Unfortunately, I cannotnt recommend Charles L. Blockson, Black
Genealogy because so much of what he writes is either misleading or
unhelpful. Blockson's treatment of Black genealogical records for the
post-slavery era (after 1865) is somewhat adequate but pedestrian.
There are several other commonly-available books that address these
records much better. It is in his treatment of records from the
slavery period that Blockson does his readers the greatest disservice.
His experience with records of slavery seems to be limited to records
of Pennsylvania - which might account for his woefully inadequate
treatment of Southern legal records where most genealogists in search
of slave ancestors may need to look. Some of the most significant of
such records are probate records, deeds, conveyances, and lawsuits
- but the reader would never know it from reading this book.
Blockson devotes a total of only THREE SENTENCES to "wills,
estate inventories, and tax records" (p.71). According to the
single sentence devoted to tax records, their value is merely to
"prove that slaves were valuable assets to ironmasters in the
latter part of the eighteenth century." In his discussion of
Federal Census records (p.45), he says, "Slave schedules were
made for every state. . . with slaves listed under their owners'
names." He fails to explain that slaves are not named in these
censuses, but only listed by age and gender. There is no discussion
of the uses and shortfalls of the slave censuses. Rather than discuss
these most fruitful and likely sources, Blockson urges readers to seek
records of slave "breeding sessions" (p.72), to browse
museum collections for "slave collars" with names on them
(p.75), to search for "branding records" in county
courthouses and branding irons in museum collections (p.75)! These
bizarre recommendations are urged in spite of the fact that the author
does not offer a single example of such things (he admits that it is
"difficult to find any [courthouse branding] records
today"!). Furthermore, if museums have relics such as branding
irons, the author fails to show how finding them would help a
researcher trace his or her ancestors. On p.77, Blockson addresses
the relative difficulty of finding records of slave paternity compared
to slave maternity, but adds, "You may run into problems tracing
your DIRECT family line (father to father)." One has to wonder
why Blockson believes that tracing maternal ancestry is less
"direct" (and by implication, less satisfactory) than
tracing paternal ancestry. Blockson's book is punctuated with
lengthy, angry polemics against slavery and racism, which will
probably be unhelpful to most genealogical searches. The main
objective of Blockson's book seems to be to arouse his readers'
indignation at racism and the "inhuman system of slavery,"
rather than to lead researchers to records of their ancestors.