Friday, February 12, 2010

Many records shed light on African-American genealogy

A recent article on, "Many records available that can shed light on African-Americans' genealogy," provides a good review of African-American resources, especially for the beginning researcher. The article points out the value of the 1870 Census the first in which slave families are listed by name -- the first census recorded after the Civil War and emancipation. The article gives encouragement also for finding information pre-1870 and suggests a number of resources, including census slaves schedules and Freedmen's Bureau records, among other, perhaps lesser known resources, recording various slave transactions, birth, deaths, etc.

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Friday, February 5, 2010

African-American DNA research highligthed

February is Black HIstory Month, and it is no secret to African-Americans with a heritage dating back to the slave era that genealogy research is challenging, at best. A recent article on, "Family Trees: African-Americans find it difficult to trace history," outlines some of the main issues, and highlights DNA research, perhaps, of the greatest breakthroughs for African-Americans. For more on the subject, see author's complete interview with Dr. Rick Kittles, Scientific Director of African Ancestry, at African-Ancestry, Inc. and Associate Professor, The University of Chicago, Department of Medicine.

A couple of resources that might be of interest to researchers include, African Heritage Project and African-American Genealogy Blogs.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

GenealogyBank - African-American newspaper collection

In a press release today, GenealogyBank, a leading online provider of newspapers for family history research, announced it will be adding over 280 fully-searchable African-American newspapers with coverage from 1827 to 1999.  GenealogyBank released the first 61 newspapers in this new series earlier this month, including coverage from 20 states.

“These newspapers are packed with genealogical and historical details of the African-American experience you simply can’t find in other online sources,” says Tom Kemp, NewsBank’s Director of Genealogy. “Making this robust and often rare content available for everyone to use helps all Americans discover the inspiring stories of our forefathers who paved the way for a better, more diverse America.”

For more information see GenealogyBank, African-American Newspapers 1827-1999.

When it comes to leaving no stone unturned in your genealogical quest, GenealogyBank, as well as other historical newspaper collections, are virtual treasures troves of information. Many are available online and many are subscription based but some such as the Utah Digital Newspapers are free of charge. One good resource for locating historic newspapers online is Penn Libraries' Historical Newspapers Online.

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Friday, February 6, 2009 celebrates Black History Month with launch of African American Collection

In celebration of Black History Month, is launching its African American Collection, as announced in a recent press release. has been working with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in Washington, D.C., to digitize records that provide a view into the lives of African Americans that few have seen before.

"These records cover subjects including slavery, military service, and issues facing African Americans dating back to the late 18th century," explains James Hastings, Director of Access Programs at NARA. "Making these records available online will help people to better understand the history and sacrifice that took place in this country." has spent the last two years with NARA compiling this collection and is currently working on adding more records that will be released in the upcoming months.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

What Good Is Genealogy?

In her article, "What Good Is Genealogy?," author Judy Rosella Edwards writes, "This is a common question. My answer is that it gives us a chance to correct the past, where necessary, and create a better future." That answer is at the heart of a movement that has grown out of one New England family's search into their own genealogy, as documented in the PBS movie "Traces of the Trade."

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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

New African American database traces slave ship routes

As noted in a recent article on Digital Journal, "African Americans Receive Major Boost in Genealogy Tracking," a new database reported by Alexandra Marks by the Christian Science Monitor on December 30, 2008, will allow African Americans to trace the slave ship routes as far back as the 16th century, and their genealogy, in the same way that Europeans have been able to track their migration. This is a result of research by hundreds of scholars over 40 years, a project funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. The researchers compiled maps, images and relevant materials from 35,000 slave-trade routes that took place from Africa to parts of North American, Brazil, Europe and the Carribbean. This is a first, and an important one for a large group of people who had before been cut off from knowing about ancestral roots in the same way others have been able to do

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Saturday, December 6, 2008

A face to scare the devil

I have long been admired beautiful and creative pottery -- this article from Pittsburgh Post, "Artist draws on family history to put unique spin on pottery," sheds light on the fascinating history of "jug art." Akin to quilt and song, the jug art provided expression in society not free to communicate openly.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Celebrating Juneteenth, July 19

My grandmother, who grew up in Central Texas at the turn of the twentieth century, told me in a personal interview many years ago, that while she did not remember celebrating the 4th of July, she did remember celebrating another event on the 19th of June, with great hoorah, including fireworks. Although she did not know it by that name, the celebration she recalled is known as Juneteenth, the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. While my family was not African American, their community included many former slaves, among them my family's nearest neighbors, whom my grandmother remembers most fondly. Texas is one of 29 states recognizing Juneteenth as a national holiday . . . and Texas figures prominently in its beginning.

