Racial Designations Over Time

Looking at how racial designations change over time, one can clearly see how people of color were still being segregated long after slavery was abolished. Use caution when adding potential ancestors to your family tree.

It can be very challenging for people of color to trace their roots. While dealing with loss of identity is an issue, so is changing racial designations. Racial designations change over time. The video explains why ancestors racial designations changed from black, Negro, mulatto and white (for my family).

Genealogy standards are used to “prove” the information placed on a tree is valid (for those serious about genealogy). It’s very easy to add the wrong person to a tree without using those standards. I was surprised on how inaccurate many documents are, for example, wrong dates of birth or location of birth, names are misspelled and another thing I noticed is how the information itself changes over time. For example, I have ancestors where their birth location changes every census but their children’s birth location remains constant. I also have ancestors that decided to change their racial designation from mulatto to white, and it remained that way. Sometimes, I feel like I am walking through a maze of information trying to find the truth at the end.

This video helps explains the rules for different time periods and why some racial judgements might have been made, for example, the one drop rule. It also explains how census takers designated races based on looks, which can be significantly inaccurate for people of color. The video also shows how, systematically, people of color where being segregated long after slavery was abolished.

These are things racially mixed people have to consider when researching their family roots. Adding the wrong person to your tree means from that point on, the line is inaccurate and you are telling the story of someone else’s family.

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