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# Wednesday, October 15, 2014
"Finding Your Roots" Features Ben Affleck, Khandi Alexander and Benjamin Jealous
Posted by Diane



All three guests—Ben Affleck, Khandi Alexander and Benjamin Jealous—in last night's "Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates, Jr." had connections to the Civil War and to the American Revolution, highlighting the contradictions in a country that supported the ideals of the American Revolution yet allowed slavery to continue.

Revolutionary War pension files were the source for most information on the ancestors' Revolutionary War service. Laws making pensions available to most veterans or their dependents weren't passed until years after the war, when the ranks of those eligible to apply were rapidly thinning.

Revolutionary War pension applications are on microfilm at the National Archives and the Family History Library. In addition, the records are digitized and available on subscription sites Ancestry.com and Fold3. FamilySearch.org has a free index you can search, then you'll link to Fold3 to see the record.

Learn more about military pension records for the American Revolution, War of 1812 and the Civil War in our Pension Records Workbook, available from ShopFamilyTree.com.

Here's a rundown of this episode's genealogy finds:
  • Ben Affleck, a Boston native, actor and producer, discovered he has a third-great-grandfather Almon Bruce French who was active in the Spiritualist movement that took hold of the country in the latter 19th century. He believed he was a medium and would travel around conducting seances so Civil War widows and orphans could "communicate" with their deceased loved ones.
His sixth-great-grandfather served in the Revolutionary War under Gen. George Washington in the summer of 1776. Gates also revealed that Affleck is 10th cousins once removed with his good friend and fellow Bostonian Matt Damon (Affleck seemed surprised, but this link was actually uncovered several years ago).
  • Khandi Alexander, an actor, knew nothing of her family history, which Gates pointed out is common in African-American families who chose to forget the painful experiences of slavery and segregation. She'd never even seen a picture of her grandfather, who she learned died as a young man in an industrial explosion in Florida. The newspapers called it an accident, but his family suspected it was rigged by employees who didn't want a black supervisor.
Alexander's second-great-grandfather, born a slave, was the son of an unidentified black slave and a white slaveowner. Through that man, Alexander is descended from a man who served in the American Revolution and went on to own 85 slaves on a large plantation.
Her DNA test showed she's about three-quarters African, and a more-specific analysis pinpointed the areas in Africa where her DNA originates.
  • Benjamin Jealous, a civil rights activist and past president of the NAACP, is a descendant of Peter G. Morgan, an African-American who was born into slavery, took advantage of the rare opportunity to learn a trade, and earned enough to purchase his own freedom just before the Civil War. He received special permission to remain in Virginia (the law there stated that freed slaves had to leave the state), and claimed ownership of his wife and daughters as slaves to help protect them from being kidnapped and sold into slavery. He freed them with a moving manumission statement in 1864.
In his white father's family, Jealous has eight ancestors known to have served in the American Revolution, including a 16-year-old who played the fife at the Battles of Lexington and Concord.
Jealous' DNA test revealed he is 80 percent European and about 18 percent African.
You can watch the full "Finding Your Roots" episode with Ben Affleck, Benjamin Jealous and Khandi Alexander on the show's website.

And keep an eye on the show's Genealogy Blog, where genetic genealogist CeCe Moore is providing more information about the show's DNA testing strategy and the results revealed on air.


African-American roots | Celebrity Roots | Genealogy TV | Military records | Research Tips
Wednesday, October 15, 2014 10:49:04 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, October 08, 2014
"Finding Your Roots": Anderson Cooper, Anna Deavere Smith, Ken Burns
Posted by Diane


Last night's "Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates Jr." linked its guests, Anderson Cooper, Ken Burns and Anna Deavere Smith, by the events of the Civil War.

  • CNN journalist Anderson Cooper, who is related to New York's Vanderbilt family through his mother Gloria, has Southern roots on his father's side. Several of his relatives who fought in the Confederate Army were small farmers and laborers in Mississippi, and among the majority of Southerners who didn't own slaves. But Cooper was surprised to learn that a third-great-grandfather who did own a plantation was killed by one of his slaves.
Normally toward the end of each episode, Gates will reveal the results of the guests' DNA tests.We didn't hear anything about Cooper's DNA. Makes me wonder if the results were so anticlimactic, or maybe revealed sensitive information.

You can see an interactive family tree for Anderson Cooper here.
  • Ken Burns has an ancestry worthy of a producer of documentaries about history, with relatives in the Civil War (on the Confederate side, including one held at Camp Chase in Ohio), a slave-owning third-great-grandfather, relatives on both sides of the American Revolution, and a link to his hero, Abraham Lincoln (his 5th cousin four times removed). The show's researchers' also found DNA evidence to support Burns' family legend that he's related to Scottish poet Robert Burns.    
  • Anna Deavere Smith, an actress and playwright, had the best story of the episode, I thought. Her free black great-great-grandfather Basel Biggs moved his family to Pennsylvania before the Civil War—where their farm was right in the path of the Confederate army on its way to Gettysburg. The family fled before the battle; their land was used as a Confederate field hospital. Afterward, Basel was hired to supervise a handful of men disinterring Union soldiers who fell on the battlefield and reburying them in orderly graves—the first burials in what became the Gettysburg National Cemetery. A Cleveland, Ohio, newspaper article celebrated his success as a veterinarian and his "magnificent" home. Last, Gates showed Smith Basel's obituary, which revealed that Basel Biggs was active on the Underground Railroad.

    Finally, Smith's DNA results showed she shares maternal ancestry with the Igbo people in what's now Nigeria.
Gates asked Smith, "How could your family have lost the story of this man?", a question that could apply to pretty much anyone's family history, and a situation genealogists work so hard to fix.  

You can watch the full "Finding Your Roots" season 2, episode 3 online.


African-American roots | Celebrity Roots | Genealogy TV
Wednesday, October 08, 2014 11:22:09 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Wednesday, October 01, 2014
"Finding Your Roots" Traces Family Trees of Athletes Derek Jeter, Billie Jean King, Rebecca Lobo
Posted by Diane



Titled "Born Champions," last night's episode of "Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr." examined the ancestries of recently retired New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter (above, during the show), tennis legend Billie Jean King and WNBA star Rebecca Lobo.

Throughout the show, Gates emphasized how past generations' character and decisions may have contributed to their descendants' success.

Derek Jeter
Derek Jeter was on a kind of surname roller coaster when he first learned that the last name he's carried all his life came from a slaveowner, then learned that the slaveowner was his third-great-grandfather—so he had a genetic connection to his name, after all. (Our African-American Slave Genealogy Guide can help you research your own black ancestors before the end of slavery.)

Gates pointed out how common it is for black Americans to have European ancestry. It's not hard to see why, under an institution that gave one person absolute power over another. DNA testing of Jeter and known descendants of the slaveowner confirmed the relationship.

Jeter said during the show that he thought he was Black and Irish. (Note: This is updated. I originally thought I heard him say "Black Irish," and a reader corrected me.) It turned out Jeter has a female ancestor from Ireland, whom the show mentioned in passing, and she married an Englishman.

Billie Jean King
King's "Gammy," her dad's mom, was adopted as a baby. An aunt had a family Bible that recorded Gammy's birth name, enabling Gates' team to find her birth record and learn Gammy's mother's name.

King's DNA test revealed no American Indian heritage, squashing King's mother's closely held belief that her family line included Seminole Indians.

Rebecca Lobo
Lobo has Spanish heritage on her father's side. Her great-grandmother Amelia Gutierrez left a diary, which a cousin had, that told how her father Antonio escaped to Tangier after fighting to establish the first Spanish republic in 1873. When the family decided to emigrate in 1896, they arrived too late to catch their ship to Argentina, so they went to North America instead. (Find a guide to research in Spain, Portugal and the Basque region in our December 2011 Family Tree Magazine.)

Her DNA test revealed that she had just over 10 percent Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, which Gates said suggests a great-grandparent (based on the fact that you inherit approximately 12.5 percent of your autosomal DNA from each great-grandparent). Then through chromosome analysis, the research team could learn which of Lobos' grandmothers contributed the Jewish DNA. Because there was no paper evidence of Jewish ancestry for that grandmother's mother, Gates said it's likely that the father—as yet unidentified—was Jewish.

I tell you what, I could really use a message or two from a sponsor in this show. As irritating as commercial interruptions can be, it's hard to keep up (or go switch the laundry) when you don't have any breaks.  

You can watch the full "Finding Your Roots" episode with Derek Jeter, Billie Jean King and Rebecca Lobo online.

Here, you can read genetic genealogy consultant CeCe Moore's post about the DNA testing done for last week's "Finding Your Roots" episode—including more on that loose end regarding the identity of Courtney Vance's grandfather.


African-American roots | Celebrity Roots | Genealogy TV | Genetic Genealogy
Wednesday, October 01, 2014 10:50:54 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Wednesday, September 24, 2014
"Finding Your Roots" Episode 1 Focuses on Fathers' Family Histories
Posted by Diane



Last night's "Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr." tied together the family histories of three well-known Americans—author Stephen King and actors Gloria Reuben and Courtney Vance—with the theme of fathers. Missing fathers, to be more specific.

All three lost their fathers before they could learn anything about their history. King was 2 when his father walked out; Reuben's father died when she was 12; and Vance was 30 when he lost his father to suicide.

The message that hit home for me, which I think is the message that host Henry Louis Gates wanted to get across, is that some empty part of you is filled when you can discover these missing parts of your family's past. King said you "see that there's a foundation underneath you."

Last night's surprises for the three guests included:
  • King's father, who joined the Navy after abandoning his family, changed his last name at some point from Pollack to King. The show's researchers could find no legal record of a name change, though—he just started using the new name as a young man.
  • King was surprised to learn he had Southern roots; his ancestors moved North and served for the Union during the Civil War.
  • The show's researchers also were able to identify her earliest African ancestor in the Western Hemisphere, who was transported as a slave via the Middle Passage. Gates pointed out how hard this is to do, a dream for many African-American genealogists.
  • Courtney Vance's father grew up in foster care. Vance learned the identity of his father's mother, as well as some painful aspects of her life.
  • Through Y-DNA testing of himself and a male-line descendant of the minister his grandmother had named as the father of her child, Vance learned that the minister was not the father. More importantly, the test identified a Y-DNA match—a relative along Vance's paternal line. With further research in that man's family tree, Vance could possibly learn who his grandfather was. I wonder if the show's researchers attempted this and for some reason it didn't make the show? Talk about loose ends.

    If you want to use DNA to solve family mysteries, you can learn how in our Genetic Genealogy 101 Family Tree University online course and our Using DNA to Solve Family Mysteries webinar.
The full "In Search of Our Fathers" episode is available to view on the "Finding Your Roots" website. The show will air on most PBS stations on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. Eastern.

African-American roots | Celebrity Roots | Genealogy TV | Genetic Genealogy
Wednesday, September 24, 2014 10:58:05 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, September 22, 2014
Genealogy TV: "Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr" Premieres Tomorrow
Posted by Diane

Clear your calendars and set your DVRs tomorrow night (Sept. 23) to watch the premiere of "Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates, Jr." at 8 p.m. Eastern on PBS.

In this series, Harvard African-American history professor, author and documentary filmmaker Henry Louis Gates escorts well-known Americans on a journey into their family history. Each episode features three guests whose family histories share " an intimate, sometimes hidden link."

Tomorrow's premiere reveals the family histories of author Stephen King and actors Gloria Reuben and Courtney B. Vance. Here's a quick preview:



Other guests on this season's 10 episodes include
  • actors Ben Affleck, Anna Deavere Smith, Khandi Alexander, Angela Basset, Tina Fey and Sally Field
  • journalists Anderson Cooper and George Stephanopolous
  • authors Deepak Chokra and David Sedaris
  • athletes Billie Jean King (tennis), Derek Jeter (baseball) and Rebecca Lobo (basketball)
  • musicians Nas, Carole King and Sting
  • filmmaker Ken Burns
  • civil rights activist Benjamin Todd Jealous
  • chefs Aaron Sanchez, Ming Tsai and Tom Colicchio
  • presidential adviser Valerie B. Jarrett
  • playwright Tony Kushner
  • civil rights lawyer Alan Dershowitz
  • Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick
Ancestry.com provides funding for the show along with other businesses and foundations. The Your Genetic Genealogist blogger CeCe Moore serves as genetic genealogy consultant.

On the Finding Your Roots website, you can read profiles of the show's guests; read blogs by Gates and the show's researchers and producerssubmit stories from your family history research (as well as reading others' stories); and watch full episodes from Season 1.

To tide you over until tomorrow, see how Henry Louis Gates Jr. answered Family Tree Magazine's inquisitive "5 Questions" reporter.


African-American roots | Celebrity Roots | Genetic Genealogy
Monday, September 22, 2014 10:08:00 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, June 20, 2014
Genealogy News Corral: June 16-20
Posted by Diane

In addition, to commemorate Juneteenth, FamilySearch has added to its collection of records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, or the Freedmen's Bureau. These document the post-Civil War era and include marriage records legalizing marriages of former slaves, labor contracts, military payment registers and more. Read more about the records in FamilySearch's announcement and link to the Freedmen's Bureau collections (which FamilySearch.org organizes by state) here.
  • The Civil War Trust is launching a fundraising campaign to save the North Anna area of the Jericho Mills battlefield in Virginia. Matching grants, donations from private foundations and other funding means the trust already has 90 percent of the purchase price needed to acquire the area. It likely will eventually be made part of the Richmond National Battlefield Park. Learn more about North Anna and the campaign to save it on the Civil War Trust website.


African-American roots | Celebrity Roots | Civil War | FamilySearch | Genealogy TV | UK and Irish roots
Friday, June 20, 2014 11:08:18 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, February 21, 2014
Genealogy News Corral, Feb. 17-21
Posted by Diane

  • The College of Charleston has launched the Lowcountry Digital History Initiative to share exhibits that "highlight underrepresented race, class, gender, and labor histories within and connected to the Lowcountry region." Current exhibits feature photos and historical documents related to slavery and the struggle for civil rights. This map, for example, shows the plan of the Airyhall rice and cotton plantation in 1849.

  • The new family history mapping website Place My Past has made some updates, including a Gallery page of maps and datasets you can layer over your family tree. Recently added datasets include US cemeteries, churches and other genealogical points of interest from the US Geographic Names Information System. You can browse the main map on Place My Past for free; subscribers ($48 per year) can upload their family trees to be plotted onto a map, add notes, and overlay it with maps and visualizations of data from the Place My Past Gallery.

  • Findmypast's Australian genealogy subscription site, findmypast.com.au, has added more than 640,000 convict records. It's an especially handy database for Australians, as about 20 percent of them (according to findmypast) are estimated to have convict ancestry. The new records include more than 515,000 New South Wales and Tasmania: Settlers and Convicts 1787-1859 documents, and 125,000 Convict Transportation Registers. Read more about the collection on findmypast.com.au.
  • FamilySearch.org has added close to 4.2 million indexed records and images to collections from Australia, Austria, Brazil, Belgium, Canada, Dominican Republic, France, Germany, Honduras, Italy, New Zealand, Peru, Spain, United Kingdom and the United States. UK additions include WWI Women's Auziliary Corps Records (1917-1920), which aren't yet indexed, so you'll need to browse them. From the United States, notable additions include 1850 census slave schedules (browse only) and records form the Panama Canal Zone (1905-1937, also browse only). Click here to see a list and access each updated collection.


