Tree of Life

What is the USBH Project and why should you care?

USBH stands for United States Black Heritage, a project on WikiTree. Its objectives are:

  • To collect in one place information and resources to assist in building and documenting African-American Genealogies.
  • To create the largest online public database of connected African-American families.
  • To bring together WikiTreers interested in connecting African-American families to the Global Family Tree.
  • To process all types of documents regarding free and enslaved ancestors with the goal of creating their profiles and connecting them to their descendants.
  • To provide and maintain a logical and organized structure to help individuals identify their ancestors and celebrate their history.
  • To improve all profiles of ancestors with Black heritage, which may include biography building, sourcing, and making correct connections.

It’s a sub-project under the United States Project and the Global Black Heritage Project. See the quarterly newsletter or USBH Project calendar for more information about activities and how to get involved.

In comparison to the total number of people documented on WikiTree (32,353,319 as of November 2022), the total number of African-Americans is a very small fraction (officially 153,062 as of November 2022 but the number is higher since profiles have to be specially marked to be counted). I (as a Black American) wasn’t interested in genealogy for most of my life because I figured there was no point. My family didn’t have tons of records and I believed I couldn’t go back very far. I’d eventually hit the wall of slavery, so why bother at all?

People deserve to know more about their family history, though, no matter who they are or which ethnic background they come from. Also, the “wall of slavery” is sometimes not as solid as you’d think. Enslavers and slave owners kept records because, after all, they thought there was nothing wrong with slavery. There are projects that aim to assist the descendants of enslaved people break through the 1870 US Census barrier such as the Beyond Kin Project that encourages the descendants of slaveholders to help with research. I recently documented a slave owner’s enslaved that I found in a digitized copy of his will as part of my work for the USBH Heritage Exchange newbie track. I wrote about this task in The Enslaved of Reuben Strozier of Meriwether County, Georgia. WikiTreers were able to go back 24 generations for Muhammad Ali (includes white ancestors) with the oldest known ancestor having been born about 1246.

How you can help

Anyone of any skill level can help research and connect African-Americans, but some tasks are more complex than others.

These tasks don’t require membership in the USBH Project:

These tasks require you to apply for membership and complete at least two of the USBH PATH tracks. People familiar with WikiTree or genealogy research in general can complete the New Member Track and Profile Improvement Track fairly quickly. The Heritage Exchange Track will take longer. The New Member Track is required before you take on one or both of the other tracks.

  • Requires the Profile Improvement Track:
    • Help African-Americans create a family tree (the Family Builder Program).

      Note (08/10/22): The Family Builder Program has been discontinued for non-WikiTreers. People can still ask for research help on the WikiTree genealogist to genealogist (g2g) forum.
    • Research African-American notables and/or categorize notable profiles.
    • Research African-American military troops and/or categorize veteran profiles.
    • Research African-American cemeteries and create profiles of the people buried in them and/or place existing profiles into the correct cemetery category. It sometimes takes some digging to determine whether or not a cemetery mostly contains African-Americans.
    • Create profiles for formerly enslaved people interviewed by people from the Federal Writers’ Project for their slave narratives project. It’s usually simple to create a profile, but connecting the person to family members can sometimes be difficult.
  • Requires the Heritage Exchange Track:

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