Prepared by Elisabeth Lindsay.
Emancipation is the act or process of setting free -- liberation. The term is most familiar as applied to the emancipation of slaves in the United States. The right of states to decide slavery within their own boundaries was a major factor in the American Civil War. On January 1, 1863, as the country entered its third year of the War, U. S. President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. The proclamation declared "that all persons held as slaves" within the rebellious states "are, and henceforward shall be free." The Emancipation Proclamation, although limited in scope, set the stage for the the Thirteenth Amendment to the U S. Constitution in December 1865, which officially abolished slavery in all states, although it would be another 100 years before African Americans were fully integrated into the society
Genealogy is challenging at best for those with African American slave ancestry -- and it is so in all cultures when a person loses his or her identity through slavery. In the U. S., slaves were considered property and rarely identified by name in official records, in particular, census enumerations, a mainstay of U. S. genealogy research. Certainly some records exist that do name those held as slaves, wills, diaries, journals, newspapers, etc., but it was not until after 1865 that African Americans were enumerated by name, along with all other U. S. citizens.