African-American roots | FamilySearch | findmypast | Genealogy Apps | Genealogy Events | Genealogy societies | International Genealogy
Friday, February 21, 2014 11:24:17 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, February 14, 2014
Genealogy News Corral, Feb. 10-14
Posted by Diane

Happy Valentine's Day and President's Day weekend!
  • We don't often think about slavery in northern US states, but a new website called Mapping Slavery in Detroit documents a University of Michigan project to explore the history of slavery in Detroit. A chart shows stats on slaves and free African-Americans from censuses in 1773, 1779, 1782 and 1810, and an interactive map shows slavery-related sites.
  • A Facebook post led me to a website about an Underground Railroad route along a road I often travel here in Cincinnati. Hamilton Avenue Road to Freedom has background information, a map, photos and more.


African-American roots | Celebrating your heritage | Social History | Social Networking
Friday, February 14, 2014 12:36:20 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Free Black History Records on Fold3 & More African-American Genealogy Resources
Posted by Diane

In honor of Black History Month this month, genealogy website Fold3 is offering free access to its Black History Collection of records through the end of February. That includes:
  • Washington, DC court slave and emancipation records

  • South Carolina estate inventories and bills of sale (1732-1872)

  • US Colored Troops Civil War service records

  • Southern Claims Commission records (which also mention nonAfrican-Americans who made claims against the federal government for property lost during the Civil War)

  • War Department Military Intelligence Division records on "Negro subversion"

  • ... and more titles. 
You'll need to register for a Basic Fold3 membership in order to view records. Here's the Fold3 blog post about this offer.

Looking for other resources and records for tracing African-American ancestors? Here are several other sites we like (the last three are more how-to focused; the ones before that are more records-focused): Learn how to research African-American roots during and after slavery in Family Tree University's Finding African-Americans in Newspapers four-week online course with instructor Tim Pinnick. It starts Feb. 24—learn more here.

You'll find our African-American genealogy guides in ShopFamilyTree.com.


African-American roots | Free Databases | Genealogy Web Sites
Wednesday, February 12, 2014 1:22:59 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, January 24, 2014
Genealogy News Corral, Jan. 20-24
Posted by Diane

  • British subscription and pay-per-view genealogy site Origins.net now has record images and searchable indexes to the entire 1901 census for England and Wales. The site already has the 1841, 1861 and 1871 censuses. It will add the1851, 1881 and 1891 censuses in the coming months, to cover the full range of censuses from 1841 to 1901. Search the 1901 census here and the rest of the census collection here.

  • The University of Texas at Austin is digitizing and preserving more than 800,000 documents and photographs from the Central Lunatic Asylum for Colored Insane, a mental institution for African-Americans founded in Petersburg, Va., in 1870. Next up is finding resources to put the images online. It sounds like documents with individuals' names would have limited access, with more availability for papers such as annual reports. Read more on UT's alumni magazine website.
  • The Department of Defense signed a $5 million agreement with T3Media to digitize thousands of historical photos, many discovered in obscure places on base or offices that are closed or relocated. T3Media will have a limited period during which the can charge for access to the images (those inside the Department of Defense will get free access). Read more on Defense.gov.


African-American roots | Civil War | FamilySearch | Historic preservation | Military records | UK and Irish roots
Friday, January 24, 2014 2:16:31 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Wednesday, December 25, 2013
African-American Genealogy and Slave Ancestry Research Group Blogfest!
Posted by Diane

Look for more African-American genealogy blogs to come online in the next couple of weeks: Our Georgia Roots blogger Luckie Daniels, who started the 200-member African-American Genealogy and Slave Ancestry (AAGSAR) Research Group (a closed group hosted on Facebook) in August, is planning the AAGSAR Blogfest for Jan. 5.

Daniels' goal is to bring all the AAGSAR community members online with a blog or family website, creating a fantastic source of information and inspiration for African-American family history researchers. "We very well could see the likes of 75-plus new genealogy blogs online before 11:59p.m. Jan. 5," Daniels says.

See a list of AAGSAR genealogy blogs here, and look for it to grow on Jan. 5.


African-American roots | Genealogy Web Sites | Social Networking
Wednesday, December 25, 2013 8:53:05 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [17]
# Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Genealogy Roadshow Dispels Myths, Tells (Short) Stories
Posted by Diane

Did you watch "Genealogy Roadshow" on PBS last night?

It's easy to see the "Antiques Roadshow" styling: "Genealogy Roadshow" had the lines of people waiting to get in, the onlookers watching the expert consultations, a host, a break to take in a few minutes of local history (of the Belmont Mansion, where the episode was filmed), and the guests' surprised expressions.

I loved how the audience members leaned in to hear what genealogists D. Joshua Taylor and Kenyatta Berry had to say about the guests' family claims.

I loved how twice, another person related to the story emerged from the audience to meet the surprised guest.

And I loved how Taylor and Berry quickly dismissed several common family claims, such as being related to Davy Crockett, George Washington (who had no known descendants) or Jimmy Carter. They always offered a bright side: The husband of the woman who wasn't related to Davy Crockett had a Revolutionary War ancestor, for example, making their children eligible for membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Here, we share six common genealogy myths you'll want to avoid as you trace your family tree.

A couple of wishes regarding "Genealogy Roadshow":
  • The show was fast-paced, so there were times I wanted more and slower visual aids to explain the connections researchers had uncovered. We saw family trees in some cases, but the show zoomed through them pretty quickly.
  • I wished to spend more time on some stories. An African-American woman learned from a letter discovered at an archive that she really is related to white Tennessee governor Austin Peay. But who wrote the letter, and why?

    And I just wanted to hear more about the African-American family who learned their enslaved ancestor, Dinah Bell, was brought from South Carolina to Tennessee. A dozen or so family members of all ages were hanging on Taylor's every word, and you could see how much the information meant to them.
That story; the one about the tender photo of Lafayette Cox, an African-American man, holding the little boy of the family he worked for; and the story of Sarah Jones, a young woman who had never met her father, were my favorites.

You can watch the Nashville episode of Genealogy Roadshow online.

I can't wait to see next week's show, set in Detroit!

Do your own genealogy detective work to sort out family stories with help from Family History Detective: A Step-By-Step Guide to Tracing Your Family History and  The Family Tree Problem Solver: Tried and True Tactics for Tracing Elusive Ancestors.



African-American roots | Genealogy TV | Research Tips
Tuesday, September 24, 2013 12:04:03 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Observe Juneteenth by Remembering Slave Ancestors
Posted by Diane

Happy Juneteenth—the holiday that commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas on June 19, 1865.  On that day, Union Gen. Gordon Granger stood on a balcony in Galveston and read General Order No. 3, informing the people of Texas that slaves there were freed.

From the beginning, Texas freedmen marked Emancipation Day—now known as Juneteenth—with festivals and remembrances of enslaved ancestors. Observances declined during the early 20th century, but have seen a resurgence since the Civil Rights movement. Juneteenth became an official state holiday in Texas in 1980; 41 other states and Washington DC have designated it a holiday or a day of observance.

Learning about African-American roots during slavery is difficult but it isn't always impossible. These free online articles will get you started:

Also check out these resources in ShopFamilyTree.com:


African-American roots
Wednesday, June 19, 2013 12:24:37 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, May 22, 2013
US Colored Troops Service Records Free Through May 31
Posted by Diane

Today—the 150th anniversary of the creation of the US Colored Troops (USCT)—the National Archives has announced the completion of the USCT Service Records Digitization Project.

The USCT Service Records collection is available free to everyone today through May 31 on Fold3, which was a partner in the project. 

The USCT was established May 22, 1863 by War Department General Order 143 to organize African-American soldiers to fight for the Union Army. Its members fought in 39 major battles and 400 other engagements. Sixteen received the Medal of Honor.

The collection holds nearly  4 million record images. The service records can include muster rolls, enlistment papers, correspondence, orders, prisoner-of-war memorandums and casualty reports. Some files include deeds of manumission and bills of sale for former slaves whose owners received compensation for freeing the slaves to enlist.

Search or browse the USCT records collection here.


African-American roots | Fold3 | Military records
Wednesday, May 22, 2013 4:29:21 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, March 01, 2013
Genealogy News Corral, Feb. 25-March 1
Posted by Diane

  • The new Legacies of British Slave Ownership database holds the names of 46,000 slave owners in British colonies who received compensation for the loss of "property" when Britain abolished slavery in 1833 (it outlawed the trade in 1807). The database doesn't name slaves, but it could aid those who are tracing African ancestors by researching the slave-owning families. Search the database here
  • The Civil War Trust's annual Park Day takes place Saturday, April 16 at more than 100 participating battlefields in 24 states. Volunteers help clean and maintain these important Civil War sites by raking leaves, picking up trash, painting signs, clearing trails and more. To learn how you can help, visit the trust's Park Day page and click on the name of the participating Civil War site you're interested in (note that some sites are holding their volunteer events on alternate dates).
... and don't forget about the Heirloom Registry Online Scavenger Hunt taking place next week. Have a good weekend!


African-American roots | Civil War | Historic preservation | Italian roots | UK and Irish roots
Friday, March 01, 2013 11:05:04 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Jump-Start Your African-American Genealogy
Posted by Diane

As we enter the last week of Black History month, I wanted to make sure those researching African-American roots know about this new Value Pack of genealogy tools:  our Jump Start Your African-American Genealogy Value Pack.

Slavery and segregation present unique obstacles to tracing African-American family history—but finding those roots isn't always impossible.

The books, articles and classes in this new value pack will help you formulate strategies and uncover sources to help you deal with brick walls in African-American genealogy research. You'll also learn about resources that exist just for African-American ancestors.

The Jump Start Your African-American Genealogy Value Pack contains:
  • Find Your African-American Ancestors: A Beginner's Guide
  • Best African-American Genealogy Sources article download
  • Best African American Genealogy Websites half-hour video class
  • Reconstruction 101 for African-Americans half-hour video class 
Getting all these resources in one Value Pack means they're yours for just $29.99 (instead of $75-plus).

Click here for more details on the Jump Start Your African-American Genealogy Value Pack.


African-American roots | ShopFamilyTree.com Sales
Wednesday, February 20, 2013 3:32:01 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, February 11, 2013
African-American Genealogy Resources
Posted by Diane

Black History Month started in 1926 with "Negro History Week," set during the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. February was first celebrated as Black History Month at Kent State University in 1970; the US government first recognized the celebration in 1976. The UK observed Black History Month beginning in 1987 and Canada's House of Commons followed suit in 1995.

This month shines a spotlight on those researching African-American ancestors—and the challenges that slavery and segregation have placed in their way. These are some of our favorite FamilyTreeMagazine.com resources to help you face those challenges and commemorate the lives of your ancestors:
Looking for more in-depth advice on how to research your African-American ancestors? Try these:


African-American roots | Family Tree University
Monday, February 11, 2013 11:31:46 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, February 08, 2013
Genealogy News Corral, Feb. 4-8
Posted by Diane

  • PBS has gathered its African-American history content into one place to help you celebrate Black History Month. Watch programs including Freedom Riders and Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr., take a quiz about miletones in African-American history, get ideas for celebrating the month with kids and more.
  • Know a young genealogist who could use $500 toward genealogy education, plus a free registration to attend the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree? Applications are being accepted for the 2013 Suzanne Winsor Freeman Memorial Student Genealogy Grant, created to honor the mother of The Family Curator blogger Denise Levenick. It's open to any genealogist who is between the ages of 18 and 25 and has attended school in the last 12 months. The recipient must attend the 2013 Jamboree in Burbank, Calif., to receive the award. Application deadline is March 18, 2013, at midnight PST. Learn more here.
  • Findmypast.com is giving its registered users the opportunity to watch the BBC show Find My Past, which reveals how ordinary individuals are related to people from significant historical events.  With a free findmypast.com registration, you can watch episodes that first aired during the past 30 days. Thereafter, episodes will be available to the sites subscribing members. Learn more on findmypast.com.
Also new in findmypast.com's World subscription is a collection of 200 British newspapers from England, Scotland and Wales from 1700 to 1950.


African-American roots | Genealogy for kids | Genetic Genealogy | MyHeritage | Newspapers | UK and Irish roots
Friday, February 08, 2013 3:04:28 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, February 01, 2013
Genealogy News Corral: Special Black History Month Edition
Posted by Diane

In honor of Black History Month this month, today brings you a special African-American history-themed news roundup:
  • An interactive online map—a companion to the PBS "American Experience" documentary The Abolitionistslets you explore the story of the abolitionist movement in America. Powered by History Pin, the Abolitionist Map of America has images, documents and videos from dozens of libraries, museums and other institutions.

    Cincinnati, located on the boundary of free and slave states, was a major Underground Railroad stop. Our Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County Genealogy Local History Department selected images and recordings on subjects such as the site of local antislavery newspaper the Philanthropist, the focus of two anti-abolitionist riots in 1836; and the Harriet Beecher Stowe House, where the Uncle Tom’s Cabin author lived with her family for various periods of time from 1833 to 1836. 
To find African-American genealogy events near you, check with your local genealogical or historical society, or public library.

Check out FamilyTreeMagazine.com articles on researching African-American roots here.


African-American roots | Ancestry.com | Fold3 | Genealogy Events | Libraries and Archives
Friday, February 01, 2013 1:45:00 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Free Access to Fold3.com's Black Genealogy Records in February
Posted by Diane

Fold3 is providing free access to its Black History Collection of historical and genealogical records for the month of February—Black History Month in the United States. 

Those records document slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, the World Wars and the Civil Rights Movement. Here's a sampling of the record sets in the collection
  • Court Slave Records for Washington, DC
  • South Carolina Estate Inventories and Bills of Sale, 1732–1872
  • US Colored Troops Civil War service records
  • Southern Claims Commission records
  • The Atlanta Constitution newspaper
  • WWII "Old Man's Draft" Registration Cards
Some of the record sets, such as the Southern Claims Commission records (Southerners' reimbursement claims for property Union troops seized during the Civil War) and WWII draft cards, also will cover non-African-Americans.

Visit the Fold3.com Black History Collection home page to see samples of the records and links leading to more information about each collection.

You'll need to set up a free registration to access the collections. On the Black History Collection home page, click on the link in the blue box to get started.

If you're tracing black ancestors, you'll find tips and advice in guides at ShopFamilyTree.com, including:
Click here to see all the African-American genealogy research helps at ShopFamilyTree.com.


African-American roots | Fold3 | Free Databases
Tuesday, January 29, 2013 1:20:42 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, January 02, 2013
What's in a Name?
Posted by Beth

Bonne année, Gutes Neues Jahr, Xin nian yu kuai, Feliz Año Nuevo and Kali hronia … Whether you say it in French, German, Mandarin, Spanish or Greek, they all translate to "Happy New Year!" Hope yours is off to a great start!

