Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
ProQuest LibGuides Banner ProQuest LogoProQuest LibGuides homeProQuest LibGuides home

ProQuest African American Heritage: Sample Searches

A guide to all aspects of the ProQuest African American Heritage database.

Sample Searches

Comprehensive Search Across All Collections

The following sample searches work together using a single search with additional, option steps. More samples searches specifically for each collection can be found beneath this box at the bottom of the page.

This initial search page cross-searches the U.S. Federal Census and the Freedman’s Bank records for all persons recorded as Black (B), Mulatto/Mixed (M), or Nonwhite/Negro (N) in addition to the other records for a complete search of all collections in ProQuest African American Heritage. 

Enter the following details into the search page:

Last Name: Miller 

Spelling: Exact 

First Name: Isa*

State: All

Year Range: leave blank

Once the results are displayed, explore them according to the following steps:

U.S. Federal Census – 1860 to 1930

Although the U.S. Federal Census started in 1790, the 1860 Census was the first to recognize and specifically enumerate by name African Americans, thus we only provide indexed names and images for 1860 forward.

1. Click on the Census link and locate the 1900 Census in the results list. Click on the Expand by State link to the right.

2. Locate and click on Pennsylvania to view the results for that state.

3. Locate 36 year old Isaac H. Miller and click on the last name to view the image of the document.


Additional steps:

a. What is Mr. Miller's listed occupation?

b. What is Mr. Miller's listed birthplace?

c. Are there others living in the residence with Mr. Miller? If so, what are their names, ages, and relationship to Mr. Miller?

d. Can you locate earlier/later Census records for Mr. Miller? If so, what Census year?  What is his age?  What are the names, ages, and birthplaces of others in the household in which he is living?


Draft Registrations

The records include draft registration cards for WWI [2 million African American's records from 1917-1918] and WWII [1942 only because of federal privacy laws. Click on the information icon for more details regarding available, incomplete, and fire-loss states records]. Note that some records have been transcribed; the transcription is visible at the bottom of the record when available.

1. Click on the Draft Registrations link.

2. Locate the state of Pennsylvania and click on the Expand by County link.

3. Using what you noted from the Census record as the birthplace for Mr. Issac H. Miller, locate and click on the Delaware county link.


Additional steps:

a. What is Mr. Miller's middle name?

b. What is noted as his exact date of birth?

c. Is there a relative / next of kin listed on this record?    If so, what is the name and relationship?


Freedman’s Bank Records

This collection contains the Freedman's Bank extant register pages, with individual records of men, women, and children indexed and imaged. The collection covers 1865-1874 – the actual (and brief) span of the Bank’s history, specifically the records which indicate African American account holders.  Remember that anyone, of any race, that was enslaved or indentured was able and encouraged to open an account in the Freedman's Savings and Trust bank branch nearest their home. Branches were opened in all former slave holding states, including Missouri, and former Union states where larger populations of freed persons had settled. 

1. Locate and click on the Freedman's Bank link.

2. Review the results list and locate the two records listed for Issac Miller as the Applicant. (Hint: Use the column headers decipher between the names indexed in this collection.)

3. Open both records and review the information contained in each. Do they reflect information already known from the previous two collections you have looked at?  Yes / No  

a. If Yes, explain briefly why:

b. If No, explain briefly why:


Additional steps:

a. Use the household information from the Census> Additional Steps D to search for records in the Freedman's Bank records (Search tab> Freedman's Bank link @ bottom of page) regarding Mr. Miller's father and/or brothers.  If you found a record, please note the name/s here:

b: What type of information were you surprised to see on the Freedman's Bank records?


Marriage Records

The only states records currently available are for North Carolina and West Virginia.

1. Locate and click on the Marriage link.

2. Click on the North Carolina link to view the results.

3. Based on known information do any of the results seem to be a match for Mr. Miller?  Yes / No  (Hint: What do you know about the contents of the Marriage collection that would influence/affect the results retrieved?)

a. If Yes, briefly explain why:

b. If No, briefly explain why:


Additional Step:

Search the Marriage collection independently from the other collections (Search tab> Birth, Marriage, Death Record link> Choose Marriage) for possible leads on relatives found in Census, keeping in mind this collection only has data for two states at this time.


Service Records

This collection reflects the compiled records of volunteer Union soldiers who served with the United States Colored Troops from 1861–1865, otherwise known as the U.S. Colored Troops Service Records.

1. Locate and click on Service in the results list.

2. Explore the records that appear for "Not Recorded" as well as Kentucky and Tennessee.

3. Might any of the results be relevant to the Mr. Miller you have been investigating? 

a. If so, briefly explain:

b. If not, briefly explain:


Additional Steps:

a. Using known information about Isaac's father, Robert Miller, conduct a search in the Service Records collection (Search tab> Military> Service).

b. Of the service records found in the Pennsylvania results, which record for Robert Miller, Issac's father, seems to best fit and why?

c. Who enlisted Mr. Miller? 

d. Where did he enlist?


Cohabitation Records

1. Locate and click on the Cohabitation link in the results page of the original search.

2. Click on the link for North Carolina and review the results.

3. Given what you know from the previous searches and about the Cohabitation collection data, do(es) the information in this set of results correlate?  Yes / No


Slaves and Free(d) Persons of Color Registers Records

1. Locate and click on the Registers link in the results page of the original search.

2. Click on the link for Louisiana and review the results.

3. Given what you know from the previous searches and about the Slaves and Free(d) Persons of Color Registers collection data, do(es) the information in this set of results correlate? Yes / No

4. What type of information is provided in these registers that could provide additional avenues of research?  

5. What type of personal data is recorded here that you have not seen in other records? 


Census Search Example

From the Search tab click the Federal Census link.

