AzAA Blog Post February 2023

February 2023

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February is Black History Month. This month we asked to hear from Phyllis Grimes, President Emeritus the of Black Family Genealogy and History Society, a certified genealogist and a member of the International Association of Professional Genealogists (IAPO).  We asked Phyllis to discuss ways to research African Americans in Arizona. With 0-2% of “known” archival collections representing the Black/African American community of Arizona (according to the Arizona Matrix Study completed in 2012), researching Black families in Arizona is certainly a difficult task, but one that archivists are trying to rectify.


Researching Africans Americans in the State of Arizona can have its challenges and rewards; however, there are some hidden gems to be found, you just have to know where to look.  There are many records in each state that could provide great genealogical data for your research project.  These records may include, birth, death, marriage certificates, court records, state census, and property records, just to name a few.  Other great resources common for most states would be libraries, government, and non-government archival repositories.  In researching African American History in Arizona, the following sources have proven to be valuable:  Arizona State Library, Archives & Public Records; the three Arizona State Universities:  Arizona State University (Phoenix), Northern Arizona University (Flagstaff) and the University of Arizona (Tucson); Latter Day Saints (LDS) Family History Centers, Arizona Historical and  Genealogical Societies and your local public libraries. 

Another great research tool is to google your subject matter, along with the state, city, or county you are researching.  One example of a document that I found while googling was a report by the City of Phoenix Preservation Office, titled, City of Phoenix African American Historic Property Survey.[1] This was a study that was done to preserve African American cultural history in Phoenix Arizona.  Another result of using google was found on the University of Arizona’s website, titled, In the Steps of Esteban,[2]which outlines historical documentation of Tucson’s African American community.  When using a search engine like google, it is especially important to verify and source your research. 

African Americans were an integral part in Arizona’s territorial history; union soldiers, farmers, loggers, and miners, just to name a few.  Keep in mind, Arizona did not become a state until 1912.[3] 

In summary, African Americans have made tremendous contributions to the history of Arizona.  You WILL find them hidden in the records, just waiting to be discovered!

Phyllis Grimes,

International Association of Professional Genealogist (IAPO)

[1] Dean, David R; Reynolds, Jean A, “African American Historic Property Survey;” Athenaeum Public History Group, City of Phoenix Preservation Office, October 2004

[2] University of Arizona, Through our Parents Eyes, “In the Steps of Esteban,” January 2005

[3] Arizona State Library, Archives & Public Records, “Statehood/Modern Period, 1912,”

Published by Arizona Archives Alliance

The Arizona Archives Alliance is a nonprofit organization that advocates for Arizona's historical archives and their users, provides training to archivists and archive volunteers, and promotes the use of Arizona’s historical archives.

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