Speaking of languages, genealogists understand and appreciate the value of names and all the family history information that they can provide. Naming patterns and traditions; spellings; pronunciations; and meanings can impact your search for ancestors from a given locale.

To provide added insight to your ancestral search, we've created 15 PDF downloadable reference guides featuring first names from around the world. Each comprehensive guide is presented in dictionary-style format, making it easy to search for names, spellings and their meanings. For example, A Genealogist's Guide to British Names reveals that the name Harry means "ruler of an estate." Rather prophetic for Prince Harry!

Get more information from your genealogical research this year with a better understanding of your ancestral names!

A Genealogist's Guide to Ethnic Given Names
A Genealogist's Guide to African Names
A Genealogist's Guide to British Names
A Genealogist's Guide  to Chinese Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Eastern European Names
A Genealogist's Guide  to French Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Gaelic Names
A Genealogist's Guide to German Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Greek Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Hawaiian Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Indian Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Irish Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Italian Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Japanese Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Jewish Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Native American Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Russian Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Scandinavian Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Spanish Names


African-American roots | American Indian roots | Asian roots | Celebrating your heritage | French Canadian roots | German roots | Hispanic Roots | Italian roots | Jewish roots | ShopFamilyTree.com Sales | UK and Irish roots
Wednesday, January 02, 2013 12:04:21 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Tuesday, July 31, 2012
President Obama Related to American Colonies' First Documented African Slave
Posted by Diane

Ancestry.com researchers have linked the United States' first black president to the earliest documented African permanent slave in America.

Historical evidence indicates Barack Obama is the 11th great-grandson of African slave John Punch. The connection is through the family of Obama's Caucasian mother—which isn't surprising, as Obama's father, who died in 1982, was from Kenya.

(Update: After reading comments to this post, I'd like to clarify my above statement: Obama's paternal line came from Kenya and its members were not enslaved in the United States.)

What does surprise me is that the slave ancestor is male: Genealogists with African-American roots have become accustomed to learning of male white slaveowners who fathered children with enslaved women in their family trees, but not so much the other way around.

Ancestry.com researchers used DNA analysis and property and marriage records to find an African indentured servant named John Punch, who attempted to escape his servitude in 1640 in Maryland. His court-ordered punishment was a life sentence as a slave. This is the first documented case of slavery for life in the American colonies, decades before slavery laws were enacted in Virginia.

Punch eventually fathered children with a white woman, whose children inherited her free status and became landowners in Virginia. Their son John Bunch is Obama's ancestor.

You can learn details about the research documents and conclusions on Ancestry.com, where you can download a 44-page report by researchers Anastasia Harman, Natalie Cotrill and Joseph Shumway; a 51-page Bunch family descendancy report; and a family tree.

Ancestry.com was careful to back up its claims with an independent review from researcher Elizabeth Shown Mills, an expert well-known in genealogical circles, who says, “I weighed not only the actual findings but also Virginia’s laws and social attitudes when John Punch was living. A careful consideration of the evidence convinces me that the Y-DNA evidence of African origin is indisputable, and the surviving paper trail points solely to John Punch as the logical candidate.

"Genealogical research on individuals who lived hundreds of years ago can never definitively prove that one man fathered another, but this research meets the highest standards and can be offered with confidence.”

Although the Obama research project has been underway for years, I imagine we'll see more on the 2012 presidential candidates' family trees this year as genealogy companies try to capitalize on election-related publicity opportunities.

Update: You also might want to read this article from The Root, by two Boston University professors who dispute John punch's status as the first documented permanent African slave.

Are you tracing African-American genealogy? Get research help from the expert how-to books, article downloads and classes available in ShopFamilyTree.com.


African-American roots | Ancestry.com | Celebrity Roots
Tuesday, July 31, 2012 2:43:30 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [8]
# Monday, April 30, 2012
"Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr.": Using DNA to Research Ancestors in Slavery
Posted by Diane

Researching enslaved ancestors was the theme of last night's "Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr."

All three of the show's guests—Ruth J. Simmons, president of Brown University; Condoleezza Rice, former National Security Advisor and Secretary of State, and now on the faculty at Stanford University; and actor Samuel L. Jackson—grew up under segregation. Simmons' parents were sharecroppers; as a child she picked cotton alongside her brothers and couldn't attend school regularly until the family moved to Houston.

Condoleeza Rice was the only one of the three I knew much about, and I admire her for achieving such success despite living in a system designed to prevent her from believing that kind of achievement was possible.

All three also have family stories about white ancestors in their family tree, and identifying them was the focus of the episode.

The show showed some research in genealogical records, but concentrated on using genetic genealogy testing in confirming relationships. For each guest, a potential white cousin was tested.

In the case of Simmons, the test confirmed a relationship, and she and her brothers met the descendants of the man who owned the father of their great-grandmother Flossie.

Each guest—along with high school students participating in the Continuum Project—also took an admixture test, which evaluates percentages of African-American, European and Asian/American Indian heritage along either the Y-DNA line (for a man) or the mitochondrial DNA line (for a woman).

Some tests also can compare an African-American's DNA to that of members of African tribes that were the source of the slave trade, estimating what tribe the person's ancestors in that Y-DNA or mtDNA line came from.

You can watch the show online to see all the test results. Also check the Your Genetic Genealogist blog for a post with more details about the DNA testing in this episode.

My sense is that it's not so much which African tribe a person might be from, but just being able to say that they're from a particular tribe. I feel a certain pride and sense of belonging when I can tell people my ancestors came from Germany, Syria, England and Ireland, and that's missing for people descended from slaves.


African-American roots | Celebrity Roots | Genetic Genealogy
Monday, April 30, 2012 11:02:22 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Friday, March 30, 2012
This Sunday on "Finding Your Roots:" Barbara Walters and Geoffrey Canada
Posted by Diane

Remember to watch "Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr." this Sunday evening at 8 p.m. ET on PBS. It'll feature the family histories of tv journalist Barbara Walters and Geoffrey Canada, president of the Harlem Children’s Zone.

Bonus: You'll also see  New England Historic Genealogical Society senior researcher Rhonda McClure in action solving Canada's ancestral mysteries.

Here's a preview video in which Canada visits the farm where his enslaved ancestor Thomas lived.

Watch Both Sides of Slavery on PBS. See more from


African-American roots | Celebrity Roots | Genealogy societies | Videos
Friday, March 30, 2012 11:32:25 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, March 26, 2012
Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates: Harry Connick Jr. and Branford Marsalis
Posted by Diane

I guess you can feel good about plopping down on the couch for another hour of TV-watching if it’s for work. And if it’s history-related.

Last night’s "Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates Jr.," traced several ancestors of Harry Connick, Jr., and Branford Marsalis. (Watch it here if you missed it or look for a rebroadcast this week on PBS.)

The show spent quite a bit of time on the two men's childhoods and friendship in New Orleans. I was especially excited to see them at the Musician’s Village, a Habitat for Humanity community the two sponsor and where I got to help build houses several years ago. The show also has Connick and Marsalis playing at Preservation Hall, which I visited on the same trip.

Back to the genealogy: Gates presented Harry and Branford each with a “Book of Life,” basically, a scrapbook of the records the show’s researchers found.

Researchers discovered that Marsalis’ surname came from a white Dutch slave owner in Mississippi. A son of that man's slave married Marsalis’ great-great-grandmother Lizzie—but her son Simion, Marsalis great-grandfather, was three years old when that marriage took place. Simion’s father was likely Lizzie's previous husband, a man named Isaac Black.

I was glad we saw an archivist looking... and looking ... and looking for records of one of Marsalis' ancestors at the New Orleans Public Library and in cemeteries before he finally found something. That's reality.

Connick was relieved to learn his Irish ancestor, a famine immigrant named James Connick, didn’t own slaves—but was disappointed that he fought for the Confederacy for three years.

Gates explains that it wasn't necessarily because James supported slavery. His work would've dried up during the war, and there may have been no other way to make a living. The researchers found a military pension record for James, though it doesn't seem to indicate what kind of injury he might've suffered.

Connick's fifth-great-grandfather, David McCullough from Pennsylvania, was an infamous privateer on the ship Rattlesnake. He captured ships in the West Indies and would send the bounties back to the United States. The British crown had a 5,000-guinea reward on McCullough's head.

To demonstrate how varied our heritage is, Gates had black friends from his local barbershop guess their percentages of African, White and Indian heritage, then had them take DNA tests (the show didn’t explain margins of error). Most weren't too far on their white and black percentages, but had overestimated their American Indian blood. 

Immediately after the Harry Connick Jr./Branford Marsalis episode was another featuring Newark, NJ, mayor Cory Booker and US Rep. John Lewis. I had to get to bed at that point. You can watch this one online, too.

"Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr." is airing Sunday nights at 8 ET on PBS.


African-American roots | Celebrity Roots
Monday, March 26, 2012 11:18:35 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Saturday, March 10, 2012
"Who Do you Think You Are?": Jerome Bettis
Posted by Diane

It was fun watching “Who Do You Think You Are?” in the company of other genealogists during our Family Tree University Virtual Conference live chat. (The conference is taking place this weekend.) 

In this episode, former Pittsburgh Steelers player Jerome Bettis visits Kentucky to learn about his mom’s roots. He didn’t trace as many generations as in some other episodes, but I liked the attention spent on each person.

Bettis, an African-American, turned to newspapers for details not documented in official records. He found references to court cases for his great-grandfather being struck by his boss, and in a separate incident, his great-great-grandfather being hit by a train.

The deck was stacked against each man in his case, but Bettis discovered in court records that his great-great-grandfather Abe Bogard won his complaint against the Illinois Central Railroad. Bettis actually got to talk to someone who remembered hearing about the case from men employed by the railroad at the time.

One of my favorite aspects of this episode was the way a Western Kentucky University history professor showed Bettis how to trace his family into slavery. Presuming that the name Bogard was taken from a former owner, Bettis found a white Bogard family in the area and checked will records and slave dower lists (reports of slaves women had inherited).

They found a Jerry and Eliza, with a son Abe. I can’t imagine the feeling that would hit you when you see a record showing that your family members were owned by other people, and monetary values placed on their heads.

The owner, Joseph Bogard, willed Bettis’ ancestors to his wife. After she died, Abe and his parents were sold off to separate owners. The good news is that the 1870 census, the first US census to name former slaves, showed the family was reunited.

Here’s a Western Kentucky University article about the professor’s work with Bettis

Here’s a FamilyTreeMagazine.com article about making the jump from freed slaves in the 1870 census to enslaved ancestors in the 1850 and 1860 slave schedules

Update: For those of you wondering why Burnett Bogard, Jerome's great-grandfather, abandoned his family, part of the answer is in this deleted scene about a rift in the family's church:




"Who Do You Think You Are?" | African-American roots | Celebrity Roots
Saturday, March 10, 2012 10:17:27 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Thursday, March 08, 2012
This Friday on "Who Do You Think You Are?": Jerome Bettis
Posted by Diane

Tomorrow night on "Who Do You Think You Are?" we'll see retired football player Jerome Bettis explore his roots.

I'll be watching as part of our Virtual Conference viewing party (even though Bettis played for the Cincinnati Bengals rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers).

In this video, Bettis visits the land where his enslaved third-great-grandfather lived and worked.


"Who Do You Think You Are?" | African-American roots | Celebrity Roots | Family Tree University
Thursday, March 08, 2012 8:56:21 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Free Archives.com Database Has Info on Patriots of Color
Posted by Diane

Archives.com has published a free database called Patriots of Color.

These records contain information about men and women of color who fought for American independence as soldiers, skilled craftsmen and servants.

More than two years of research, facilitated by the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University, was dedicated to verifying the service and complexions of patriots from each of the 13 colonies using records such as pension and bounty land application files, muster and pay rolls, lists of troops, court records, legislative records, census records and more.

You can learn the person's name and alternate names used, complexion, state and type of service, and pension and bounty land warrant numbers (if applicable). Here's an example of a database record:

If you find someone of interest, click the Resources Used button at the bottom for more about the resources you can check to get additional information.

Click here to access the Patriots of Color database on Archives.com.


African-American roots | Archives.com | Military records
Tuesday, February 28, 2012 9:44:18 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Saturday, February 25, 2012
"Who Do You Think You Are?": Blair Underwood
Posted by Diane

I caught last night's “Who Do You Think You Are?” Blair Underwood episode on Hulu (we went to my nephew's basketball game).

This was my favorite episode so far. More of it took place in libraries and archives than the previous episodes, with lots of looking at records and historians guiding us through their meaning. Second, the profound impact this research had on Underwood really came across.

After taking an Ancestry.com DNA test to help trace his paternal side (which his brother Frank has researched in genealogical records—I wonder if Frank has read Family Tree Magazine?), Underwood crisscrossed Virginia from Richmond to Lynchburg and back (and forth again) to trace two branches on his mom’s side.

Among his discoveries in censuses and registers of free “negroes” was a free African-American ancestor, Samuel Scott. Scott owned two slaves, who we learn were probably his own parents.

Due to an 1806 law regarding freed slaves, the parents would’ve had to leave the state or risk being sold back into slavery if Samuel had not purchased them. This shows how important historical context can be when you’re interpreting historical records about your family.

(PS: This website has more information and some transcribed indexes of free African-Americans in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.)

In another branch was an ancestor, Sawney Early, who was institutionalized in the 1900 census. From newspaper articles, we learn about Sawney’s disputes with white neighbors who’d arrived after the war. Sawney was described as wearing odd clothing and believing himself to be the “second Jesus.” He shot a man’s cow that had wandered into his corn, and was himself shot several times. A historian explains Early was likely a “conjuror”—a spiritual leader and healer in slave communities.

At the end, the DNA test results come in and Underwood’s Y-DNA is a match to a man in Cameroon, so he and his father visit their African cousins. The cousin said he took a DNA test in 2005 for a project to connect people in Cameroon to families in America (I wonder if this was the National Geographic Genographic Project). 

A couple of things I want to point out: The DNA testing was very appealing and made it look easy, but I wonder what the chances are of finding such a clear match.

And the show seemed to give up when Sawney Early couldn’t be found in the 1860 census, when he was probably a slave. There are strategies to trace slaves using the 1850 and 1860 censuses, even though they’re not named, and you also can use resources such as wills and estate records and African-American genealogy websites such as these. (Perhaps the researchers tried these methods and came up empty-handed.)

The episode showed that African-Americans can have success tracing their roots in records and through DNA, and it showed how meaningful the journey can be.


Related resources from ShopFamilyTree.com:


"Who Do You Think You Are?" | African-American roots | Celebrity Roots
Saturday, February 25, 2012 11:14:48 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [28]
# Thursday, February 23, 2012
This Friday on "Who Do You Think You Are?": Blair Underwood
Posted by Diane

After last week's "Who Do You Think You Are?" hiatus, I'm looking forward to this week's episode featuring actor Blair Underwood. I've admired him ever since "L.A. Law." (I don't have to be a special fan of the celebrity to enjoy an episode, but it does add that extra element.)

