Duncan As An African American Last Name

The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 23,427 black Americans with Duncan as their last name. That represented 17% of the total of 135,187 entries.

This article tracks their numbers in the census since the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Duncan.

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.

3,227 people named Duncan were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 497 as mixed.

There was a total of 22,714 people with the name.

Duncan 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 6,151 people with the last name Duncan as black within a total of 40,922 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 8,596 people named Duncan as black within a total of 72,761.

Historic Black Figures With The Duncan Surname

Here is a notable African American in history with Duncan as their last name.

Robert Duncan

  • Born: 1927
  • From: Urbana, Ohio
  • Died: 2012

Robert Duncan studied science at Ohio State and went on to get a law degree in 1952.

He was appointed as a judge in Franklin County in 1966 and sat on the Ohio Supreme Court for three years from 1968. He was the first African American to hold these positions.

Duncan In Black Military Records

Military records are a rich resource of information for family history research. Here are examples of the Duncan surname from different military services:

  • Buffalo soldiers
  • Black civil war sailors
  • Tuskegee airmen

Buffalo Soldiers

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 Duncan was in July 1867. Ortin Duncan was a Private in the U.S. Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in July 1867 at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Another entry was in February 1914. Talton E. Duncan was a Private in the U.S. Tenth Cavalry.

If you are researching military ancestors, there is a free index of these records on Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org.

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.

Peter Duncan

One of the earliest entries for Duncan was for Peter Duncan from Carrol Parish, Louisiana. He enlisted in June 1862 at Vicksburg when he was aged 24.

The record shows that Peter was assigned on March 1864 to the ship Black Hawk.

His occupation before enlisting was as a Blacksmith. His naval rank was 1st Class Boy.

“1st 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 ordinary seaman.

Peter H. Duncan

One of the later entries was for a sailor who enlisted at Washington in November 1864. Peter H. was aged 19 and was from Newport, Rhode Island.

He was assigned to the ship Baltimore on March 1865.

His occupation before enlisting was as a Sailor. His naval rank was Ordinary Seaman.

An ordinary seaman in the Navy is an apprentice who serves on the deck.

Tuskegee Airmen

The Tuskegee Airmen were military personnel who served at the Tuskegee Army Airfield or related programs.

Nearly one thousand black pilots graduated from the Tuskegee Institute. They flew single-engine fighter planes or twin-engine bombers. 352 fought in combat.

Roger Duncan graduated from the Tuskegee Institute in August 1945. He qualified as a fighter pilot. Roger was from St. Louis, Missouri.