The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 14,626 black Americans with Burnett as their last name. That represented 24% of the total of 60,791 entries.
This article tracks their numbers in the census since the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Burnett.
We end with a review of early records of black military service in the United States.
After The Civil War
The 1870 census was the first survey after the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation. In 1850 and 1860, only free African Americans were recorded in the census. The many enslaved were omitted.
From 1870 onward, all black Americans were included.
1,501 people named Burnett were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 316 as mixed.
There was a total of 11,098 people with the name.
Burnett In The 1900 And 1940 Census
The mixed category was dropped from the census in 1900, so we just need to look at the black numbers this time.
The 1900 census recorded 3,531 people with the last name Burnett as black within a total of 21,772 that year.
By the way, the mixed category returned in the 1910 and 1920 censuses. It was dropped again in 1930, but replaced with extra categories for colored and non-white in a way that seems confusing now.
This changed again in 1940 and we can simply focus on one black category.
The 1940 census recorded 5,343 people named Burnett as black within a total of 33,677.
Historic Black Figures With The Burnett Surname
Here is a notable African American in history with Burnett as their last name.
- Born: 1905
- From: Warrenton, Virginia
- Died: 1995
Dorothy Burnett’s father was a doctor, and he and his wife ensured that their children got a good education. Dorothy obtained an art degree from Howard University in 1928.
James Porter was an art historian at the institution and the two married the following year.
Dorothy became the college librarian in 1930. She spent forty years building up the black collection of library materials. With a small budget, she used her extensive network within the black literary community to secure donations.
She is largely responsible for the renowned Moorland-Spingam Research Center at Howard, one of the great library collections of black historical works.
Burnett In Black Military Records
Military records are a rich resource of information for family history research. Here are examples of the Burnett surname from military service.
Five regiments for black soldiers were formed during the Civil War. They were known as the Buffalo Soldiers.
Their records are part of the national archive of military monthly returns. The information includes the year and place of birth, where they enlisted, their occupation, and their height.
One of the earliest military entries for Burnett was in December 1896. Aleck Burnett was a Sergeant in the U.S. Ninth Cavalry. He was stationed in December 1896 at Fort Sill, Indian Territory.
Another entry was in March 1911. Fred E. Burnett was a Private in the U.S. Tenth Cavalry.
You have to create an account on either website, but you do not need to pay for the Buffalo Soldiers archive.
Black Civil War Sailors
The National Parks Service has a free archive of African American sailors during the Civil War.
The information includes their age, height, rank, occupation, and where and when they enlisted. It also includes every ship that they served on.
You can search the database on the National Parks website.
One of the earliest entries for Burnett was for Alonzo Burnett from Brunswick, Georgia. He enlisted in January 1863 at St Simons Island when he was aged 15.
The record shows that Alonzo was assigned on July 1863 to the ship Madgie.
His naval rank was 3rd Class Boy.
“3rd Class Boy” was a rank generally given to seamen in training, who performed various manual tasks and duties aboard a ship under supervision. This could prepare them for promotion to the rank of 2nd class boy and then to 1st.
John P. Burnett
One of the later entries was for a sailor who enlisted at Philadephia in February 1865. John P. was aged 21 and was from Charleston, South Carolina.
He was assigned to the ship Sagamore on March 1865.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Waiter. His naval rank was Landsman.
“Landsman” was the lowest rank at the time and was given to recruits with little sea experience.