In this preview clip, a genealogist guides Underwood through finding family in the 1860 census on Ancestry.com—and Underwood realizes his African-American ancestor Delaware Scott was free in 1860, and owned real estate.

And check out this article, in which Underwood talks about filming the show and meeting relatives in Cameroon.

The episode airs at 8 p.m. Eastern/ 7 p.m. Central on NBC.

If you're researching African-American roots like Underwood, you'll find expert research advice in our African-American Genealogy Value Pack, on sale in ShopFamilyTree.com during Black History Month.


"Who Do You Think You Are?" | African-American roots | Celebrity Roots
Thursday, February 23, 2012 8:52:57 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Thursday, February 09, 2012
Finding African-American Ancestors in Newspapers FTU Course: Just $39.99
Posted by Diane


If you're researching African-American ancestors, we've got a great deal on our Family Tree University course Finding African-American Ancestors in Newspapers: Research Strategies for Success, with instructor Tim Pinnick.

Thanks to a sponsorship from GenealogyBank, registration in the four-week session starting Feb. 20 is just $39.99 (down from the regular $99.99). So if you've been thinking about taking this course, now's the time.

You can learn more about the class and see the syllabus here. Past students have been surprised at the number of newspapers that have been published in the United States covering African-American communities.

Also check out Tim's Newspapers forum at Afrigeneas, one of our favorite genealogy websites for those tracing African-American roots.


African-American roots | Family Tree University | Newspapers
Thursday, February 09, 2012 10:00:55 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [5]
# Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Black History Records Collection Free on Fold3 in February
Posted by Diane

Genealogy subscription site Fold3 (the former Footnote) is making its Black History Collection free during February in honor of Black History Month.

Among the records in this collection are:

  • Danish West Indies Slave Records
  • the 1860 US Census
  • US Colored Troops Compiled Service Records and pension files
  • Southern Claims Commission files (petitions by Southerners—including many African-Americans—who lost property to Union troops during the Civil War)
  • Military Intelligence Division—Negro Subversion (1914–1941)
  • Vietnam War Marine Corps Photos

You'll be prompted to register for a free Fold3 account when you click to view a record.


African-American roots | Fold3 | Military records
Tuesday, January 31, 2012 3:44:07 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Friday, January 13, 2012
Genealogy News Corral, Jan. 9-13
Posted by Diane

  • All 397 US national parks will offer free admission Jan. 14-16 to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. You can visit the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site in Georgia, the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail in Alabama, or the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC—just a few of the many national parks that have ties to Dr. King or the Civil Rights movement. 
Use the directory at NPS.gov to find a park.
  • Library and Archives Canada has added digitized images of Upper Canada land petitions (357,831 new images in all) to its website. First search the index here (use the search link at the left; the one on the bottom didn't work for me) to find the microfilm number you need, then use the “microform digitization” research tool to you can browse the image page by page.
  • FamilySearch has added 119 million new, free records to the record search at FamilySearch.org (that includes about 64 million indexed names and 55 million browsable images). They come from more than 30 countries including Australia, the Czech Republic, Italy, Portugal, Sweden and the United States. See the full list of new and updated databases here.

African-American roots | Canadian roots | FamilySearch | Free Databases | Museums | Social History
Friday, January 13, 2012 4:54:31 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [7]
# Wednesday, January 04, 2012
New, Free Online Collection: Indianapolis Recorder African-American Newspaper, 1899-2005
Posted by Diane

More than 5,000 digitized issues of the Indiana-based African-American newspaper Indianapolis Recorder are searchable online at the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis library website.

The issues span 1899 to 2005 (those from 1917 to 1925, and January to April 1932, are missing).

You can keyword search the full text or browse by year. An advanced search lets you designate words as exact, exclude words, and run a proximity search to find two words appearing within a certain distance of each other on a newspaper page. (In the advanced search, multiple library collections are selected by default. To search just the Indianapolis Recorder, scroll down, check the box to deselect all the collections, then check the box next to Indianapolis Recorder.)

You can share links to articles via social media or email, or bookmark them in your browser. You can save articles by right-clicking or control-clicking and selecting Save Image As (an alternative would be to take a screenshot).

Click here to start searching the Indianapolis Recorder archives.

Learn more about finding ancestors in African-American newspapers in the Family Tree University course Finding African-American Ancestors in Newspapers: Research Strategies for Success, taught by Tim Pinnick.


African-American roots | Newspapers
Wednesday, January 04, 2012 11:14:49 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Friday, November 04, 2011
Interview a Friend or Relative on the National Day of Listening
Posted by Diane

African-American genealogy website LowCountry Africana is an official partner with StoryCorps in celebrating the National Day of Listening on Nov. 25.

This will be the fourth annual National Day of Listening. Americans are encouraged to observe it by spending an hour on the day after Thanksgiving interviewing a friend, loved one or community member about their lives.

Lowcountry Africana will participate by recording interviews with residents in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. These areas are home to many descendants of enslaved Africans of the Gullah-Geechee culture. The slaves' rice-growing skills were vital to the massive rice plantations of the Colonial and Antebellum Lowcountry.

Visit Lowcountry Africana's National Day of Listening web pages, with suggestions for how to participate and instructional videos.

StoryCorps, an organization that provides people of all backgrounds with opportunities to preserve thier life stories, has a free online Do-It-Yourself interview guide.

You'll also find guidance for participating in the National Day of Listening in these free FamilyTreeMagazine.com articles:

More resources from ShopFamilyTree.com:


African-American roots | Oral History | saving and sharing family history
Friday, November 04, 2011 9:26:22 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Recap of VH1's Genealogy Show "50 Cent: The Origin of Me"
Posted by Diane

Last night, rapper 50 Cent traveled to his family’s South Carolina hometown to trace his roots for the VH1 Rock Doc “50 Cent: The Origin of Me.”

You can watch the show on VH1’s website. If you watch, there are some bleeps in a rap at the beginning, but the rest of the show is clean. And good.

In the show, 50 Cent (aka Curtis Jackson), who grew up in New York City, travels to Edgefield, SC, where his mom’s family came from. At a reunion, the family talks about what the segregated town was like in the 1950s.

50 visits Edgefield’s genealogical society. The librarian (who had to have been briefed ahead of time, but did such a good job of being nonchalant that I wondered) pulls the WWI draft card of 50's grandfather Will Jenkins from a "Jenkins File" (the society keeps surname files on local families). She also helps 50 use the census on microfilm to find Will’s father Peter, and Peter’s mother Jane.

In the 1870 census, Jane was living with a local prominent citizen, probably her former slaveowner. 

50 also visited the Old Edgefield Pottery museum, with vessels created by “Dave the Slave,” who incorporated sayings and dates into his work. The proprietor refers to Dave as the first rapper.

The show didn’t shy from a bit of confrontation: At Oakley Park Museum,  50 and a woman identified in a caption as being from the Daughters of the Confederacy discuss the symbolism of the Confederate flag.

She also tells him about the Red Shirts, a precursor to the Klu Klux Klan, and advises him to study history to learn about “Mongolian slaves” in South Carolina. Interesting. There’s some uncomfortable giggling when 50 gently challenges her about these slaves and how slaves were treated.

Later, at the Edgefield County Archives, the archivist shows 50 the slave inventory for Jane’s owner, R.G.M. Dunovant, son-in-law of prominent citizen Whitfield Brooks. The archivist finds a reference to Jane, daughter of Adrene, in Whitfield’s will. If that’s 50’s Jane, Adrene is his fourth-great-grandmother. 

The archivist introduces 50 to a woman who’s researching what she calls the brutal side of slavery. In contrast to the woman he met earlier, she acknowledges the treatment of local slaves and gives an example from a coroner's report detailing the death of a slave.

50 next meets a Dunovant descendant, who asks 50 about his career, compliments his song “In Da Club” (the one that says “Go shorty/It’s your birthday”) and gives him a piece of Edgefield pottery. 50 says it’s a turnaround from the days his family talked about, when black people always used the back door at whites’ homes.

You don't have to be a fan of rap or a member of VH1's typical demographic to like this show. 50 Cent has a tough image as a rapper, but you don't see that here. To me, the show feels a little younger and a little less refined than 'Who Do You Think You Are?" which makes it very approachable. You learn about both one person's genealogy and how it ties into what was happening locally and across the country.

For some behind-the-scenes insight, here’s a Vanity Fair article by David Kamp, the writer who did the genealogy research

Did you watch “50 Cent: The Origin of Me”? Let me know what you thought.


African-American roots | Celebrity Roots
Tuesday, May 24, 2011 3:26:19 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Friday, May 20, 2011
Genealogy News Corral, May 16-20
Posted by Diane

  • A new website called Unknown No Longer: A Database of Virginia Slave Names will launch in September. The site will contain free, searchable information about enslaved Virginians named in manuscripts at the Virginia Historical Society. Read more about the project here
  • FindMyPast.co.uk has completed its two-year project to make the English and Welsh birth, marriage and death records on its site easier to use. This final installment of the project makes more than 85 million death records searchable at once, with as little as a surname. The site’s death records include England & Wales deaths, 1837-2006; British nationals who died overseas, 1818-2005; British nationals armed forces deaths, 1796-2005; and British nationals who died at sea, 1854-1890.

African-American roots | American Indian roots | Celebrity Roots | UK and Irish roots
Friday, May 20, 2011 4:05:58 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Wednesday, May 11, 2011
FamilySearch Adds South Carolina Genealogy Resources
Posted by Diane

FamilySearch has announced new South Carolina genealogy resources to mark the National Genealogical Society Family History Conference, going on now in Charleston, SC: 

Probate records can be helpful in researching African-American ancestors, because probate files of slave owners often contain inventories of their slaves.

The Civil War, which of course started 150 years ago at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, is the talk of this year’s NGS conference. Click here to see FamilySearch’s related announcement about its Civil War records


African-American roots | court records | FamilySearch | Free Databases
Wednesday, May 11, 2011 9:31:11 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, April 25, 2011
Rapper to Trace Roots on VH1 Show
Posted by Diane

Rapper 50 Cent will trace his roots in a VH1 “Rock Docs” documentary called “The Origin of Me,” to air May 23 at 9 pm.

The show follows 50 Cent to South Carolina, where his family lived before migrating to New York City in the 1950s. He visits relatives, investigates his roots at the Edgefield County Archives and meets the descendants of slave owners.

From the press release: “50 also learns that in the years following the Civil War, his ancestors faced the infamous ‘Redshirts,’ the precursors to the KKK, giving him a new perspective on the violence he encountered as a young man in Queens.”

VH1 promises to show a different side of the hard-edged rapper, whose albums include Get Rich or Die Tryin' (2003) and Before I Self-Destruct (2009).

Born Curtis James Jackson III in the South Jamaica neighborhood of Queens, New York City, he was 12 when his mother was murdered, he served prison time for drug-related charges and he survived being shot nine times at close range.

Read more about the show and 50 Cent on VH1’s blog.


African-American roots | Celebrity Roots
Monday, April 25, 2011 12:19:30 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Friday, February 11, 2011
Genealogy News Corral: Feb. 11
Posted by jamie

The General Registrar Office of Scotland will release 1911 census records April 5. This enumeration contains the names, addresses, ages, occupations, birthplaces and marital statuses of more than 4.7 million Scots. Subscription website ScotlandsPeople will have the data available online in full color.

The Federation of Genealogical Societies has scheduled its annual conference for Sep. 7–10, in Springfield, Il. This year's theme is Pathways to the Heartland, and David S. Ferriero, archivist of the United States, is scheduled as the keynote speaker. Click here to read more about the conference or to register.

Facebook application We're Related will integrate with a FarmVille-like application to create an online game for players to explore their family trees and build an online community. While players construct houses, start businesses, immigrate family members and assign jobs, Family Village matches inputted data with relevant real-world documents—such as census records, newspaper articles and marriage records—about the user's living and deceased relatives. Players can then examine the records, print them, or store them in their personal game library. Click here to play Family Village on Facebook.

The National Institute for Genealogical Studies has acquired GenealogyWise.com, a social networking website for genealogists. As a result, the site will gain new features, like allowing users to sit in on live meetings digitally.

Archives.com announced two January winners for it's new monthly grant program. Columbia County, Pa., Historical & Genealogical Society will use its grant to transcribe marriage license dockets 1921 to 1939—an estimated 9,000 bride and groom names. Myron McGhee will use his grant to travel to Alabama to interview residents, review deed transcriptions and scan photographs to test a hypothesis that his black ancestors roots are related to a white family in the area with the same name. Each recipient will receive $1,000 for their genealogy project.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has released a digital copy of a map used by Abraham Lincoln to coordinate military operations with his emancipation policies. The map illustrates the slave population density in 1860 America geographically, and is available for view here.


African-American roots | census records | Civil War | Historic preservation | International Genealogy | UK and Irish roots
Friday, February 11, 2011 3:43:52 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, February 09, 2011
Last Call for African-American Ancestors FTU Course Discount
Posted by jamie

Family Tree University's next session commences Feb. 14. That means there's only a few days left to register for the Finding Your African-American Ancestors in Newspapers course for $24.99—75 percent off the regular price of $99.99.

This deep discount is made possible through a partnership with GenealogyBank, a subscription website with one of the largest online collections of historical African-American newspapers, for Black History Month.

The Finding Your African-American Ancestors in Newspapers course will equip students with key background information for newspaper research, expose myths pertaining to the use of white newspapers, give students the skill and confidence to seek out and utilize African-American newspapers, and provide invaluable tips and strategies designed to optimize search success.

Sign up for the class on Family Tree University's website.


African-American roots | Family Tree University
Wednesday, February 09, 2011 10:45:10 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, February 04, 2011
Genealogy News Corral: Feb. 4
Posted by Grace

  • In honor of Black History Month, Ancestry.com launched five new historical collections containing details about the lives of African-Americans who fought in the Civil War, the transportation of slaves to and from the prominent slave ports of New Orleans and Savannah, GA, and first-person accounts from former slaves. Click here to access these collections.

  • The former Oregon state mental hospital, where the Jack Nicholson flick One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest was filmed, is trying to match cremated the remains of 3,500 former patients and inmates with surviving relatives. The remains were discovered in 2004 in corroding copper canisters, and officials have been able to identify all but four of the canisters. The names, birthdays and dates of death for the former patients and prison inmates have been published online.

  • The Library of Congress will display, starting in early spring, one of the few existing copies of the first map printed in North America. The map depicts the boundaries of the new American nation -- read about it here.

  • Archives.com has created a synthesized report of online history trends illustrated in a fun infographic. The findings:

    • Ancestry.com by far has the most website visitors, clocking in at more than 7 million per year. Archives.com and MyHeritage.com come in a distant second and third.
    • Google has digitized nearly 15 million books since 2004.
    • FamilySearch.org indexed 160 million records in 2010.
    • Sixty-two percent of Archives.com members are over 45; by comparison, 41 percent of internet users are over 45.

    Read over the entire report on the Archives.com blog.


