Africa Genealogy Records
Below is a list and description of the most recent genealogy records for African countries (see list of most recent records for other countries). Many of these records can be searched using our free Genealogy Search Engine.
South Africa – FamilySearch.org has created a new image collection of church records from the Lesotho Evangelical Church in South Africa (LECSA). LECSA is one of the oldest Protestant churches in Africa, having been established by the Paris Evangelical Missionary Society in 1833. The church currently has some 350,000 members across over 100 parishes. This online collection spans the years from 1874 to 1983 and contains primarily membership lists, marriage records and baptism records.
The membership lists are particularly interesting because they contain the name of the member, date of birth, baptism date, age, church name and (something really interesting) the name of close relatives. The older baptism records are more like a combination birth/baptism record and list the name of the child, date of birth, place of birth, parent’s names, date of baptism, place of baptism and the person who performed the baptism.
The images in this collection are organized first by district and then parish and then type of record. A sample marriage record is shown below. Access to the collection is free. [Lesotho Evangelical Church Records]
Liberia – FamilySearch.org has created a new browsable image collection of Liberian marriage records. In total, there are some 25,000 images in this collection, which spans the years from 1941 to 1974. These records come from the National Archives in Monrovia, Liberia and consist of marriage applications, marriage licenses, marriage returns and various other types of documents that certify marriage. Below is a sample two-page marriage application, which contains lots of useful information for genealogists. Access is free. [Liberian Marriage Records]
Southern Africa – FamilySearch.org has created a new image collection of records from the registers of the South Africa Netherdutch Reformed Church that covers various areas of South Africa, Angola, Kenya, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. These records span the years from 1838 to 1991.
There are some 141,000 images in this collection and consist primarily of christenings, marriages and church membership records. The records are in both Afrikaan and English. Access is free. [South Africa Church Records] Here is a useful link to common Afrikaan words found in genealogy records.
South Africa – FamilySearch.org has indexed some 43,000 names in their massive collection of estate files from Orange Free State, South Africa. This collection spans the years from 1951 to 2006. The two items in this collection that will be of particular interest to genealogists are death notices and will records.
A typical death notice (see image below) provides the name of the deceased, date and place of death, place of birth, name of parents, name of spouse and name(s) of children. A typical will record lists the name of the deceased, name of spouse, name of heirs/family members, date and place of the will and the names of witnesses to the will. This collection can be searched by first name and last name. Access is free. [Orange Free State Death Notices]
South Africa – Ancestry.co.uk has put online voter indexes from South Africa. These indexes date from 1719 to 1996 and contain some 220,000 names. The information contained in each index is fairly extensive and lists the voter's name, residence, name of spouse, occupation, employer, gender, race, maiden name, date of birth and sometimes even the number of pigs owned. The indexes can be searched by first name, middle name, last name and location. Access is by subscription. [South Africa Voter Lists]
Ghana – FamilySearch.org has put online an image collection of the 1984 population census of Ghana. The census was conducted on 11 March 1984 (even though the form says 1982). The records are organized by “localities”, which can include everything from a city to a town to a village to a hamlet or even a single house. This was Ghana’s third census after independence (the two prior censuses were conducted in 1960 and 1970). Please be advised that some records have been lost from this census and therefore not all localities are represented. This collection can be searched by name, gender and place. The information in this census, however is somewhat limited (see sample image below), listing only the names of each member of the household, sex and (if you are lucky) the relationship to the head of the household. Access is free. [Ghana 1984 Census Records]
South Africa – FamilySearch.org has added to their collection of South Africa Cape Province death records. These are civilian deaths that span the years from 1895 to 1972 (the compulsory registration of births and deaths in South Africa was enacted in 1894 and took effect starting in 1895). Some 92,000 indexed records have been added to the collection. The collection can be searched by first and last name. A typical death record lists the full name of the deceased, sex, place of residence, age, race, marital status, occupation, date and place of death, intended place of burial, and cause of death (see example below). Access is free. [Cape Province Death Records]
South Africa – The Genealogical Society of South Africa has been steadily adding to their online record collection. The latest additions include Cape Town Baptisms (1713 to 1742), Cape Town Marriages (1713 to 1756), Drakenstein baptism register (1694 to 1713) and indexes to civilian deaths in Cape Province (1895 to 1972). The link provides a complete list of all the records that have currently been transcribed and put online by the society. The society is also looking for volunteers to help with transcribing additional documents. Access is free. [South Africa Genealogy Records]
Liberia – FamilySearch.org has started a small but important census collection for the settlement of Monrovia in the colony of Liberia. The census dates to 1843 and lists many of the emancipated American survivors of slavery who resettled in Liberia and their descendants. The census lists the name, age, date of arrival, relatives in the colony, profession, education and health as shown in the image below (the comment “do” in many fields is short-hand for “ditto”, meaning the same as above). This collection can be searched by name. Access is free. [Monrovia 1843 census]