As noted on the web site, Juneteenth, the "19th of June", recognizes June 19, 1865, in Galveston, TX, when Union General Gordon Granger announced freedom for all slaves in the Southwest. This was the last major vestige of slavery in the United States following the end of the Civil War. This occurred more than two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln. Upon the reading of General Order #3 by General Granger, the former slaves celebrated jubilantly, establishing America's second Independence Day Celebration and the oldest African-American holiday observance.

For more on recognizing U. S. Emancipation, see Melissa Slate's article, "Celebrate Juneteenth," which also highlights additional resources.

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Thursday, June 5, 2008

Black Cherokee

The Black Cherokee is an Indian sect whose story is little known. The ancestry of this group is a mixture of African American and Cherokee Indian. In her article, "Black Cherokee," Melissa Slate provides the background of this group and suggests an avenue for further research.

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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

"Meeting David Wilson" airs Friday, Apr 11

"Meeting David Wilson" a feature length documentary about the enduring legacy of slavery in today’s young black society airs Friday, April 11 at 9 p.m. ET. David Wilson, a 28-year-old African-American journalist, travels into his family's past to find answers to America's racial divide. Along the way, he meets another David Wilson, the descendant of his family's slave master. This discovery leads to a momentous encounter between these two men of the same name but whose ancestors were on the opposite sides of freedom. A DVD of the film will be available April 11.

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Friday, February 29, 2008

Online video guides African American research

As we come to the end of Black History month, and article from the Springfield's News-Leader, suggests an online resource out of Missouri that might be of interest to anyone researching African American history. African-American Genealogy: Putting Together the Pieces of Your Past is a five-part video created by the Missouri State Archives, a division of the Secretary of State's office. Family History Research Consultant Traci Wilson-Kleekamp provides tips on accessing the best Web sites, which records are most beneficial and how to get the most out of original records. Wilson-Kleekamp guides researchers through the process of identifying ancestors from the era of slavery through a variety of records and documents. The series and other information on researching African American history is available online at the State web site.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Ancestry adds new records to its African American Collection

Announced in a recent press release,, has expanded its online repository of African-American family history records with two new collections that provide unique insights into African- American family history: Freedman's Marriage Records and Southern Claims Commission Records.

"While these documents depict the horrors of slavery, they also provide invaluable information that help uncover ancestors' life stories," said Megan Smolenyak, Chief Family Historian for "These documents further cement the fact that African-Americans can discover their family's heritage, even those ancestors enslaved prior to the Civil War. We're seeing an increasing interest among African-Americans in tracing their roots, especially as collections such as these are made available and accessible online, rather than stored away in archives."

Users can explore the African-American Historical Records Collection and begin piecing together their family tree at

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

"The Root" - new online magazine for African Americans

Those familiar with the PBS production of African American Lives and the upcoming, African American Lives 2, will also be familiar with host, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. According to an article in the New York Times, "Washington Post Starts an Online Magazine for Blacks," Gates has now teamed up with the Washington Post for a new online magazine entitled, The Root, a magazine "primarily for a black audience, with news and commentary on politics and culture, and tools for readers to research their family histories." Gates will serve as editor in chief. The magazine is free to readers and will be found at . . . The Root’s emphasis on genealogy will set it apart from its competitors. The site will have online tools for people to build their family trees, link to or add information to other people's trees and construct maps showing their ancestral trails. It will also urge people to have DNA testing, the article said.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Remembering Martin Luther King and our African American ancestors

In her article, "African American Resources," Gena Philibert-Ortega reminds us, as we remember this month the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., it may be as good time to look at a few resources for those with African American roots. While so far, I have found no indication of African American roots in my own family, my grandmother did tell of an old couple living nearby "that had been slaves," whom she remembers fondly from her Texas childhood, just at the turn of the twentieth century. The two or three incidents she recalls are endearing, and so it has been my personal quest to find evidence of this family, although we have nothing but first names and a general location to go by. This update of resources may provide new avenues of research.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

New approach to interpreting African American DNA

If you watched the PBS miniseries, "African American Lives," you are familiar with its host, Henry Louis Gates Jr., a Harvard University professor. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal, "Harvard's Gates Refines Genetic-Ancestry Searches for Blacks," explores Gates new venture, emphasizing DNA research is not yet a perfect science.

