Most early Great Migration migrants went to New York, Pittsburgh, Detroit and especially Chicago. The Windy City’s black population, which was only 2 percent in 1890, doubled to 100,000 by World War I, according to the Newberry Library. By 1970, one-third of Chicago’s population was African-American.
Starting with the census
Following up in vital records
Checking city directories
Once you’ve found family in censuses and/or birth, marriage and death records, look them up in city directories for every year they’re available. Add each listing to a timeline to locate relatives in their place of origin, where they ended up, and as they moved along the way. Follow their moves to new addresses within a city, find working women, adult children living at home and widows, and document occupations and employers’ names.
Finding folks in military records
The WWI draft registration record for Robert B. Clark indicates he was born Dec. 11, 1881, in Norwood, East Feliciana Parish, La. When he registered in September 1918, he was 36, a carpenter for Mason & Stanger in Jacksonville, Tenn. His wife, Cora, lived in Norwood. Family legend had it that Clark was African-American and was so light-skinned that he could pass for white. Indeed, the draft card identifies him as white.
Reading the newspapers
Looking for former slaves
Podcast: African-American research tips
African-American genealogy websites
Statewide vital records chart
How to trace US Colored Troops
Workbook: Military Draft Records
Researching enslaved ancestors guide
Research guide to African-American newspapers
African-American Genealogy Websites video class
Solving Migration Mysteries video class