The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 58,447 black Americans with Holmes as their last name. That represented 37% of the total of 156,780 entries.
This article tracks their numbers in the census since the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Holmes.
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.
7,278 people named Holmes were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 773 as mixed.
There was a total of 29,571 people with the name.
Holmes 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 14,038 people with the last name Holmes as black within a total of 50,492 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 21,271 people named Holmes as black within a total of 81,563.
Historic Black Figures With The Holmes Surname
Here are some notable African Americans in history with Holmes as their last name.
- Born: 1856
- From: Augusta, Georgia
- Died: 1931
William Holmes was born into slavery. His mother taught him how to read. He studied theology and languages at the Augusta Seminary and was ordained as a Baptist Minister in 1881. He also became a professor at the seminary.
He became a member of the board of the Spelman Seminary in 1888. Holmes opened a new college in Macon, Georgia, which included a high school and an adult theology program.
Holmes was a prominent Baptist leader and educator in Georgia. He was President of the Georgia State Teachers Association and lobbied hard for positions for black teachers.
- Born: 1941
- From: Atlanta, Georgia
- Died: 1995
Hamilton Holmes’s grandfather was the first black doctor in East Point, Georgia. The young Hamilton was an excellent student in high school who wanted to emulate his grandparent. He was approached by the Georgia NAACP who wanted to start the desegregation of universities.
Holmes graduated from high school in 1959 as a valedictorian and applied to the segregated University of Georgia. When he was denied entry, he enrolled at Morehouse instead.
The NAACP legal team brought a case against the UGA at the end of 1960. Their lawyers included Horace T. Ward.
When the court found in their favor, Holmes and a young woman named Charlayne Hunter were admitted in 1961. This was the start of academic desegregation in Georgia. Despite protests and riots by white students, Holmes graduated cum laude in 1963.
He went on to become a doctor and medical director at Grady Memorial Hospital.
Holmes In Black Military Records
Military records are a rich resource of for family history research. Here are examples of the Holmes surname from several different military services.
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 Holmes was in October 1870. Abraham Holmes was a Private in the Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in October 1870 at Fort Sill, Indian Territory.
One of the later entries was in June 1914. King Holmes was a Corporal in the 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 Holmes was for Jackson Holmes from Point Pleasant, Louisiana. He enlisted in June 1862 at Off Vicksburg when he was aged 20.
The record shows that Jackson was assigned on March 1864 to the ship Owasco.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Blacksmith. His naval rank was 1st Class Boy.
“1st Class Boy” was the rank given to young men who enlisted when they were under eighteen.
One of the later entries was for a sailor who enlisted at Philadelphia in May 1864. William was aged 28 and was from Gloucester, New Jersey.
He was assigned to the ship Pontiac on April 1865.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Farmer. His naval rank was Landsman.
“Landsman” was the lowest rank at the time and was given to recruits with little sea experience.