African-American roots | Genealogy Industry | Historic preservation
Friday, February 04, 2011 1:29:42 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, February 02, 2011
Ultimate African-American Genealogy Collection
Posted by jamie


We’re excited to announce our new Ultimate Collection program. Each month we’ll release a new collection of carefully selected, discounted products to help you achieve your genealogy goals. A limited number of copies of each collection will be available, so get ‘em while the getting’s good.

For February, we've put together the Ultimate African-American Genealogy Collection in honor of Black History Month. This multimedia collection brings you our most invaluable advice from African-American genealogy experts at an unbeatable value.

The Ultimate African American Genealogy Collection contains:

• Family Tree University independent study course Finding African-American Ancestors in Newspapers CD
• African-American Genealogy Guide digital download
• July 2009 Family Tree Magazine digital issue with a primer on African-American research
• Georgia Genealogy Crash Course on-demand webinar with resources and advice for slave ancestry
Family Tree Magazine 2011 Genealogy Desk Calendar

If all the items were purchased separately, the price would add up to $212.95, but we've bundled them together for $49.99. Save more than $120.00 by purchasing the Ultimate African-American Genealogy Collection on ShopFamilyTree.com.


African-American roots | Editor's Pick | ShopFamilyTree.com Sales
Wednesday, February 02, 2011 10:57:45 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
African-American Ancestors FTU Course 75 Percent Off
Posted by jamie

As a celebration of Black History Month, Family Tree University is offering the Finding Your African-American Ancestors in Newspapers course for $24.99—75 percent off the regular price of $99.99.

This deep discount is made possible through a partnership with GenealogyBank, a subscription website with one of the largest online collections of historical African-American newspapers.

The Finding Your African-American Ancestors in Newspapers course will equip students with key background information for newspaper research, expose myths pertaining to the use of white newspapers, give students the skill and confidence to seek out and utilize African-American newspapers, and provide invaluable tips and strategies designed to optimize search success.

The session starts Feb. 14. Sign up for the class on Family Tree University's website.


African-American roots | Family Tree University | ShopFamilyTree.com Sales
Wednesday, February 02, 2011 9:31:10 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, January 31, 2011
Black History Month Genealogy Resources
Posted by jamie

Black History Month is celebration of the role African Americans played in shaping U.S. history. The annual event started as “Negro History Week” in 1926, and blossomed into a month-long commemoration marked by every U.S. president in office since 1976.

Festivities kick off Feb. 1, and we'd like to help you celebrate your heritage. Discover your black history with some of our genealogy resources:


Look for a guide to tracing black ancestors using African American newspapers in our May issue, on newsstands March 8.


African-American roots
Monday, January 31, 2011 1:31:43 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Genealogy News Corral
Posted by jamie

Planning to attend the New England Regional Genealogical Conference (NERGC) April 6-10 in Springfield, Mass.? Register soon: The deadline for early bird savings is Feb. 15—after that, the full-conference fee goes from $110 to $135. Learn more on the NERGC website.

Here’s another money-saving tip for you: If you’ve been thinking about joining subscription historical records site Footnote, we got an e-mail about a $49.95 membership sale going on through Jan. 31 (the normal annual membership costs $79.95). Click here to see the offer.

Starting Feb. 12, the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art in Indianapolis is hosting an exhibition called Red/Black: Related Through History about the interwoven history of African-Americans and American Indians. It gathers personal narratives, paintings, baskets, pottery, photographs and other rare items from across the country to tell the story of the two groups’ shared experiences. (You can read more about “Black Indians” here.)

The National Archives has launched a free mobile app called Today’s Document. It helps you learn what happened on a specific date, search for a document by keyword, or browse historical highlights from the archives’ holdings. You can view photos and documents, and read background information on the selection.  Learn more from this video, and download the app from the Android marketplace or the Apple iTunes Store.


African-American roots | American Indian roots | Genealogy Events | Genealogy Web Sites | Libraries and Archives
Monday, January 31, 2011 9:39:00 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Preview of "Who Do You Think You Are?" Episode One
Posted by jamie

Following our media conference call with "Who Do You Think You Are?" producer Lisa Kudrow and season two, episode one celebrity Vanessa Williams, we were able to screen the first episode.

While we won't reveal all the juicy details of Williams' ancestry,  here are a few things to look forward to in her "WDYTYA?" episode:

  • Civil War history buffs, rejoice! This episode is chock full of Civil War and Reconstruction history, including the effect of slavery and Jim Crow laws on Williams' ancestors.
  • Williams made history as the first African American crowned Miss America, but she isn't the only noteworthy person in her family tree. She delves into the astonishing history of one of her former slave ancestors.
  • On a trip to Washington, D.C., National Archives researcher Vonnie Zullo stumbles upon a rare genealogical find while researching Williams' great-great grandfather David Carll. The item is so unheard of, Zullo says it's the only one she's come across in her 20-plus years at the depository.
  • If the first episode is any indication of what's to come on "WDYTYA?", expect more air time devoted to original documents and what goes into tracing your roots.

"WDYTYA?" premieres Friday, Feb. 4, at 8pm EST on NBC. Check the Genealogy Insider blog for a brief recap of each episode.


"Who Do You Think You Are?" | African-American roots
Wednesday, January 26, 2011 1:49:05 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [6]
# Wednesday, January 05, 2011
Book Sheds New Light on Atlantic Slave Trade
Posted by Diane

I came across an article about a book you might be interested in, especially if your ancestors were African slaves or involved in the slave trade.

Between 1492 and about 1820, four enslaved Africans left the Old World for every European migrant. According to Atlas of the Transatlantic Slave Trade by David Eltis and David Richardson, we know more about this forced migration than about European migration during the time. That’s because the slave trade generated profits, which usually meant record-keeping.

The book is based in part on the data in the online Transatlantic Slave Trade Database, which Eltis co-edited, containing information on 35,000 slave voyages from Africa to the Americas. (Read our post about the database's online debut in 2008.)

Detailed maps in the book show how almost every port in the Atlantic world at the time organized and sent out a slave voyage. Almost half of those voyages came from ports in the Americas.

The data let the authors determine trading patterns, for example, the United States drew more slaves from the area of Senegambia south to Liberia (on Africa’s west coast) than did any other part of the Americas. The authors also found the slave trade was going strong at the time it was finally suppressed.

The book also gives you a more personal look at the trade with information about people and conditions on board the ships, as well as writings from and images of a few passengers. You can read more about it in the article here, and find it listed on Amazon.com here

For help researching African-American roots, see the articles in our online toolkit. Find eight steps to get started tracing slave ancestors here.


African-American roots | Genealogy books
Wednesday, January 05, 2011 1:07:12 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, September 21, 2010
NY Historical Society Slavery Collection Goes Online
Posted by Diane

On the New York History blog today, I saw that the New York Historical Society has digitized nearly 12,000 pages of materials documenting US slavery, the Atlantic slave trade and the abolitionist movement.

NY Historical Society Slavery Collection

The diaries, account books, letter books, ships’ logs, indentures, bills of sale, personal papers and institutional records date form the 18th and 19th centuries, and come from 14 collections. Among them are records of the New York Manumission Society and African Free School, papers of the Boston anti-slavery activist Lysander Spooner, records of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, and an account book of the slave trading firm Bolton, Dickens & Co.

The materials aren’t searchable by name, but you can browse them on the society’s website. Use the Quick navigation pull-down menu to choose a collection, then a record image viewer will open in a new window.

African-American roots | Genealogy societies
Tuesday, September 21, 2010 2:36:12 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Finding African-American Ancestors in Newspapers
Posted by Diane

The upcoming Family Tree University course Finding African-American Ancestors in Newspapers will help you use what instructor Tim Pinnick calls a neglected resource to trace your black ancestors.
 
Pinnick, author of the book Finding and Using African American Newspapers (read chapter 1, Making the Case for Newspaper Research, online as a PDF), emphasizes the importance of using both mainstream “white” newspapers and those written for a primarily African-American audience. Here’s why:
Mainstream newspapers carried a wide range of stories covering the African-American. A considerable number of white newspapers in both the North and South carried columns or special sections of news specifically for black readership. Stories ranged from items about local residents to those on a state or national scale. The Joliet Evening Herald News in April of 1926, for example, ran an article on the awarding of a charter to the first black Boy Scout troop in the city.
Obituaries or stories reporting the deaths of black community members can be found with regularity. Researchers report great success in finding items such as these on their ancestors. In most cases these ancestors have not lived a life of great acclaim, but have merely established themselves as amicable neighbors.
In general, it's not unusual to find obituaries in mainstream newspapers to be more extensive than those in African-American newspapers. I would guess that this is particularly true in cases when the white paper is published in town, while the black newspaper is national in scope and published elsewhere.

A case in point would be the death of African-American Nancy Greenly of Kankakee, Ill., in 1920. Her death notice in the Chicago Defender on January 17 consisted of one paragraph on page 7, compared to front-page coverage of the event in eight rich paragraphs in the Kankakee Daily Republican.
Pinnick recommends the N. W. Ayers & Son’s American Newspaper Annual, digitized on the Library of Congress website, to help you determine what newspapers were published in your ancestors’ area, and even the papers’ political leanings. Pinnick points out that before the Civil War until around the 1930s, elements of the Republican Party championed the rights of African-Americans. Newspapers supporting that party may have been more likely to cover African-Americans in the community.

Finding African-American Ancestors in Newspapers: Research Strategies for Success is a four-week course (one lesson per week) starting Aug. 16.

Click here to see a syllabus and learn more about the instructor.

Click here to register for the class.


African-American roots | Family Tree University | Newspapers | Research Tips
Wednesday, August 11, 2010 11:07:37 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, July 19, 2010
Footnote, LowCountry Africana Partner on SC Slave Records
Posted by Allison

A new genealogy partnership means more online records for researchers with African-American roots.

Subscription website Footnote.com and free records site Lowcountry Africana are starting a new collection of estate inventories and bills of sale for Colonial and Charleston South Carolina from 1732 to 1872.

Estate inventories often name slaves that deceased owners left to heirs. Bills of sale document transactions involving slaves.

So far, just a portion—about 3 percent—of the collection is now searchable free at Footnote.

Lowcountry Africana has established an online volunteer program to create an index for this collection. To learn more about this volunteer program or to sign up to be a volunteer, visit the Lowcountry Africana site.

Charleston was a port of entry for the Atlantic slave trade, so thousands of African Americans may have ancestors who came from, or traveled through, South Carolina.

FamilySearch donated copies of the microfilmed records for digitization. The originals are at the South Carolina Department of Archives and History.

African-American roots research assistance from Family Tree Magazine:


African-American roots | Footnote | Free Databases | Genealogy Web Sites
Monday, July 19, 2010 9:33:06 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Archives.com, Gates Partner on African-American Genealogy
Posted by Diane

Historian and Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, who’s hosted “African-American Lives,” “Faces of America” and other genealogy shows on public television, has joined online genealogy newcomer Archives.com as an advisor.

The site has a new African-American research section featuring Gates. According to the announcement, it also will publish a set of African-American genealogy records never before available online.

“Professor Gates will apply his knowledge and passion for African Heritage towards helping Archives provide the tools and resources needed to explore African American family history, and even trace roots back to Africa,” said the announcement.


African-American roots | Genealogy Web Sites
Wednesday, May 12, 2010 2:14:22 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, March 19, 2010
Genealogy News Corral: March 8-12
Posted by Diane

  • The second week of NBC’s “Who Do You Think You Are?” increased its viewership by 13 percent in adults age 18 to 49, and 4 percent in total viewers. The show finished in the ratings within a tenth of a point of first place for the 8/7 central time slot in adults age 18 to 49, and is tied for No. 1 among the major networks in adults age 18 to 34.
Tune in to tonight’s episode as Lisa Kudrow searches for her roots in Belarus.
  • The UK’s General Register Office (GRO) has announced a restructuring of its charges for ordering birth, marriage and death records. Starting April 6, you’ll select from two instead of eight options, so it’s simpler, but the fees for standard service are going up from  £7.00 to £9.25 (about $10.60 to $14). See the GRO website for more information
  • Ancestry.com is offering a free webinar about using Family Tree Maker 2010. It’s May 19, 8 pm EDT (thanks to the person who commented below to let me know about the new date!). Watch as the experts demonstrate advanced features available in Family Tree Maker 2010. Read more and register on Ancestry.com’s website.


"Who Do You Think You Are?" | African-American roots | Ancestry.com | UK and Irish roots
Friday, March 19, 2010 11:27:44 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, March 15, 2010
Behind the Scenes of "WDYTYA?": Researching Emmitt Smith's Roots
Posted by Grace

Ancestry.com's PR and events manager Anastasia Tyler offers this behind-the-scenes look at the second episode of "Who Do You Think You Are?":
Seasoned researchers know that discovering the slavery roots in a family tree can be time consuming and difficult -- perhaps even seemingly impossible. But, as Emmitt Smith's story shows on this week's episode of "Who Do You Think You Are?," African-Americans can discover their heritage. The genealogy team who worked on Emmitt's tree shares a behind-the-scenes look at how they made the jump from post-1870 records to pre-Civil War records as they documented Emmitt's enslaved ancestors.
 
Post-1870 Research
Vital records, census records and other primary sources allowed the research team to document Emmitt's family tree back to great-great-grandparents -- William Watson and Victoria Puryear. A 1900 census record from Monroe County, Ala., indicated William and Victoria were both born in Alabama during the Civil War. These facts suggested that William and Victoria could have been born slaves, and perhaps their parents as well.
 
Since Victoria and William were born in the early 1860s, it was likely that records created post-1870 could shed some light on their parents. Vital records were especially helpful here; Victoria's death certificate included the names of her parents, Prince Puryear and Annie McMillian.
 
The 1870 census added clues: Prince Puryear and his family (including young Victoria) were listed in Monroe County, Alabama. Additional Puryear households were also found on the same census page. The ages for the heads of the Puryear households made them potential brothers of Prince. These heads of households also had the same racial designation as Prince -- mulatto. Finally, one of the households listed a 55-year-old mulatto woman born in Virginia named Mariah Puryear. "Our first thought was 'Could Mariah be Prince's mother?'" says genealogist Joseph Shumway of ProGenealogists. If the answer was yes, if Mariah was Prince"s mother, then Mariah would be Emmitt's fourth great-grandmother.

Pre-Civil War Documentation
The research team needed to establish whether Mariah Puryear from the 1870 census was Prince Puryear's mother. Slave research involves looking at records pertaining to the slave-holding families. Vital records were not kept for slaves, but slaves may be mentioned in records created when the slave owner dies and in records pertaining to deeded transactions. So the research team first had to determine the identity of the slave-holding family. Once found, the family's records could reveal further information about Prince Puryear's family and his potential connection to the woman named Mariah.
 
Emancipated slaves, in general, didn't stray too far from their most recent owner's property. In addition, many former slaves retained the surname of the former slave holders. So the researchers turned back to the 1870 census, looking for white families in the same vicinity as Emmitt's Puryear ancestors. Interestingly enough, there was a white Puryear family living in Monroe County, Ala. This family, potentially, could have been the slave-holding family.
 