The article notes, In 2005, Dr. Gates, an African-American Studies scholar, had his DNA tested again and was told by another commercial genealogy service that his maternal lineage didn't track to Egypt, or even to Africa. Instead, it went back to a European in colonial America, who historians believe was a white indentured servant . . . the second version of Dr. Gates's lineage turned out to be the right one. But the mistakes made by the burgeoning genetic-ancestry industry have continued -- prompting Dr. Gates to start his own DNA-tracing company, one that he says will be able to take a more refined look at African-American ancestry. Dr. Gates's new company, African DNA LLC, aims to use historians and anthropologists to explain which of various genetic possibilities prompted by DNA traces is more historically likely.

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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society

As reported in the Terre Haute Tribune Star, "Genealogy: Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society prepares for 29th annual conference," the Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society Inc. was founded with the goal of preserving the family histories of those individuals with African ancestry. The organization promotes cultural diversity by its focus on genealogy and historical research. Its national headquarters are in Washington, D.C.

The Society plans to stage its 29th annual conference this year in the Boston area. Titled “What’s in a Name . . . The Voyage of Discovery,” the conference will be staged Oct. 25-28 in the Boston Marriott Burlington Hotel, Burlington, Mass. The conference will feature more than 30 sessions, six historical tours, and a workshop on National Archives records. More information and the registration brochure can be downloaded from the Web site.

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Friday, June 29, 2007

"Roots: The Next Generations" to air July 8-15

A huge critical and ratings success when it debuted in 1979, the powerful saga of “Roots: The Next Generations" is often overlooked because of the unprecedented impact of the original "Roots" miniseries, the epic mini-series that changed the face of television.

Now, continuing its 30th Anniversary celebration of "Roots," TV One announces the telecast of "Roots: The Next Generations," the continuing saga of Alex Haley’s family line from the post-Civil War era to the Pulitzer Prize-winning author’s genealogical search for his roots in the 1960s, which led him to Africa. The program will air July 8-15.

As with the network’s record-setting telecast of "Roots," TV One’s telecast of "Roots: The Next Generations" will be a week-long television event, hosted by cast members of the award-winning production. The Emmy® Award-winning, 14-hour miniseries will air in seven parts from 8-10 p.m., Sunday July 8 through Friday, July 13, repeating each evening at 10 p.m. and the following weekday at noon, with the finale airing on Sunday, July 15, at 8 and 10 p.m., repeating on Monday, July 16 at 9 p.m. (all times ET). TV One will also air a marathon of the first six parts of "Roots: The Next Generations" on Saturday, July 14 from noon – midnight.

As part of the program, former cast members will reflect on their experiences in interviews that will be available at TV One also has special content on devoted to helping people learn how they can trace their African roots.

The saga of "Roots: The Next Generations" begins during Reconstruction with Kunta Kinte’s great grandson, blacksmith Tom Harvey (Georg Stanford Brown) and continues through the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, the passage of Jim Crow laws legalizing racial segregation, World War II and writer Alex Haley (James Earl Jones)’s own personal search for his African roots in the 1960s and early 1970s.

Still the top-rated miniseries of all time, "Roots," based on the late Alex Haley’s best-selling book about his ancestors, begins with the harrowing story of Kunta Kinte (LeVar Burton), a young West African who is captured by slave traders in 1750 and sold into slavery in America, and the saga continues through the emancipation of Chicken George (Ben Vereen), Kunta Kinte’s grandson.

