International African American Museum Launches New Center to Trace Black Family Geneology

By Sameer Rao Jul 19, 2017

The International African American Museum (IAAM) strives to be more than just a collection of exhibits and historical artifacts. Instead, the future Charleston, South Carolina, institution wants to extend its mission of understanding Black family history to individual visitors, starting with its new Center for Family History.

Described on its website as "a one of a kind, unprecedented research center with a special focus on African-American genealogy," the Center for Family History includes an extensive collection of archival material and records that historians and genealogists can reference to help visitors learn more about their own ancestors’ lives.

"I think the center really is going to personalize the experience for the museum visitor," genealogist and center leader Toni Carrier told The Root. "It’s one thing to walk into a museum and see an exhibit about family history, but it’s quite another thing to possibly walk out of a research center at a museum with your great-grandfather’s marriage record." 

Besides housing records and research materials, the Center for Family History can facilitate individual DNA tests and analysis—all for free.

The IAAM’s future home on Charleston’s Gadsden’s Wharf—a port that logged thousands of enslaved Africans who were forced to enter the United States—opens in 2020. Ahead of the building opening, the museum launched the Center for Family History’s website yesterday (July 18). Users can use it now to research the available marriage records, archival photos and more, and Carrier said that those who are stuck in their searches can contact the center for help.

Check out the IAAM’s planned space via the artist-rendered animation below: