The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 44,350 black Americans with Ellis as their last name. That represented 23% of the total of 188,968 entries.
This article tracks their numbers in the census since the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Ellis.
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.
5,417 people named Ellis were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 744 as mixed.
There was a total of 36,100 people with the name.
Ellis 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 11,885 people with the last name Ellis as black within a total of 62,775 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 17,071 people named Ellis as black within a total of 102,747.
Historic Black Figures With The Ellis Surname
Here are some notable African Americans in history with Ellis as their last name.
- Born: 1909
- From: Chandler, Oklahoma
- Died: 1989
Wade Ellis’ father owned a restaurant in Oklahoma, and a young Wade worked in the kitchens. He also excelled at school, graduating from high school when he was fourteen. He got his degree from Wilberforce University in 1929 when he was eighteen.
Ellis worked as a schoolteacher until 1939 when he moved his family to Ann Arbor to start a doctorate at the University of Michigan. He obtained his PhD in Mathematics in 1944.
He joined MIT and worked on classified radar research. Ellis returned to academia and spent nineteen years teaching mathematics at Oberlin College.
His academic achievements included being appointed Profess of Mathematics at Oberlin and later at the University of Michigan. When he retired, the university gave him the title of Associate Dean Emeritus and Professor Emeritus of Mathematics.
Other Black Mathematicians
Here is another prominent mathematician:
- Born: 1913
- From: Hawkinsville, Georgia
- Died: 1994
Effie O’Neal graduated from Spelman College in 1933 and took a Masters from Atlanta University in 1935, the same year that she married her first husband Arthur Ellis.
When she qualified as a doctor in 1950, she went into pediatric care. Ellis studied the causes of infant mortality rates. She contributed to several medical breakthroughs in pediatric care, including the condition known as blue babies.
Ellis was appointed Director of Maternal Care with Ohio’s Department of Health in 1960. Ten years later, she was elected to the board of the American Medical Association in 1970.
Ellis In Black Military Records
Military records are a rich resource of for family history research. Here are examples of the Ellis surname from three different military services:
- Buffalo soldiers
- Black civil war sailors
- Tuskegee airmen
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 Ellis was in July 1872. John Ellis was a Private in the U.S. Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in July 1872 at Fort Sill, Indian Territory.
One of the later entries was in August 1914. Leonard E Ellis was a Private in the U.S. Ninth 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.
One of the earliest entries for Ellis was for William Ellis from Washington, District of Columbia. He enlisted in August 24 1860 at Boston when he was aged 24.
The record shows that William was assigned on July 1 1863 to the ship Sabine.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Barber. His naval rank was Officers Steward.
One of the later entries was for a sailor who enlisted at New Bedford in September 8 1862. Fountain was aged 38 and was from Dorchester, Massachusetts.
He was assigned to the ship Sabine on September 30 1863.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Stevedore. His naval rank was Landsman.
“Landsman” was the lowest rank at the time and was given to recruits with little sea experience.
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.
Carl Ellis graduated from the Tuskegee Institute in June 1944. He qualified as a fighter pilot. Carl was from Chicago, Illinois.
Everett Ellis came from Baltimore, Maryland. He graduated in January 1946 as a bomber pilot.
You can find a full list of graduate pilots in our list of Tuskegee Airmen.