Said TV One President and CEO Johnathan Rodgers. “We at TV One were especially proud in our 30th Anniversary telecast this spring to introduce "Roots" to a whole new generation of viewers. We look forward now to bringing that new generation this equally compelling sequel, and feel certain they will enjoy Roots: The Next Generations every bit as much.”

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Friday, June 22, 2007

DNA testing offered as part of Family Restoration Roundtable

In a press release yesterday, Diversity Restoration Solutions and Slave Descendants Freedom Society announced they have partnered with Family Tree DNA, the largest DNA company in the field of genetic genealogy, to offer attendees of the Family Restoration Roundtable Educational Seminar series an opportunity to test their DNA for ancestral origins. The seminar series focuses on reconnecting families from the African Diaspora through the use of genealogy and history.

In addition to offering DNA testing with Family Tree DNA, the DRS and SDFS seminar series entitled "Restoring African American Families Using Genealogy and History" will examine and discuss a number of topics, including Transatlantic slave trade and slavery in America; The importance of African American family genealogy as it relates to slavery; 13 steps to restoring a family with genealogy and history; and Cultural and business opportunities in Africa, with The Gambia as the gateway.

The seminar series will be held in more than 50 cities in the United States and abroad into 2008. For more information, visit or call (757) 238-7790.

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Friday, June 1, 2007

Jamestown African Imprint Day

According to an article in the Daily Press, the Jamestown Settlement living-history museum will host an "African Imprint Day" from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, as part of the continuing Jamestown 400th anniversary activities and events. Highlights will include performances by storyteller Dylan Pritchett, the gospel group Virginia Mass Choir and African dance group Suwabi African Ballet. Also planned are a cappella music and stories by Legacy of Weyanoke and performance by the jazz and rhythm and blues group Gator Allmond & Spice of Life Band. In addition, African Imprint Day will feature a workshop on African genealogy, hands-on activities for children, ethnic food and cultural demonstrations. This special event is sponsored by the Virginia African American Forum and the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation.
For more information, see or or call the Jamestown Settlement at 253-4838.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Alex Haley's "Roots" now available on DVD

As reported in the Denver Post, "Reviving Roots," the monumentally resonating TV production of Alex Haley's "Roots," is now available on DVD. "Roots: 30th Anniversary Special Edition" (Warner Home Video, $59.98), the four-disc edition has nine commercial-free hours of the miniseries "that forced Americans to engage what Denver Post TV critic Clark Secrest called at the time 'the central and gruesome fact in American history.'" The DVD also contains compelling bonus material, especially "Roots: One Year Later," narrated by Lou Gossett Jr. and "Crossing Over: How Roots Captivated an Entire Nation."

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Friday, May 11, 2007

National Black Arts Festival spotlights DNA technology

From July 20 thru 29, the world is set to descend upon Atlanta for the 19th annual National Black Arts Festival (NBAF). The 10-day summer festival -- packed with music, theatre, visual arts, dance, spoken word, film and family events -- offers something for everyone without regard to race, age or ethnicity, according to an article on This year NBAF asks the question "Who are you?" as it spotlights DNA technology and encourages festival-goers to trace ancestry to their African origins.

The DNA spotlight also extends to a landmark presentation certain to spark dialogue. NBAF and will team up to test the DNA of an unprecedented number of people during this Festival, beginning with a select group of notable Atlanta politicians, civil rights leaders, clergy, entertainers, entrepreneurs and sports figures. The results will be revealed in July.

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Tuesday, May 8, 2007

South Carolina Magnolia Plantation slave records to be online

Descendants of slaves who worked at Magnolia Plantation will be able to trace their family lineage through a new online archive next year, according to an article on WCIV, Charleston. The Lowcountry Africana web site will be launched in March, when the renovation slave cabins dating back to the 1850s is finished at the plantation outside Charleston.

The site will include records showing the genealogy and daily lives of people who worked at the plantation. The web site is affiliated with the Africana Heritage Project based at the University of South Florida in Tampa and will tell the story not only of slaves, but of blacks who lived there after emancipation.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Britain colonial slave records online

As reported in an article on, "Britain's slave trade records go online," the records of nearly 100,000 British colonial slaves and their owners become available for free on the Internet for the first time. It is hoped the Black History collection on www. will help people fill in gaps in their family histories. The database contains the names of 99,349 slaves and their owners from registers in Barbados between 1815 and 1834 – the year slavery was abolished in British colonies.