The Puryears, like many slave owners, had extensive real estate, so the team looked for the family's land records, deeds, and probate records. In the Monroe County probate records (on microfilm at the Family History Library), the researchers found probate records pertaining to the 1850-51 estate of Mary Puryear. The inventory of Mary's property was a key document. In it she listed Mariah and her children, by name: "Mariah and children Henry, Mary, McTom, Victoria and Prince Albert." Henry and Thomas were the names of two potential Puryear brothers who appeared on the same 1870 census page with Prince and Mariah. The inventory "matched the information we"d found in the census," says Joseph. "With the combination of names and location, there was no doubt."

Further records showed that Mary Puryear was the widow of slave owner Alexander Puryear and helped to solidify the connection between Prince, Mariah and the Puryear slave-holding family. "There are records out there," Joseph concludes. "Just be persistent."


"Who Do You Think You Are?" | African-American roots | Celebrity Roots
Monday, March 15, 2010 8:48:21 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
'Who Do You Think You Are?" Episode Two Recap
Posted by Grace

As I settle in with some popcorn to watch the show, I'm really interested to see if Emmitt Smith can make the jump from America to Africa like he's hoping.

Emmitt Smith gets a DNA test done and goes home to Florida to talk to his family. His dad mentions a cousin with a genealogy website -- that's real luck! Emmitt's next stop is Burnt Corn, Ala., where he stops at a general store and runs into a cousin.

It's so nice to see Emmitt taking notes -- it felt like all the info just fell into SJP's lap. We're getting into some heavy history at the Monroe County Courthouse as Emmitt encounters segregated turn-of-the-century vital records. The archivist says Emmitt's ancestor Bill Watson was born into slavery; another researcher determines Bill's wife's maiden name.

Now we're tracking down the name Prince Puryear -- was it the surname of a slave owner? We hope to find out by digging into the 1870 census, the first to list African-Americans by name, researcher Marjorie Sholes tells Emmitt.

Emmitt finds a slave-owning family named Puryear in the 1850 census. Letters reveal the man was a slave trader, even. Emmitt finds Prince Puryear in a will -- with a price. It's clear Emmitt is totally blown away by this. The researcher points out that the cemetery they're sitting in is only for white people -- Emmitt's black ancestors' graves are grown over and forgotten in the woods.

Going into Virginia to track down the Puryears seems like it's going to bear lots of fruit. Mecklenburg County, Va., was built by the Puryears, a historian says, and the slave trade was big business. They dig into the local records, and pull out deed book No. 22, which freaks Emmitt out! (His football jersey number was 22 through his entire career.)

Historian says the slave owners raised and bred their slaves like horses -- but they treated the horses better. His ancestor Mariah appears on a deed at just 11 years old. It seems that slave trader Samuel Puryear is Emmitt's fifth-great grandfather.

It seems that Mariah is as far back as Emmitt can go, as earlier records are difficult to find. But then Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak comes to the rescute with the results of Emmitt's DNA test. She says Emmitt's ancestry is about 81 percent African, 7 percent Native American and 12 percent European. She never sees people with 100% African ancestry, and his background is very strongly African.

Emmitt is going to Africa! Benin, specifically, part of West Africa's former "Slave Coast." But the past is drawn into the present -- he's told that trafficking of children is still happening in Benin. The orphans he's meeting were sold by their parents for money.

Emmitt visits the courtyard where Africans were held before the strong ones were loaded onto slave ships. He has a teary reunion with his wife on the beach, where he tells her what he's discovered. It's an amazing example of how bringing history to light can change your life. Emmitt says, "History is my story right now." That's a wrap!


"Who Do You Think You Are?" | African-American roots | Celebrity Roots
Monday, March 15, 2010 8:44:11 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Tuesday, February 09, 2010
Boston Groups Launch African-American Genealogy Initiative
Posted by Diane

Tom Champoux of the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) sent more information on the society’s new African-American genealogy website, which I blogged about last week.

Turns out AfricanAmericanAncestors.org is part of a joint initiative to bridge the gap between New England’s rich regional history and the stories of African-American families rooted there. Besides NEHGS, partners include Boston’s Museum of African American History (MAAH) and the New England Chapter of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society (AAHGS-NE).

The site’s launch celebration was attended by nearly 100 people, including Black Roots author Tony Burroughs, MAAH director Beverly Morgan-Welch, AAHGS-NE president Leona Martin, and Association of Professional Genealogists vice president Kenyatta Berry.

In the coming months, the three organizations will plan new programs, education opportunities, and other special events to highlight each group's areas of expertise while providing researchers of African-American family history with access to content, tools and resources.

Related resources from Family Tree Magazine:


African-American roots | Genealogy societies
Tuesday, February 09, 2010 12:07:47 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Thursday, February 04, 2010
NEHGS Launches African-American Genealogy Site
Posted by Diane

I just noticed on Facebook that the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEFGS) launched a new site focused on researching African-American genealogy.

AfricanAmericanAncestors.org has links to how-to articles, online exhibits, President Obama's family tree, and NEHGS databases of genealogical records containing information on African-Americans (note that you'll need an NEHGS membership to access search results). 


African-American roots | Genealogy societies | Genealogy Web Sites
Thursday, February 04, 2010 12:36:01 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, February 01, 2010
African-American Roots: Websites and Resources
Posted by Diane

To start off Black History Month, here are some of my top picks for soaking up African-American history and genealogy knowledge
  • Library and Archives Canada created an introduction to Black History Month with online resources relating to black history in Canada, and information on educational events organized by Black History Ottawa.
  • Yahoo! has an online timeline starting with the first slaves arriving at Jamestown, Va. and continuing all the way up to today.
Also be sure to check out the African-American roots category of this blog for news on more websites and resources to help you trace your family tree.


African-American roots | Genealogy Web Sites
Monday, February 01, 2010 11:00:47 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, January 22, 2010
Genealogy News Corral: Jan. 18-22
Posted by Diane

There was a plethora of genealogy news this week to gather for our Friday roundup:
  • Footnote hinted on its Facebook page about a new Civil Rights-era records collection to launch in February in partnership with Gannett. Get a glimpse here.
  • The free FamilySearch Record Search pilot site has added 25 million new records for Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Dominican Republic, England, Germany, Guatemala, South Africa, Switzerland and the United States. They include 1920 US census indexes for Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Wisconsin, South Dakota and Maine; 1935 and 1945 Florida state censuses; Indiana marriages and more.
  • Subscription site GenealogyBank is adding 280 new African-American newspapers. The first 50 were released this month; see the titles, where they were published and the years of coverage on the GenealogyBank blog.
  • Ancestry.com also announced it’s getting rid of its Member Connections feature (note this is different from Member Connect, which was launched last year). It would let you let you enter an ancestor’s name and get a list of Ancestry.com members also researching that person, but now you can do pretty much the same thing by searching Public Member Trees.
  • The National Archives in Washington, DC, is holding a public meeting next Friday, Jan. 29, at 10:45 am to discuss how the archives meets the needs of the research community. Get details on the NGS UpFront blog.


African-American roots | Ancestry.com | FamilySearch | Footnote | Libraries and Archives | Newspapers
Friday, January 22, 2010 9:45:08 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, January 13, 2010
March 2010 Family Tree Magazine and Your Genealogy Resolutions
Posted by Diane


The March 2010 Family Tree Magazine hit newsstands Jan. 5 with articles I think will mesh nicely with 2010 genealogy resolutions you may be formulating. For example:

Resolution: Polish your genealogy research skills.
Article: Assess your genealogical fitness level with the survey in “Shaping Up,” then read how to brush up in areas where you need more knowledge. Links direct you to a range of classes (with plenty of free options), websites, books and organizations that can help researchers from beginners to experts learn a thing or two.

Resolution: Enhance your family’s story with social history
Article: Learn how ancestors came into the world in “We Deliver for You,” an overview of childbirth practices in your grandmothers’ and great-mothers’ days. You’ll also find out about birth, hospital and midwives’ records.

Resolution: Break through your brick wall and figure out whatever happened to Great-great-grandpa.
Article: Maybe a weather event, epidemic, workplace accident or other disaster befell your forebear. “Flirting With Disaster” helps you find death records, newspapers and other sources that may name victims of unfortunate occurrences.

Resolution: Get with the times and equip yourself to digitize photos, record oral histories, back up your hard drive and more.
Article: “Go Go Gadgets” (my favorite title in the issue) explains what to look for in seven tech tools: an Internet connection, all-in-one printer/scanner/copier, digital camera, external hard drive, digital voice recorder, GPS unit and USB flash drive. For each device, we include a chart comparing popular models.

Resolution: Get with the times and figure out Twitter.
Article: Our Toolkit Tutorial illustrates the anatomy of a Tweet, defines Twitter terminology (such as tweep and hashtag) and gets you started on this fast-paced social network.

Resolution: Keep your family connected.
Article: A family website is one way to stay in touch. Our MyHeritage Web Guide outlines how to use a tree on MyHeritage to do research and connect with kin.  


The March 2010 Family Tree Magazine has even more articles, including a guide to tracing Puerto Rican roots, facts about color photography and new sources helping African-American genealogists overcome research obstacles.

Look for the issue in your favorite bookstore, or visit ShopFamilyTree.com to purchase a digital download or order a print copy.


African-American roots | Editor's Pick | Family Tree Magazine articles | Social History | Social Networking | Tech Advice | Vital Records
Wednesday, January 13, 2010 2:54:31 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Friday, December 04, 2009
Genealogy News Corral: Nov. 30-Dec. 4
Posted by Diane

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has posted some of its digital images from World War I on photo-sharing site Flickr. Images show soldiers, nurses, battles, posters and more. Get more details about LAC’s WWI photo collection on its website.

Two new online videos you might want to take a peek at:
The National Archives and Records Administration’s NARAtions blog is running a “Family History Friday” series, which explains a different genealogical record or resource each week. This week, read about seamen’s protection certificates, a kind of early passport mariners purchased to identify their nationality in case of impressments by the British.

If you’re planning to create family photo gifts for the holidays, keep an eye on sites such as Snapfish and Shutterfly. Snapfish is running a deal a day through Dec. 25; Shutterfly also has a bunch of sales. Feel free to click Comments and add other photo bargains you know of.


African-American roots | Ancestry.com | Canadian roots | Libraries and Archives | Photos
Friday, December 04, 2009 3:18:20 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, October 26, 2009
DNA Tests in Ghana May Shed Light on African-American Origins
Posted by Diane

The Center for African-American Genealogical Research, Inc. (CAAGI), genetic genealogy company FamilyTreeDNA, and the Public Records and Archives Administration Deartment of Ghana (PRAAD) are embarking on a project that may improve the ability of DNA tests to estimate African-Americans’ origins in Africa.

DNA tests designed to analyze origins in Africa often lead to more questions than answers because relatively little is known about the diverse genetics of African tribes. The tested person’s DNA is compared against a database of modern Africans' DNA—but because of historical migration in Africa, the DNA of a given area’s modern residents may not match its original inhabitants.

Ghana (formerly the Gold Coast), located in Western Africa, was the source of an estimated million-plus African slaves. FamilyTreeDNA will test several hundred members of the Nzema, Ga, Fante, Ewe and Asante tribes, all of which were part of the slave trade.

The DNA will be gathered at a workshop CAAGI is conducting this Friday at the PRAAD offices in Accra, Ghana, as part of its Sankofa project to use traditional genealogical sources and DNA to reconnect African families. Attendees will learn about online genealogy databases, preservation of song lyrics and photographs, transcription of family stories, and forensic genealogy.
 
Ghana was once a UK colony where British, Dutch and Danish merchants traded. PRAAD has a Slave Trade Archives project with microfilm on Danish activities in Ghana from 1658 to 1850; some of the film is digitized online.

Addition: Bennett Greenspan, president of FamilyTreeDNA, provided a bit more information on this project.

Greenspan believes the results, which should be available in three to four months, will “absolutely” help improve analysis of African-Americans’ origins in genetic genealogy tests.

“The results of this outreach will be to both increase the size of the FamilyTreeDNA/AfricanDNA.com comparative databases and the results will also be added to the permanent Hammer collection at the University of Arizona, who will publish on the results of these and other outreach missions to Africa," Greenspan says. "In that way, the data will be published and available to all researchers of Africa.”

The University of Arizona's Hammer Lab is managed by Michael Hammer, FamilyTreeDNA's chief scientist. AfricanDNA.com is the African-American genealogy research firm of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates.


African-American roots | Genetic Genealogy
Monday, October 26, 2009 12:33:47 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, October 22, 2009
New Digital Library Names Thousands of Slaves
Posted by Diane

Search information from thousands of slavery-related county court and legislative petitions in a new, free resource from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro library.

The Digital Library on American Slavery provides detailed information on more than 150,000 individuals who are named in the petitions, including 80,000 individual slaves and 10,000 free people of color.

The information comes from legal documents, such as wills, estate inventories and civil suits, filed in courts of 15 states and Washington, DC, from 1775 to 1867. Though this database doesn’t contain images of the records, it offers a lot of detail from them.

When you search by name, here's what your results list might look like:



Click the petition number by someone’s name for an abstract that tells you what the petition was about, and the date and place it was filed.

Under “People associated with this petition,” click the links for names of enslaved individuals, defendants, petitioners, etc.



One the resulting page, click a name for information about that person. You might learn the person’s color and sex, slave or free status, occupation, skills, physical attributes, diseases and more. Not every detail is available for each person—it depends what's in the record.

This database lets you connect slaves with owners and others they may have interacted with.

The Digital Library of American Slavery grew out of the Race and Slavery Petitions Project, established in 1991 by Loren Schweninger. The project created a microfilm edition of the petitions and documents called Race, Slavery, and Free Blacks: Petitions to Southern Legislatures and County Courts, 1775-1867. It’s on 151 reels; scroll down on this page for a list of institutions that have some or all of them.

Also see Schweininger’s book, The Southern Debate Over Slavery, Volume 2: Petitions to Southern County Courts, 1775-1867 (University of Illinois Press). The original documents are at state archives and county courthouses.


African-American roots | Free Databases | Genealogy Web Sites
Thursday, October 22, 2009 11:01:51 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, October 09, 2009
Michelle Obama's Slave Ancestry Video
Posted by Allison

As we reported earlier, our friend and professional genealogist Megan Smolenyak appeared on CBS' Early Show this morning to talk about Michelle Obama's slave ancestry.

Though perhaps not unique among slave descendants, the stories Smolenyak uncovered about Obama's ancestors Melvinia and Delphus are certainly interesting. Here's the video of the CBS interview:


 
African-American roots | Celebrity Roots
Friday, October 09, 2009 11:40:18 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, October 08, 2009
Genealogist Finds Michelle Obama's Slave Ancestor
Posted by Grace

Family Tree Magazine contributor Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak and The New York Times have uncovered documents revealing first lady Michelle Obama's great-great-great-grandmother, a slave named Melvinia. Through probate records, photographs and local histories, the sleuths have pieced together a picture of the life of Melvinia, who labored on farms in Georgia and South Carolina, and her first son, Dolphus—Obama's great-great-grandfather—who became a carpenter and owned his own business in Birmingham, Ala.

