There are two ways to trace your slave ancestors-learn how the professionals do it and trace them yourself or hire someone to do all or part of it for you. Piecing together a family history doesn't happen in a day or a week, for some it becomes a life-long passion. It's possible that 30 year-old African-Americans could trace their family lines back to between 16 and 32 ancestors who were slaves in 1865. It shouldn't take a lifetime to identify only a few of your slave ancestors. In cases where ancestors became "free persons of color" before that date, the slave generation may not be found until decades earlier; this is more truein Virginia, Maryland and other border states. 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.