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For Those Who Are Researching Their Ancestry Unfortunately, most African American genealogists assume that their ancestors were enslaved at the time the Civil War broke out. While this is true for the majority, at least one out of ten African Americans was already free when the first shots were fired on Fort Sumter. The 1860 census records indicate that 200,112 free blacks were living in the North, but another 287,958 free blacks were living in the slave-owning states of the South. Those who research African Americans must therefore be open to the possibility of encountering an antebellum, free black ancestor. Before searching for slaves, researchers should check for free status by looking on the 1860 census population schedules for free inhabitants. In 1850 and 1860 there are separate free census schedules and slave census schedules. ‘Free persons of color,’ as they were known, were a diverse group of farmers, servants, artisans, and sailors. Many came from families that had been free for several generations, perhaps stemming from the manumission of an ancestor or a liaison between an indentured white woman and a slave. Some were never enslaved, having entered the United States free. Others were runaways who lived in the Northern states. Many were themselves slave owners, particularly elites in Charleston and Louisiana. (See Koger’s Black Slave Owners: Free Black Slave Masters in South Carolina, 1790’1860.)<ref>Larry Kloger, Black Slave Owners: Free Black Slave Masters in South Carolina, 1790-1860 (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland and Co., 1985).</ref> Many blacks descended from the slave populations in the Northeast, which existed when slavery was found above the Mason-Dixon Line. Pennsylvania passed a gradual abolition act in 1780, although slavery in the state of New York was not completely abolished until 1827. Approximately ten thousand enslaved blacks were enumerated in New York in the 1820 census. In parts of Ohio and Indiana, the existence of a free black population was due largely to the efforts of North Carolina Quakers who manumitted their slaves when they settled in those states. Many were immediately indentured, thus living in legalized slavery in the north. In the border states, especially in Maryland, free blacks made up a substantial proportion of the total black population, while in much of the Deep South they were only a tiny minority who occupied a precarious position at best. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the sum of the free Negro populations in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania was only about a thousand more than the number of free Negroes in Virginia

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