top of page

Juneteenth: Newest National Holiday

Texas Emancipation Proclamation June 19, 1865 poster

Monday, June 19, we will be celebrating our newest holiday, Juneteenth National Independence Day, for only the third time. There are quite a few websites celebrating the day this year with extended coverage of the history of African Americans in the US and tracing their ancestors and/or countries of origin.

Let's start with a brief look at how this federal holiday came to be. Though the Emancipation Proclamation freed enslaved people in 1863, it was not implemented in states that were still in Confederate control. That news did not reach the 250,000 still enslaved in Texas until Union soldiers arrived on June 19, 1865 in Galveston. It is also called "Juneteenth National Independence Day," "Jubilee Day," "Emancipation Day," "Texas Freedom Day," and "Black Independence Day." The first anniversary was observed in Texas, and soon spread to other states.

Pres J Biden & Opal Lee 19 June 2021

Juneteenth was made a Texas State Holiday in 1980. Thanks to decades of work by my fellow Texan, Opal Lee (a woman now in her 90's!), President Joe Biden signed legislation in 2021 making June 19 a national holiday. I'll include a link at the bottom for you to read about this remarkable woman.

If you do an internet search for "Juneteenth Genealogy" you may be surprised at the number of events planned around the nation specifically geared to tracing the histories of enslaved ancestors happening this weekend. All of the ones I clicked on are free and only ask that you register in advance. Check it out!

RootsTech by FamilySearch has a full day of FREE new live content on June 19th all about African American Genealogy, including records and resources for tracing civil-war era ancestors, and a special lecture by Ric Murphy about slavery in the colonial period. These sessions are usually available at the site to view later in case you already have plans for that Monday. Here is the link to see the scheduled lectures and I'll include it again at the end.

Family Tree Magazine has FREE links to digital records projects regarding tracing enslaved ancestors including "Slave Deeds of North Carolina," Runaway Slave Newspapers advertisements, and Manumission Papers available at the University of VA. I will put the link at the bottom of the article. Family Search (free) and Ancestry have greatly expanded their collections. If you are not already a member at Ancestry, sign up for a free trial, and take a look!

Poster We Are Living History NMAAHC Smithsonian

The National Museum of African American History & Culture (part of the Smithsonian Institute) has a beautiful website all about Juneteenth. There are videos, a reading list, a digital tool kit, stories, historical references, suggested activities, and bling shopping like the poster on the left in the online museum store. They have events planned on site on the 19th if you are in the area. Click on the "Visit" link to make a plan.

Last, but certainly not least, PBS has hours of FREE programming available about Juneteenth, including some regional programming from local PBS stations. I'm not seeing any that are specifically genealogy oriented, but as you know, a knowledge of history will help you draw proper conclusions about the family research you conduct: "In commemoration of Juneteenth, and to honor Black history, freedom and achievement, WORLD Channel invites you to stream films that champion Black stories, rights and the continuing fight for equality." A collection of works by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is also available on the site. See the PBS link at the bottom, as usual.

Do you have any other sources that you find helpful you could share?

Ancestry DNA tests are still on sale through Sunday in celebration of Father's Day and Family Tree DNA has reduced the cost of their Y-DNA testing by $20 down to $99 for the basic test. I hope you will be able to take advantage of family time this weekend to exchange stories and learn new things about your family's history.

If I can help you with your family history, you can find me through the contact page on this website, or by sending me an email. Let's talk! I love hearing your stories!

Happy Father's Day! Happy Juneteenth!

Leslie Ryan

More info about the Grandmother of Juneteenth, Opal Lee FREE:

All day FREE RootsTech sessions about African Americans on June 19:

FREE Family Tree Magazine Slave Records Projects:

National Museum of African American History at the Smithsonian Institute Juneteenth FREE info:

National Museum of African American History at the Smithsonian Institute Museum Store:

FREE Juneteenth videos at PBS:

No compensation is received for any of these links or referrals.

No copyright infringement is intended.


bottom of page