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UMass Amherst Libraries

Researching the Early History of Black Lives in the Connecticut River Valley

  Introduction

While the graves of African Americans who died in the 17th and 18th centuries are less likely to be marked with headstones than White members of Valley communities, those numbers rose in the 19th century, and it is possible to find graves that fill in the picture of Black Valley residents in life and in death

Gravestone inscriptions provide birth and death information and offer family relationship clues. However, as primary sources, gravestone inscriptions can contain errors. Genealogical and historical societies and various individuals have transcribed and published cemetery inscriptions. The Systematic Series of Massachusetts vital records relied on information from headstones and other sources. Printed town records and histories sometimes contain epitaphs. Tombstone decorations offer insight into the deceased's economic status, occupation, religious affiliation, interests, and organizational memberships.

Selected List of Materials in the W.E.B. DuBois Library