Here is another article on the Creole Fire Company! I found this among the vertical files of the Historic Mobile Preservation Society.
For additional information on the steamer “Ocean Wave” please visit my accompanying Facebook page at
The steamer “Ocean Wave” exploded at Point Clear, Alabama, in August 1871, wounding and killing many on board, including Mobile area Creoles of color. Here are a couple of articles about the disaster. Thank you Ron Shawhan (whose ancestors were among those killed) for sharing information on this tragedy.
Free Creoles of color in Mobile had their own fire company. This article describes its origins and the social status in Mobile of the free Creoles of color. Please see my dissertation posted on this website for information on the Creole Fire Company.
In addition to examining federal census records, researchers should check to see if state censuses are available. Many states have taken censuses, often in years not covered by federal enumerations. As with other records researchers should not rely upon a single record when determining one’s racial status. Here is a page from the 1855 Alabama state census, Mobile County. Ancestry.com has images from some Alabama (and other areas) state records.
Another “nonpopulation” schedule, the 1880 Defective, Dependent, and Delinquent schedule, enumerates both whites and nonwhites. People from prisons, jails, mental hospitals, or orphanages, for example, were enumerated like others in 1880 population schedule. The enumeration may contain the person’s home residence, as well as other data which varied from class to class. (This enumeration may be found on Ancestry.com.) Here is an example from Mobile County, Alabama.
Mortality schedules of the federal census are a valuable source for genealogists of all races. They contain the names of persons who died in the twelve months preceding the date of the census. Information in the schedules varies over time. The 1850 and 1860 forms contain data on slaves and free people of color and sometimes include names of slaves. Here are examples from Mobile, Alabama. Note the place of birth for Paul Lewis, line 31, 1870: Africa.
Here is another newspaper article I found in the Vertical File Collection, under "Creoles -- Alabama" at the Mobile Public Library!
I found many of these newspaper articles by checking the vertical files at the local history section of the Mobile Public Library or the Historic Mobile Preservation Society. Check similar holdings in areas where your ancestors resided. With many newspapers online research methods have certainly changed over the years!
Aware of their rights Creoles of color in Mobile and Baldwin counties petitioned Mobile authorities to maintain their “privileged position” in the community after the Civil War. [The quoted phrase is from Michael Fitzgerald, Urban Emancipation: Popular Politics in Reconstruction Mobile, 1860-1890 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2002): 52.] Have you checked records in university and museum archives, especially in areas your ancestors lived?
I am a professional genealogist specializing in tracing the lives of African Americans. I earned my Ph.D. in history from the University of Alabama.