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Saturday, April 7, 2007

Alex Haley's "Roots" 30th Anniversary rebroadcast, Easter Sunday

A Munster Times article, "Cable revives 'Roots' on 30th anniversary," announces the 30th Anniversary rebroadcast of Alex Haley's "Roots." The groundbreaking 1977 miniseries returns to television Easter Sunday. TV One, a national cable station featuring African-American programming and Comcast Channel 172 in Chicago, is pairing with African Ancestry, a company specializing in using DNA testing to determine African lineage, to bring back the tale of African-American experience that captivated the nation 30 years ago.

"Roots," an adaptation of Alex Haley's book by the same title, traces the journey of a West African man sold into slavery from Gambia to the U.S., and follows his family through emancipation in the post-Civil War South.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Genealogists Discover Descendants on Anti-Slave Trade Petition

The UK Parliamentary Archives web site at has seen a flurry of activity since it went live, March 19, 2007. The site features a digitised, transcribed version of the petition from Manchester 1806 which is the biggest surviving parliamentary anti slave trade petition. Already individuals are finding names believed to be ancestors. David Prior of the Parliamentary Archives said: "I am bowled over by the feedback we are receiving from people who have recognised names on the petition. Anyone whose ancestor signed the petition will have a unique insight into that person's opinion on this issue at that time."

The 1807 Act of Parliament to abolish the British Slave Trade was the culmination of one of the first, and most successful public campaigns in history. The petition supported the Foreign Slave Trade Abolition Bill of 1806 and was signed by inhabitants of Manchester. It was laid before the House of Lords on 14 May 1806. Also available online is part of the 1807 Act itself and a much smaller pro slave trade petition. These documents along with others will feature in a comprehensive web site being launched by the Parliamentary Archives in May. Both the Manchester abolition petition and the 1807 Act will be key exhibits in The British Slave Trade: Abolition, Parliament and People exhibition in Westminster Hall from 23 May to 23 September 2007. It will be open to the public, free of charge. For further information please contact Ruth Cobb, at 24 Hour Museum.

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Monday, February 26, 2007

Familiar names figure in the Al Sharpton story

It's been all over the newspapers and on TV, Al Sharpton's ancestors were slaves owned by Strom Thurmond's relatives, a newspaper reported Sunday. The Daily News said professional genealogists, working at the newspaper's behest, recently uncovered the ancestral ties between one of the nation's best known black leaders and a man who was once a prominent defender of segregation. "I have always wondered what was the background of my family," the newspaper quoted Sharpton as saying. "But nothing -- nothing -- could prepare me for this."

What may be of special interest to researchers are the familiar names of the genealogists who did the work, Megan Smolenyak and Tony Burroughs. You can more about it in the Detroit News.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ancestry announces online African-American Historical Records

In celebration of Black History Month, in a press release today,, announced the launch of the largest collection of African-American family history records available and searchable online. The collection, which represents the 19th and early 20th centuries, features more than 55 million black family history records that collectively dispel the common misconception that very few historical records were kept for African-Americans and that tracing African-American ancestry is virtually impossible. This month, individuals can search the African-American Historical Records Collection and receive free access to for three days.

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Friday, February 16, 2007

First ever conference for those with history in Alabama's Black Belt Region

On Saturday, Feb. 17, the first ever Black Belt African American Genealogy Conference and Family History Fair will be held in Selma by the Black Belt African American Genealogical and Historical Society, Inc. While everyone is invited to attend, this event should be of particular interest to those living in, or with ancestry in, the 12 counties of Alabama's Black Belt Region: Bullock, Choctaw, Dallas, Greene, Hale, Lowndes, Macon, Marengo, Perry, Pickens, Sumter and Wilcox. For more information, see

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Saturday, February 3, 2007

Centenariam with sharp memory shares knowledge and wisdom

A 100-year old birthday is a milestone worth noting. Atheria Finney, one of 21 siblings, was born Jan. 5, 1907. An article on, "100-Year-Old Matriarch Provides History For Local Family" reports Finney has a sharp memory and is able to recite poems, important dates and old negro spirituals.

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