As you begin the journey back through four or five generations to the time of slavery, you need know what records to search to document each branch of your family tree. Take a look at the following pages to get an idea of how to get started.
The point is, the better you know a location and its people, the better you will understand the records and there will be less of a chance that you will make false assumptions. At the very least, you should be reading local history books whenever you are working in a new county. The older the books, the better. Older books are a good thing anyway because they are out of copyright and available for free online. Why older? Simply because they will have been written closer to the time you are studying so they should be more accurate (though older accounts of events tend to be embellished a bit). Old genealogies are great too. Even if they aren’t sourced they can be fairly accurate because the people interviewed by the author are more likely to have had first hand knowledge. Church histories are great. Knowing who founded the church, who the original members were and who donated the land is very helpful. Know a little bit about the local businesses. When and by whom were they founded. Contemporary local history books often contain church and business histories.