The story is absolutely fascinating. You can learn more about it in The New York Times, in ABC's news report, and make sure you watch the below video from Roots Television.




African-American roots | Celebrity Roots | Female ancestors | Videos
Thursday, October 08, 2009 12:36:44 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Wednesday, October 07, 2009
First International Black Genealogy Summit Coming this Month
Posted by Grace

October brings an exciting first in African-American genealogical history. The International Black Genealogy Summit (IBGS) Oct. 29-31 at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Ind., will be the first mass gathering of all black historical and genealogical societies in the US, Canada and the Caribbean.

"Pulling all the black genealogy societies together has never been done," says conference co-chair Algurie Wilson. "We've all met in our own backyards, but not together. But I've got people coming from everywhere."

IBGS kicks off with a free Thursday pre-conference with workshops, a movie, and extended research hours. Friday and Saturday will be packed with lectures, exhibitors, vendors, and social time (download the schedule here).

"In the workshops, we'll be talking about all the genealogical resources we have," says Wilson. "But besides the workshops, there's great camaraderie. I'm especially looking forward to the banquet and luncheon. We're encouraging African attire. There will be so many beautiful colors. The atmosphere in the room will just be bubbling. I'm also getting an African dance troupe—nobody knows about that yet! I can't wait to hear the keynote speakers, too."

Friday evening's speaker will be Dorothy Spruill Redford, author and nationally recognized interpreter of the African family experience in the South. Hana Stith, curator of the African/African-American Historical Museum in Fort Wayne, will speak at a Saturday luncheon.

Wilson has been encouraged by enthusiastic response despite the difficult economy. "When I talk to someone on the phone and hear their excitement, I realize this is why we're doing it. I've got someone coming on the bus for 17 hours. I'm going to buy that person a drink! That tells you how important it is for us to put this event on."

To Wilson, this event is all about people—both past and present. "I tell new researchers, 'You want to talk to the person next to you. You might find someone looking for the same family tree. You never know what you can discover and more importantly, who you can discover.'"

If you're interested in attending IBGS, visit the conference registration page for more information.
—Sunny McClellan Morton
www.sunnymorton.blogspot.com


African-American roots | Genealogy Events | Genealogy societies
Wednesday, October 07, 2009 2:35:08 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, September 25, 2009
Genealogy News Corral: September 21-25
Posted by Diane

Is it the end of September already?? Here's our last new roundup for the month 
  • Today’s the last day to get the $55 early bird registration special for the Mesa Family History Expo, Jan. 22-23 in Mesa, Ariz. If you miss the deadline, you still can save by preregistering for $65. Admission at the door costs $75. The exhibit hall is free to the public.
  • Those with African-American roots, mark your calendars for the International Black Genealogy Summit at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Ind., Oct. 29 to 31. It’s the first gathering of African-American historical and genealogical societies from the United States, Canada and the Caribbean. Watch this blog for more details.
  • On his Genealogy Blog, Leland Meitzler reported on the SwedGen Tour, in which a team of Swedish genealogy experts is stopping at several research facilities to give presentations on Swedish genealogy resources (including subscription records site Genline and the Släktdata vital records site)  and offer one-on-one consultations. See the schedule and preregister at the SwedGen Tour site.
  • I came across a neat blog today called Dear Annie. A Minnesota woman is posting 700 postcards (images and transcriptions) that her Great-aunt Annie Bartos, who died in 1983, saved during her 90 years.


African-American roots | Family Heirlooms | Genealogy Events | International Genealogy
Friday, September 25, 2009 2:44:31 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, September 24, 2009
Ways to Say "Woot!" for Family History Month 2009
Posted by Diane

Question of the day: What do we celebrate in October? Columbus Day, yes. Halloween. The start of the Christmas season, in most shopping malls.

October also is Family History Month. In 2001, Congress first passed a resolution introduced by Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, who wrote, "By searching for our roots, we come closer together as a human family.”

Similar legislation has passed in several years since. I couldn't find an official declaration for 2009 (anyone else?), but family history enthusiasts continue to celebrate Family History Month in October.

Don’t hesitate to hold your own party. Give yourself a whole Saturday at the library or Family History Center, ask a relative your burning family history questions, put some photos in an album, jot down a family story, or tell your state representative how much you appreciate your public library's genealogy resources. The New England Historic Genealogical Society has more ideas.

Here’s a sampling of genealogy classes and other special events we’ve heard about. Check program schedules for your local library and genealogy society to see what’s going on near you.
  • Saturday, Oct. 3, the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County offers classes, Genealogy and Local History Department tours, and free consultations with Hamilton County Genealogical Society experts. More events happen throughout the month, including a library lock-in Oct. 17. See the Genealogy Section of the library’s October Calendar (a PDF download) for more details.
  • The Fort Myers-Lee County Library in Florida has a free Family History Month class series on Saturdays in October. For more info, mouse over the listings on the library’s online calendar.
  • The Indiana State Library in Indianapolis has lots of classes planned, including dating photographs, Indiana marriage laws and getting started.
  • Online genealogy class Web site GenClass is sponsoring a competition for a free genealogy class—write a 1,200 word essay about a creative way you’ve honored your ancestors and what inspired you. Get the entry instructions here.
Have yourself a happy Family History Month!


African-American roots | Genealogy Events | Libraries and Archives
Thursday, September 24, 2009 10:17:07 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Friday, August 28, 2009
Genealogy News Corral: August 24-28
Posted by Diane

  • Hundreds of genealogists—your truly included—are packing their bags for the Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference in Little Rock, Ark., Sept. 2 to 5. I’ll write more about the conference in a separate post next week, but in the mean time, you can check out the conference Web site and blog.
  • The National Archives’ marriage records (1815 to 1866) from the Virginia Field Office of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands (Freedmen’s Bureau) have been digitized and are now available free at the FamilySearch record search pilot site.
  • Subscription genealogy Web site Ancestry.com and its related international sites will be down for scheduled maintenance for about three hours starting Tuesday, Sept. 1 at 1 a.m. Mountain Time. Portions of RootsWeb, Genealogy.com, MyFamily.com and FamilyTreeMaker.com—which live on Ancestry.com servers—also will be unavailable. 
  • Mark your calendars for National Museum Day Sept. 26, when hundreds of museums across the country will offer free general admission to you and a guest when you present a Museum Day admission card, downloadable from this site.
  • A Deerfield, Ill., documentarian has created a show called “The Legend Seekers,” which traces family legends of regular people. You can submit your family story at LegendSeekers.com, see others' stories and get research tips. Chicago-area residents can watch an episode on WTTW Channel 11 Aug. 30 at 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 a.m. Aug. 31. (It’ll also run on WTTW Prime—Comcast Channel 243—at 9:30 p.m. Aug. 31, and 4:30 and 9:30 a.m. Sept. 1.)


African-American roots | Ancestry.com | FamilySearch | Genealogy Events | Museums
Friday, August 28, 2009 11:20:36 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, July 31, 2009
Genealogy News Corral: July 27-31
Posted by Diane

These are some of the news bits that wandered across our desks this week:
  • First, a reminder that if you plan to subscribe to Footnote or renew your subscription, stop procrastinating. The $59.95 annual subscription sale ends at midnight tonight (July 31). Also tomorrow, the membership rate goes from $69.95 to $79.95 per year.
  • Another reminder for those who’ve been meaning to search the Caribbean slave records on Ancestry.com—the free period ends tonight. More on this collection here.
  • Speaking of Ancestry.com, the new Member Connect features—which let you comment on and correct records, as well as get in touch with other members—went live this week. Click here for more on Member Connect.
  • The FGS 09 conference is just a month away, Sept. 2-5 in Little Rock, Ark. Get news updates and registration information from the conference blog, and when you’re there, stop by to see us at the Family Tree Magazine booth (#407).
  • This from Dick Eastman’s blog: The British national archives and UK-based family history site Findmypast.com are giving seven repositories in England and Wales free online access to the recently completed 1911 census records. See Dick's post for the list of archives.

African-American roots | Ancestry.com | Footnote | Genealogy Events | UK and Irish roots
Friday, July 31, 2009 2:19:19 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Burr Oak Cemetery Tombstone Images Posted Online
Posted by Diane

The Cook County (Ill.) sherrif’s office has set up a public database to help families affected by the shocking crimes at Burr Oak Cemetery.

In July, authorities announced that about 300 graves in the historically African-American cemetery near Chicago had been dug up, the bodies dumped, and the plots resold. Four cemetery workers are accused of the crime.

Those looking for relatives’ grave sites at the cemetery can search an online database of tombstone images. So far, it has 9,500 names from the roughly 100,000 grave sites.

Searchers can type in a name or browse by year. There’s also a link to view photos of markers with unknown burial years.

Read more about this tragedy in the articles linked here.

Examiner.com's African-American genealogy writer, Michael Hait, takes a close look at the database here.


African-American roots | Cemeteries | Free Databases
Friday, July 31, 2009 2:04:29 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Friday, July 17, 2009
Genealogy News Corral: July 13-17
Posted by Diane

Here are news bits and pieces we turned up this week:
  • British subscription site FamilyRelatives.com has added the Civil War Roll of Honor listings of more than 276,000 Union soldiers buried in national cemeteries, soldiers' lots and garrison cemeteries.
  • The East Central Georgia Regional Library's African-American Funeral Program Collection is online (and free) in the Digital Library of Georgia. The 1,000 funeral programs date from 1933 to 2008, with most dating since the 1960s and coming from churches around Augusta, Ga.
  • The College of Charleston in South Carolina has launched the Lowcountry Digital Library with about 7,500 images (so far) of historical letters, scrapbooks, photos and more.
  • Online genealogy company (and GenealogyWise owner) FamilyLink has another site coming next week, as hinted on Twitter by CEO Paul Allen: “41% have pictures of ancestors on the walls of their home ... We are launching a new site soon for the other 59%”
Could it be related to this digitization service, announced in 2007 but no longer offered?

African-American roots | FamilyLink | Genealogy Web Sites | Libraries and Archives
Friday, July 17, 2009 12:25:59 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Free in July: US Virgin Islands Slave Records
Posted by Diane

Ancestry.com has added 200 years of Caribbean slave records with help from the Virgin Islands Social History Associates. You can access the records free through the end of July (you’ll need to register for a free account).

So far, the collection includes St. Croix slave lists from 1772 to 1821 and population censuses (1835 to 1911), which together have information on more than 700,000 slaves, owners and family members.

The slave lists aren’t yet indexed, so you can’t search by name, but you can browse the record images by year. Here's an example:



You can search the census records. Most are in English, but some are in Danish—the islands became a Danish colony in 1754; the United States purchased them in 1917.


African-American roots | Ancestry.com | Free Databases
Friday, July 17, 2009 11:52:16 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, July 10, 2009
New African-American Genealogy Database Coming This Fall
Posted by Diane

If you're researching African-American roots, look for a new database this fall from ProQuest, creator of the HeritageQuest Online genealogy service (available free to patrons of subscribing libraries).

ProQuest African-American Heritage will combine records with research guidance.

Records will include censuses, slave and freedmen records; birth, marriage and death records; church records; court and legal records; genealogies and family histories. Other than the US census and Freedman’s Savings Bank & Trust Co. records (both also are in HeritageQuest Online), ProQuest didn’t name specific records.

Social networking tools come from AfriGeneas, a popular Web site and forum on African-American genealogy; an exclusive version of the classic guide  Black Genesis by James M. Rose and Alice Eichholz (Genealogical Publishing Co.); and other reference books.

For more information about ProQuest African-American Heritage, to watch a video and to sign up for a notification e-mail when the service is released, visit ProQuest's Web site.


African-American roots | Libraries and Archives
Friday, July 10, 2009 2:58:59 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, June 23, 2009
CNN Site Explores African-American Family Histories
Posted by Diane

CNN iReporter Neal Kelley, of Lawrenceville, Ga., has traced his African American family’s roots to his great-grandfather, a slave in Louisiana in 1842, and he’s hoping to discover his ancestors’ African homeland.

The story of Kelley’s genealogical explorations is part of the Journeys section on CNN’s Black in America Web site.



As you listen to Kelley and other iReporters talk about their families, you see their ancestors’ migrations on a map and a slideshow of family documents and photos.

You also can hover over states on the map for statistics on African-American residents now and then.

Click the surnames above the map to see each family’s story. Click Nation for an overview of historical African-American migrations by era. Use the Submit or see all link at the bottom of the page to share your own photos and videos.
African-American roots
Tuesday, June 23, 2009 1:22:21 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, March 03, 2009
Free African-American Genealogy Records Site Launches
Posted by Diane

AfriQuest, the free African-American genealogy records-sharing site that’s been in the works for a year, launched over the weekend.



Use the search box on the home page to search or browse records (stored on the wiki WeRelate.com) including Freedman’s Bank and Freedmen’s Bureau documents, estate inventories, wills and more.

AfriQuest webmasters hope you’ll submit your digitized genealogical records. Register with the site and submit a document here.

You also can submit your family stories.

Look for guide to tracing slave ancestors in the July 2009 Family Tree Magazine (on newsstands May 5).

African-American roots
Tuesday, March 03, 2009 3:17:25 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, February 24, 2009
South Carolina Slave Records to Go Online
Posted by Diane

More genealogy records are coming to Lowcountry Africana, a Web site and research project to study the Gullah/Geechee cultural heritage of those with African-American roots in South Carolina, Georgia, and northeastern Florida.

Working with the South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Lowcountry Africana will digitize more than 25,000 documents from Charleston estate inventories dated 1732 to 1867. They include the names of more than 30,000 slaves.

More than 14,000 South Carolina bills of sale (1773 to 1872), most for transactions involving slaves, also will be digitized. They’re already indexed along with other resources on the South Carolina Archives Web site (click Series Descriptions to see what all else is there).

The index and digital images will be free on both Lowcountry Africana and the South Carolina archives’ site. You can volunteer to index the records at AfriQuest, another Lowcountry Africana site.


African-American roots | Genealogy Web Sites
Tuesday, February 24, 2009 2:08:00 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, February 23, 2009
Slave Spies Helped Win Civil War
Posted by Diane

Interesting article on CNN today about African-American slaves who helped the Union effort in the Civil War by spying on their Southern owners.
 
After Confederate president Jefferson Davis’ slave William Jackson escaped in 1861, he provided the Union with valuable information he’d overheard about supply routes and strategy. Harriet Tubman, Robert Smalls and countless others also delivered secret intelligence. Union soldiers called their reports “black dispatches.”

Ken Dagler, author of a book titled Black Dispatches (who’s also “written extensively on the issue for the CIA's Center for the Study of Intelligence”) tells CNN that slaves’ reliance on oral tradition gave them practice memorizing details.

For the life of me, I couldn’t find Dagler’s book online to link to. But I did find this article on the CIA Web site by a P.K. Rose of the CIA Directorate of Operations, and a Library of Congress listing for a book Black Dispatches also by P.K. Rose.

Waaaaaaait a minute. Dagler works for the CIA ... so does P.K. Rose ... are you catching my drift?


