list, it can be searchable in Excel when you add filters on the top line of the column titles and organize the list alphabetically to look for your ancestor.

Buncombe Co. Slave Deeds

Buncombe County Former Slave Cohabitation Records

  1. The Buncombe County Cohabitation Records were taken after the end of slavery. Former slaves and freedmen were required to provide information about their marriages by Jan. 1, 1868.
  2. The list is set up alphabetically by surname. Keep in mind that many slaves took on the surname of their owners, but that is not always the case.
  3. The list includes the Recording Date and the Marriage Date as well as how many years they were married.

Buncombe Co. Cohabitation Records

More Research Help for North Carolina

A helpful article on other tips for researching your African American roots is available on the Asheville Citizen Times site. It was written by long-time OBCGS Volunteer Dee Gibson-Roles and published on 02 Feb 2015. The link is below:

More information on researching slave records

Another great resource on African American research in North Carolina is through the Government and Heritage Library Blog, from the State Library of North Carolina. A comprehensive list of online resources can be found below:

African American research online resources

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