1. Enter the following into the search fields:

Last Name: Smith

Spelling: Exact

First Name: James

Click to expand More Search Options

Birthplace: Canada

2. Review the results, noting any names and information that seem to match across the decades.

3. Is there significant movement over time or do the individuals you noted seem to stay in the same general location?  Yes / No   What might the reason(s) for such movement?


Additional Steps:

1. Click Refine Search from a results page.

2. Change the Birthplace by clicking on the Select from list and choosing Africa.

3. Click OK to return to the search page.

4. Review the results.What is the age of the oldest African born James Smith noted in the Census records? ______  

Does this individual appear on more than one Census?  Yes / No

Birth, Marriage, Death Search Example

From the Search tab click the Birth, Marriage, Death link. Currently only Marriage and Cohabitation records are available. Others are currently being processed.

Marriage from the drop-down menu (NOTE: Only states available currently are NC and WVa.)

1. Select Marriage from the drop down menu.

2. Enter the following into the search fields:

Last Name: Goins 

Spelling: Exact 

First Name: Divena 

State: NC   

No County or year selected, but do show the Select list for the county. 

3. Expand Show more search options link – do not input information.

4. Submit search and Expand results by County, select the only county listed.

5. Pick either of the two results, noting her husband’s name (Silas).

6. The image is large (two pages per image); the Goins’ are listed on the second half of the image.

7. Note that these records are most often organized alphabetically by husband’s name (last name first).  This couple is the third couple on the second page.

8. Zoom in and review details.


Return to Search Tab and click Birth, Marriage, Death link again. Select Cohabitation from the drop-down menu.

The Cohabitation records (currently only NC records are available for this collection at this time. Available records have been transcribed.)
These are records of emancipated slaves, who have gone to the county to register as ‘cohabiting as man and wife.’  Slaves, indentured servants, and newly freed persons in certain states were required by law to register as married with the local gov’t (if they did not, they would be charged w/ a misdemeanour or fined). These registrations served to legitimize the marriage bonds as well as any children born to couples while enslaved.

1. Search the entire state by selecting North Carolina from the State drop-down menu.

2. View all counties w/ results and select a county by clicking the county name.

3. Click Edgecombe from the county list.

4. Choose Stallings, Annette to view the ‘cohabitation’ record.

Freedman's Bank Search Example

From the Search tab click the Freedman's Bank link.

Freedman Bank Records are the Bank’s extant register pages, w/ individual records of men, women, and children indexed and imaged. The collection covers 1865-1874 – the actual span of the bank’s brief history.  The Bank Locations list displaying all locations both North and South – farthest West is St. Louis - can be found in addition to other valuable details in the More information link to the left side of the search page.

1. Enter the following into the search fields

Last Name: Lowe

Spelling: Soundex

2. Re-sort the list by Last Name and scroll through list to show name variations, indexing of names other than Applicant (NOTE: some family member names have been indexed in addition to the Applicant’s name), and the infrequent notation of Military Service.

3. Select the record for Elizabeth Lowe w/ Applicant Name Jeremiah Lowe Washington, D.C. 1868.


This record will reveal Jeremiah’s record noting that:

a. He was ‘Free born’

b. Elizabeth is one of his daughters (Name of Children field) and the name of his Spouse (in Remarks field)

c. He deposited $73

d. He signed twice – once with ‘+’ and w/ his own name (this is relatively unusual)

Military Search Example

From the Search tab click Military, and then select Service from drop-down menu.

Service Records - U.S. Colored Troops Service Records [Union soldiers of the U.S. Civil War 1861-1865. Some records will reflect names also found in Draft Registrations – so use to confirm or compare details. Also note that transcriptions for these records appear beneath each page image.

1. Enter the following into the search fields: 

Last Name: Douglass 

Spelling: Soundex 

First Name: Fre*

2. Two results display, one not recorded and one in NY.  Select the Not Recorded item first. Note lack of detail. 

3. Return to results list and select NY record. Note extensive detail.

4. Is either record the record of abolitionist Fredrick Douglass? Likely not.  WHY? The famous Douglass was US-born, was in his mid-40s by the time of the Civil War, and helped establish the 54th Massachusetts Regiment of the Union army, both of these records are for the 25th U.S. Colored Infantry. It is likely, though, that 1) both are records for the same person, 2) one or both records are for the abolitionist's son, who was named for him, 3) the names are coincidental, or 4) the two young men were not related to the abolitionist but were named for the abolitionist.

Slaves and Free(d) Persons of Color Registers Search Example

From the Search tab, click the Slaves and Free(d) Persons of Color link.


The Registers were created prior to the 1865 emancipation. In many states, counties required that slaves and free(d) persons of color register with their local officials, usually the county clerk’s office. This is one of the first instances that the names of such persons were serially gathered by the gov’t. Records are transcribed.

1. Select Registers from the drop-down menu.

2. Select the following: 

State: Louisiana 

Go to “Show more search options” 

Choose Sex: Female 

Age Range: 15 to 35

3. Click Search and then click to view the New Orleans records.

4. Sort by Origin

5. Choose the record for Laurence, Elizabeth 20