St Helena – The British Library’s Endangered Archives Project has created a very interesting archive of colonial records for St. Helena Island in the South Atlantic Ocean (off the coast of Africa). The island is perhaps best known as the place where Napoleon was exiled in 1815. As Britain’s second oldest colony (after Bermuda), the island has served many purposes over the years. For example, more than 5,000 Boer prisoners were held on the island at one time. This collection primarily consists of government letters and records. The collection has not been indexed, but it does contain a wealth of genealogical information for anyone who may have had an ancestor that passed through the islands. Access is free. [St. Helena Genealogy Records]
South Africa – The Genealogical Society of South Africa is continuing its work transcribing church registers and other historic documents of interest to genealogists. The current collection consists of Cape Town baptisms (1653 to 1712), Cape Town marriages (1656 to 1713) and Stellenbosch NGK baptisms (1688 to 1815) and marriages (1689 to 1788). There are also muster rolls of free men in the collection. Access is free. [South African Baptism and Marriage Records]
Africa – The UK National Archives has released another tranche of colonial administration records. These are wide-ranging administrative records from various colonies and territories within the British Empire. The link provides a list of when the colonial administration files will be available by territory. Access to the underlying records is by subscription. [UK Colonial Administration Records]
Africa – The website FamilyRelatives has added about 100,000 records from African telephone directories. These records are mainly from the 1958 to 1962 time period. The directories cover Kenya, Southern Rhodesia (now known as Zimbabwe), Uganda and Tanganyika (part of Tanzania). All the directories come from former British colonies. In the early 1960s, most telephones in Africa would have been owned by merchants, businesses, expats and wealthy farmers. Access is by subscription. [Historic African Telephone Directories]
South Africa – GenealogyInTime Magazine has added 400 million new records to their two free search engines. The Genealogy Search Engine (which covers ancestral records) now searches an additional 100 million more records, while the Family Tree Search Engine (which covers genealogy forums and online family trees) searches approximately 300 million more records.
In total, the two search engines now cover 5.7 billion records across more than 1,000 different websites (split between the Genealogy Search Engine covering 1.9 billion records and the Family Tree Search Engine covering 3.8 billion records – there is no overlap of records between the two search engines).
GenealogyInTime Magazine now gets over 40,000 queries per month for the two search engines. This makes them one of the most popular alternatives to the FamilySearch website for people wanting to look for free ancestral records. Significant holdings exist for the United States, Canada, England/Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Continental Europe, Australia and New Zealand with minor holdings for the Caribbean, South America and South Africa.
Some of the highlights of the latest addition to the Genealogy Search Engine include:
• 55 million new records for the United States and 6 million new records for Canada. These are primarily ancestral records held in digital archives of public libraries and universities across North America. Many of these new records are historic photographs.
• 23 million new records for England, Ireland and Scotland. These are primarily twentieth century obituaries.
• 14 million new records for Europe. These are primarily birth/marriage/death records from Central and Eastern Europe.
• 2 million more ship passenger records.
In this latest release, the search routines for both search engines have also been strengthened to provide better results. In addition, the number of returned records for a search query has been increased from 8 pages to 10 pages. Finally, results are delivered even faster than before.
Access to both search engines is free and the underlying records are also free. [Genealogy Search Engine] [Family Tree Search Engine] GenealogyInTime Magazine also has a number of genealogy articles to help you become better at online genealogy searches.
GenealogyInTime Magazine is the world’s most popular online genealogy magazine. It is also now the fifth largest free genealogy website in the world (according to Alexa, the internet traffic people, the largest free genealogy websites in order are FamilySearch, Find A Grave, Geni, GeneaNet and GenealogyInTime Magazine).
South Africa – FamilySearch.org has created a new collection of genealogical records that cover the Western Cape province of South Africa. This collection includes a variety of record types, including birth, marriage and death registrations, probate estate files, slave records and immigration records. The records cover the years 1901 and 1902. The immigration records are particularly interesting because they list the name of the ship, date of arrival, date of departure from the home port, full name of the passenger, age, occupation, name of mother and name of any children. The slave records are a bit sparse, just listing the date of sale, name of purchaser, name of vendor and the number of slaves purchased. This new collection totals some 205,000 images. At the moment, the collection can be browsed by town. Access is free. [Western Cape Genealogy Records]
Ghana – FamilySearch.org has put online 273,000 images of marriage records from Accra, Ghana. Accra is the capital and largest city of Ghana and these new marriage records date from 1929 to 1983. A typical marriage record from Ghana lists the name and age of both the husband and wife. It also lists the date and place of marriage, occupation of the husband, witnesses and place of residence. Also, something you don’t see every day on a marriage certificate, some marriage certificates also list other existing marriages of the husband. FamilySearch’s entire Ghana record collection now lists marriage and divorce records that span the years 1863 to 2003. Access is free. [Ghana Marriage Records]
Commonwealth – The UK National Archives working with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is going to release colonial administration records over the next year. This is a wide-ranging collection of records associated with the colonial administration of many of the UK’s former overseas territories and protectorates such as the Bahamas, Fiji, Jamaica, Kenya, Palestine, Uganda, etc. It does not cover some of the larger Commonwealth countries such as Canada, Australia or New Zealand.
