Gaines As An African American Last Name

The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 22,226 black Americans with Gaines as their last name. That represented 51% of the total of 43,821 entries.

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

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.

2,101 people named Gaines were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 375 as mixed.

There was a total of 5,664 people with the name.

Gaines 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 4,734 people with the last name Gaines as black within a total of 10,708 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 8,207 people named Gaines as black within a total of 20,622.

Historic Black Figures With The Gaines Surname

Here are some notable African Americans in history with Gaines as their last name.

Irene McCoy Gaines

  • Born: 1892
  • From: Ocala, Florida
  • Died: 1964

At twenty-one, Irene McCoy got a job ss a court stenographer in Chicago. She then studied law and social work at the University of Chicago. Irene married Harris Gaines in 1914, a lawyer and future politician.

When their sons attended school, Irene McCoy Gaines began to organize and campaign for better conditions in segregated education. She served as president of the Chicago Council of Negro Organizations for fourteen years.

As she grew older, McCoy Gaines focused on improving opportunities for black women. She was president of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs for six years in the 1950s.

Gaines In Black Military Records

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

  • Buffalo soldiers
  • 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 Gaines was in September 1867. Joseph Gaines was a Recruit in the U.S. Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in September 1867 at Fort Riley (Kansas), Galesburg (Illinois).

One of the later entries was in August 1914. John H Gaines was a Private in the U.S. Ninth Cavalry.

If you are researching military ancestors, there is a free index of these records on and

You have to create an account on either website, but you do not need to pay for the Buffalo Soldiers archive.

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.

Thurston Gaines graduated from the Tuskegee Institute in August 1944. He qualified as a fighter pilot. Thurston was from Freeport, New York.

The records show that Joseph Gaines was in the 51st US Colored Infantry. He was aged 18 in a military record of June 1863.

Gaines In The Freedmen’s Bureau Records

The Freedmen’s Bureau was established after the Civil War to help newly freed African Americans. You can read more in our article on researching the Freedmen archives.

There are over 1,340 records for Gaines in the archives. Here are some of the first names:

  • Cain
  • Lucinda
  • Nancy
  • Squire