The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 19,963 black Americans with Vaughn as their last name. That represented 23% of the total of 88,060 entries.
This article compares census numbers before and after the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Vaughn in the last three centuries.
We end with a review of early records of black military service in the United States.
Vaughn Before The Civil War
The 1850 census was the first to record all free members of households together. Before this, people who were not white were not named in the federal census.
In 1850, there was a box to enter color on the census. There were three categories: white, black, and mulatto. The third term is the language of the time, and I will use mixed in this article.
If you are researching your black Vaughn ancestors in census archives, be sure to check the two non-white categories. Do not assume that the people recording the information were always correct.
1850 Federal Census
There were 59 people named Vaughn who were recorded as black in the 1850 census. 30 were recorded as mixed.
Because they are in the main federal census, we know that they were free citizens.
There was a total of 7,017 free citizens named Vaughn that year. There would be one more census in 1860 before the Civil War.
After The Civil War
The 1870 census was the first survey after the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation. All African Americans were included.
Those who were omitted in 1850 and 1860 because they were enslaved were now recorded.
2,288 people named Vaughn were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 364 as mixed.
There was a total of 14,507 people with the name.
Vaughn In The 1900 And 1940 Census
The mixed category was dropped in 1900, so we just need to look at the black numbers this time.
The 1900 census recorded 5,174 people with the last name Vaughn as black within a total of 26,917 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 7,457 people named Vaughn as black within a total of 47,470.
Historic Black Figures With The Vaughn Surname
Here are some notable African Americans in history with Vaughn as their last name.
- Born: 1824
- From: Virginia
The Underground Railroad was a network of safe houses and travel routes organized by many church and community leaders, civil rights activists, and abolitionists. Thousands of enslaved people were helped to escape from the South.
William Still kept substantial notes on fugitives who were helped on their way through Philadelphia. He published the notes in a book in 1872.
Michael Vaughn was one of over twenty fugitive slaves who were smuggled to freedom on a schooner from the South.
The book provides his testimony when he reached Philadelphia about his life in bondage. It also reproduces a letter he wrote from New Bedford in 1855.
You can read the full account in our excerpt on Michael Vaughn and The Underground Railroad.
- Born: 1880
- From: Columbus, Kentucky
- Died: 1949
George Vaughn graduated from Law School in Kentucky. When he returned from fighting in WW1 (he was a 1st Lieutenant), he set up a practice in St Louis, Missouri.
Vaughn was a co-founder of the Citizen Liberty League to help promote black American political candidates.
Vaughn fought a landmark civil rights case to stop a black family from being evicted from a white area in St Louis.
When he lost his case in the Missouri courts, he took the Shelley Restrictive Covenant Case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. They ruled in his favor in 1948.
Seventeen years earlier, Lena Olive Smith fought and won a similar case in Minnesota.
Other black lawyers in the Supreme Court
Here are some other black pioneering lawyers who argued early cases in the U.S. Supreme Court:
Vaughn In Black Military Records
Military records are a rich resource of for family history research. Here are examples of the Vaughn surname from two 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 Vaughn was in February 1873. Henry Vaughn was a Saddler in the Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in February 1873 at North Fork.
One of the later entries was in January 1912. Louis Vaughn was a Sergeant 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 Vaughn was for John Vaughn from Salem County, Pennsylvania. He enlisted in June 1863 at Philadelphia when he was aged 18.
The record shows that John was assigned on November 1863 to the ship Powhatan.
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.
One of the later entries was for a sailor who enlisted at Cincinnati in May 1864. John was aged 24 and was from Hillsboro, Ohio.
He was assigned to the ship Winnebago on October 1864.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Cook. He was also a Landsman while in service.