The records will be released in batches over the next year according to the schedule posted on the website of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. In total, 38 countries/regions are represented, with the greatest concentrations in the Caribbean and Africa. Most of the countries on the list traditionally lack good genealogy records. This could be a very valuable collection for anyone with ancestors from these regions. [Colonial Administration Records]
Africa – The International Mission Photography Archive is a new collection of 60,000 historical photographs taken by missionaries throughout Africa and Asia. The images date from the 1860s to World War II. Missionaries tended to move around a lot and usually had a mandate to document their surroundings. As well, they were often assigned to more remote regions of Africa and Asia. As a result, missionaries were often the first people to photograph parts of Africa and Asia. They tended to focus on photographing local people and local scenes. The images in this collection range from visually stunning to technically crude. It is, however, a wonderful resource for anyone looking for genealogy context for historical images from Africa or Asia. The collection is managed by the University of Southern California and the images can be searched by phrase and country. Access is free. [Historic Tribal Images of Africa and Asia]
South Africa – FamilySearch has added 54,000 records of baptisms and marriages from Dutch Reform church registers in Cape Province. The records cover the years 1660 to 1970. [Historic South Africa Baptism and Marriage Records]
Africa – The UK National Archives has posted online thousands of historic images of Africa. These images are likely to be of interest to a large number of people with black ancestry. The collection is called Africa Through a Lens. Three things make this collection unique. First, a significant number of the images are from the 1800s and some pictures go back as far as 1860. Images of Africa from the 1800s are rare. Second, the breadth of images is astonishing. Almost every African country that was a British colony is extensively represented in the collection. Third, the collection comes from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. These are the guys that practically invented the field of social anthropology (the study of cultures). Many of the photographs are of people. The photographs have definitely been taken in such a manner as to attempt to capture the dress and style of the people in the images. For example, the photograph below shows the chief of a tribe in Sierra Leone around 1890. This photographic collection provides a great visual context for anyone with African ancestry. Access is free. [Historic African Genealogy Images]
Ghana – FamilySearch has added some 460,000 Ghana census records from the period 1982-1984. This is the first time FamilySearch has added genealogy records from Ghana. Access is free. [FamilySearch]
South Africa – FindMyPast has just published the Register of the Second Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902. The database contains 260,000 entries compiled from over 330 sources. Included is the casualty roll with details on over 59,000 individuals. The database can be searched by surname. Access is by subscription. [FindMyPast]
Liberia – A new website has been created to track the genealogical history of the 15,000+ African Americans who left the US and emigrated to Liberia between 1820 and 1904. The database lists some individuals who were born in the late 1700s, a rare occurrence in black genealogy. Access is free. First-time users must register with an email address. [Liberian Genealogy Records 1820-1904]
Tunisia – The Tunisia National Library has begun digitizing their national book collection. The digitized books can be downloaded to smart devices such as the iPod, iPhone and the iPad. Tunisia’s National Library contains 1 million books, 40 thousand manuscripts and 16 thousand periodicals. This is a rare online genealogical resource for anyone with Tunisian ancestors. We have not checked this, but it may also contain some useful information relating to World War II battles fought on Tunisian soil. Access is free. Note: most of the books that have been digitized so far are in Arabic and French. [Tunisia Historic Book Collection]
Uganda – Uganda has joined the World Digital Library and is expected to upload content to the site over the next several months. The World Digital Library makes available on the internet unique source material from various cultures around the world. This will be of particular interest to anyone with Ugandan ancestors. Access is free. [Uganda joins World Digital Library]
East Africa: A rare collection of 7,000 photographs documenting the European colonization of East Africa has just gone online. The Northwestern University Library Humphrey Winterton Collection of East Africa Photographs: 1860-1960 contains photographs of white settlers and many landscapes and images of East Africa, with a particular focus on Ethiopia. Access is free. [Humphrey Winterton Collection of East Africa Photographs: 1860-1960]
South Africa: Ancestry24 has put online the marriage and baptism records of St. George's Cathedral in Cape Town. The marriage records from 1825 and the baptism records from 1921 to 1969 are the first phase of an agreement to put online the marriage and baptism records from the South African Anglican Church archives. Access to these records is free. Access to other content is by subscription. [St. George's Cathedral Historic Marriage and Baptism Records 1825-1969]