African-American roots | Military records
Monday, February 23, 2009 9:41:20 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, February 12, 2009
More Civil War Records on Ancestry.com
Posted by Diane

Subscription site Ancestry.com has joined the records-posting party on this occasion of Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday. Here's what's new in the site's Civil War collection:
  • The Abraham Lincoln Papers includes more than 20,000 letters written to and from the president, as well as drafts of his speeches. (This collection is free.)
  • New Orleans Slave Manifests, 1807 to 1860, has ship manifests (from National Archives microfilm) documenting more than 30,000 slaves en route to New Orleans from the upper Southern states.
You can browse the record images, but you can't search them yet. World Archives Project volunteers are indexing them as you read this. See some transcribed information free on Afrigeneas.
  • Confederate Applications for Presidential Pardons contains records of former Confederates who requested pardons.
Lincoln successor Andrew Johnson issued a proclamation of general amnesty for Confederates, but it didn't cover certain groups such as government officials, higher ranking military officers and those with property valued at more than $20,000. Those people had to apply for pardons.
  • Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles has information on nearly every officer and soldier who fought in the Civil War (compiled from sources such as state rosters and regimental histories).

African-American roots | Ancestry.com | Genealogy Web Sites | Military records
Thursday, February 12, 2009 10:07:35 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, February 06, 2009
101 Best Web Sites: African-American Roots
Posted by Diane

In observance of Black History month, this week we’ll highlight Web sites from our “Best for African-American Researchers” category:
  • Lowcountry Africana: This free site focuses on records that document the heritage of African-Americans in the historic rice-growing areas of South Carolina, Georgia and northeastern Florida, home to the distinctive Gullah/Geechee culture. Records include those of the wealthy Drayton family, which owned several plantations, plus Freedmen's Bureau and Freedman's Bank papers.
See the rest of the 101 Best Web sites on FamilyTreeMagazine.com, or go right to the African-American roots sites.

See our African-American genealogy research toolkit here.


African-American roots | Free Databases | Genealogy Web Sites
Friday, February 06, 2009 1:55:06 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, January 30, 2009
More African-American Records Coming to Footnote
Posted by Diane

The subscription records site Footnote announced the launch of its Black History collection this week.

Records currently in the collection have been on Footnote for some time, but expect to see more soon as webmasters add new digitized records from the National Archives and Records Administration. The new records will be free during February, spokesperson Justin Schroepfer tells me.

Here’s what you can look forward to:
  • Records of the US District Court for the District of Columbia Relating to Slaves, 1851-1863: These include slave schedules, manumission papers and case papers relating to fugitive slaves.
  • Records for the Emancipation of Slaves in the District of Columbia, 1862-63: These meeting minutes, docket books and petitions pertain to slaves’ emancipation.

  • Registro Central de Esclavos 1872 (Slave Schedules): These registers of slaves in Puerto Rico list the enslaved person’s name, country of origin, name of parents, physical description and owner’s name.

  • Records Relating to the Suppression of the African Slave Trade and Negro Colonization, 1854-1872: These are letters, accounts and other documents.
  • Correspondence of the Military Intelligence Division (MID) Relation to "Negro Subversion," 1917-1941: These document the MID's monitoring of African-Americans involved in labor and other social movements.
The new records will join the Colored Troops service files, Amistad case files, Southern Claims Commission petitions and others already in the Black History collection. Some of these records (such as the Amistad case files) are free; others are available with a $69.95-per-year Footnote subscription.


African-American roots | Footnote
Friday, January 30, 2009 4:05:46 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, December 10, 2008
New Site Details Slave Ships' Voyages
Posted by Diane

A new site just launched to preserve the story of the slave trade and the Africans who became part of the largest forced migration in modern history.



Voyages has an African Names database with details on more than 67,000 slaves who were captive on slave vessels during the 19th century.

None of those Africans made it to the Americas, though—the ships were captured by naval cruisers after Britain and the US outlawed the slave trade in 1807. (Britain abolished slavery altogether in the British West Indies in 1838; the United States prohibited it in 1865.)

For that reason, and because Africans were identified by given names only, it's unlikely you'll find an ancestor here.

A Voyages database details nearly 35,000 journeys of ships (but not the passengers) that did deliver slaves to the New World—you'll see the name of the ship, captain's name, year, and where slaves were purchased and sold.

Through its essays, maps and charts, the site sheds a fascinating light on the slave trade from 1514 until the last recorded slave voyage to the Americas in 1866. Estimates show 12.5 million African slaves were transported across the Atlantic between 1525 and 1866. As late as 1820, nearly four Africans had crossed the Atlantic for every European.

The databases were compiled from data scholars have collected over decades, and published online thanks to several grants. See Voyages' Understanding the Database section for in-depth guidance on using the site.

African-American roots
Wednesday, December 10, 2008 2:56:00 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, August 11, 2008
Researching African-American Historical Newspapers
Posted by Diane

Tune in to the most recent Genealogy Guys podcast to hear about a new resource for African-American researchers, Finding and Using African American Newspapers by Tim Pinnick (Gregath Publishing).

Genealogists often shy away from searching through old newspapers because it requires digging up the names of sometimes-obscure titles, and often traveling to the library and enduring lots of microfilm-scrolling. And most of us seem to assume our ancestors weren’t newsworthy, anyway.

In an excerpt on his Web site, Pinnick ticks off the benefits of historical newspapers for African-American researchers in particular: articles that associate an ancestor with a slaveholding family, birth and death dates before vital records were kept, freed slaves’ notices seeking information about loved ones, society pages with family members’ comings and goings.

A few additional resources for African-American newspapers (feel free to click comment and add others you know of):
  • Freedom’s Journal, published in New York City, is digitized at the Wisconsin Historical Society Web site.

African-American roots | Genealogy Web Sites
Monday, August 11, 2008 5:22:56 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Thursday, April 10, 2008
British Colonial Slave Records Cover 1812 to 1834
Posted by Diane

Those with African ancestors from the Caribbean, Sri Lanka or other former British colonies, take note: Slave registers of former British colonial dependencies, covering 1812 to 1834, are now part of subscription database sites Ancestry.co.uk (which also has a pay-per-view option) and Ancestry.com.

The registers name 2.7 million slaves and 280,000 slave owners in 17 former dependencies: Antigua, Bahamas, Barbados, Berbice (part of what's now Guyana), Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Dominica, Grenada, British Honduras (now Belize), Jamaica, St. Christopher, Nevis, the British Virgin Islands, St. Lucia, Trinidad, Tobago, St. Vincent and Mauritius (an island off the coast of Africa).

Other information includes parish, age of slave, and sometimes, birthplace. Often, a slave used the surname of his owner, and ages were generally guessed.

Hundreds of thousands of African slaves worked on sugar, tea and tobacco plantations in British colonies. Britain made the slave trade illegal in 1807 and outlawed owning slaves in 1834.

Starting in 1812, slave owners had to complete slave registers every three years so the government could stem illegal trading.

Not all of the paper registers are part of the Ancestry.com or Ancestry.uk collection, including some from Jamaica, St. Christopher, Grenada, Dominica, Nevis, St Lucia, Demerara, Berbice, Montserrat, Bermuda, St. Vincent, Mauritius and the Cape of Good Hope. The originals are at the British national archives.

You can find more on researching British Colonial-era slaves at the national archives Web site. FamilyTreeMagazine.com offers tips and resources for finding Caribbean ancestors.


African-American roots | Genealogy Web Sites
Thursday, April 10, 2008 8:26:36 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, April 02, 2008
Free Site Has Lowcountry Slave Records
Posted by Diane

Tidal marshes in the coastal areas of South Carolina, Georgia and extreme northeast Florida lent themselves to rice cultivation. Plantation owners would seek out slaves from Africa’s Windward Coast—Senegal, Gambia, Sierra Leone and Liberia—where rice was indigenous.

The traditions of these Africans make up the rich Gullah-Geechee culture, and their lives are the focus of Lowcountry Africana, a free Web site that launched last Saturday with research guidance and records.

Its Lowcountry Lives link serves up life stories (hosted on project partner We Relate, a genealogy wiki) of Lowcountry ancestors. Right now, stories cover slaves from Drayton family plantations and their descendants.

An online Research Library has a reading room (which links to off-site articles), resources for teachers, and links to free African-American databases on the historical records site Footnote, another Lowcountry Africana partner (most of Footnote’s records are by subscription or pay-per-view).

The Search Records link takes you to the Lowcountry Africana Community in the AfriQuest database (also hosted by We Relate, AfriQuest will launch June 19 with a range of user-contributed records).

There, you can browse records or search by name, place and/or keyword. Matches link to source information and images or transcriptions. For example, the 1871 Freedman's Savings and Trust Record listing for Ceasar Smith linked to a transcription showing his birthplace, residence, age, occupation, family members’ names and more (naturally, you still want to find the original record).

The records also include bounty claims (shown below) and other documents from Freedmen’s Bureau field reports, as well as wills, estate inventories, Southern Claims Commission records and papers from Drayton family records.



You can submit your own records to Lowcountry Africana, too (click Help on the Submit Items page for instructions).

African-American roots | Genealogy Web Sites
Wednesday, April 02, 2008 7:15:24 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, March 27, 2008
Lowcountry Slave Genealogies Released March 29
Posted by Diane

The Lowcountry Africana Web site will launch this Saturday with groundbreaking research on genealogies of slaves on Drayton family plantations in South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Texas and Barbados.

Researchers from the University of South Florida Africana Heritage Project and descendants of slaves who lived on the plantations collaborated to compile and interpret the records. The Magnolia Plantation Foundation of Charleston, SC, sponsored the project and free genealogy wiki WeRelate.org helped develop the site.

Many of the records came from Drayton Hall Plantation (shown below in about 1880), also in Charleston, which holds the family’s papers.


Lowcountry Africana will focus not only on Drayton plantation records, but also on those from throughout the former rice-growing areas of the coastal Southeast, which gave rise to the Gullah-Geechee culture.

African-American roots | Genealogy Web Sites
Thursday, March 27, 2008 8:12:08 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, February 18, 2008
Cooking up Stories of Presidents' African-American Chefs
Posted by Allison

NPR aired a fascinating Presidents Day segment in the Kitchen Sisters series about George Washington's and Thomas Jefferson's slave chefs—and the little-known culinary contributions they and other African-Americans have made to White House history.

You can read a synopsis and listen to the story online.

If you aren't familiar with Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva's Kitchen Sisters series, it's dedicated to exploring and preserving social history through food. Browse the archive for other stories of interest to family history and pop culture buffs, including "America Eats: A Hidden Archive of the 1930s" and "The Birth of the Frito."


African-American roots | Social History
Monday, February 18, 2008 11:30:03 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, February 07, 2008
Footnote Offers Free Records for African-American History Month
Posted by Diane

The subscription and pay-per-view historical records service Footnote is making some of its collections free during February to commemorate African-American History month. Those include:
  • records from the Amistad case. The Spanish slave ship was illegally transporting African “cargo” in Cuba in 1839 (Spain had outlawed the slave trade) when the enslaved passengers revolted. The crew members sailed to Long Island Sound and the United States seized the ship. After a long trial, the Africans (whose counsel included former president John Quincy Adams) were declared free.
  • Southern Claims Commission records of southerners' petitions for compensation for crops, livestock and other supplies Union troops seized during the Civil War. Testimony of witnesses, both black and white, appears in many claims. More than 20,000 claims were filed.
Most of Footnote’s records are the product of its year-old partnership with the National Archives and Records Administration. Footnote has more than 26 million digitized images and adds 2 million new ones each month. Registered members of the site can upload their own records and narratives.

A Footnote subscription costs $59.95 per year; you also can purchase a record image for $1.95.


African-American roots | Genealogy Web Sites
Thursday, February 07, 2008 8:58:14 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, February 06, 2008
More Resources for Cincinnati Researchers
Posted by Diane

We got a note from our hometown Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, which already has one of the best public library genealogy collections in the country, about its recently expanded Genealogy and Local History Department and its new online goodies.

The new department consolidates materials previously spread throughout the library, making room in public areas for 7,000 more books and 8,000 reels of high-demand microfilm. Its Cincinnati Room lets patrons access historical materials such as local newspapers and manuscript collections.

Librarians also will schedule one-on-one consultations to help direct patrons’ research. Visit the department’s Web site to take a video tour and link to research databases. Check out the librarians’ list of favorite online resources for Cincinnati-area research, too.

Digitized historical materials also have made it onto PLCHC’s Virtual Library. Those include several 19th-cenury Cincinnati city directories and volumes such as the 1868 The Black Brigade of Cincinnati: Being a Report of its Labors and a Muster-Roll of its Members, the 1838 Report of the First Anniversary of the Ohio Anti-Slavery Society, and the 1852 Annual Announcement of Lectures of the Miami Medical College of Cincinnati. Click on a book cover to download the file as a PDF.



One of the John Seegers listed in this 1866 city directory may or may not be my ancestor; I'll have to go home and check.

We’re interested in hearing what's new at your favorite genealogy library—click Comment and let us know.

African-American roots | Libraries and Archives
Wednesday, February 06, 2008 2:19:43 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Tuesday, February 05, 2008
Watch African-American Lives 2 Premiere This Week
Posted by Diane

Plan to park yourself in front of your TV tomorrow night to watch "African-American Lives 2," the latest in a succession of Henry Louis Gates-hosted shows that has genealogy experts tracing the roots of well-known African-Americans. The two-part series premieres Feb. 6.

Producers added a twist this year: Everyday folks could apply to have their own pasts explored along with those of 11 VIPs, including actor Don Cheadle, comedian Chris Rock and Olympic athlete Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Of the more than 2,000 applicants, producers selected Kathleen Henderson, a college administrator in Dayton, Ohio.

A week or so ago, Henderson told me a legend her family proudly exchanges at reunions about the source of their Woodbridge surname. “When slavery ended, our ancestor left the plantation and struck out on his on,” she said, explaining that the story got more elaborate depending whom you asked.

“He wanted to shed himself of the remnants of slavery, so he took nothing, especially not the master’s last name. After he left the plantation, the first thing he came across was a wooden bridge, so that’s where the name came from.”

You’ll have to wait until the show airs to find out this freedman’s identity and the truth behind the family legend.

Henderson also says the show’s researchers dug up some information on her father’s mother that “blew my mind.”

On the "African-American Lives 2" Web site, you can meet Henderson, quiz yourself on source documents the researchers used, hear from genetic genealogy experts, and see the show participants’ ancestral events plotted on a historical timeline.

Henderson sees what she learned as a springboard for more discoveries. “It’s part of a chapter, or it’s the first edition. It answered a lot, but it set up more questions for us.”

 Check local air times on the show's Web site.


African-American roots
Tuesday, February 05, 2008 2:22:22 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Tuesday, January 29, 2008
New Online Magazine Highlights African-American Genealogy
Posted by Diane

The Washington Post today launched The Root, an online magazine for African-Americans.

It covers current events and culture, but its name says genealogy. So does its editor—Henry Louis Gates, the Harvard University history professor who became a household name after helping Mae Jemison, Oprah Winfrey and other well-known African-Americans find their roots in PBS' 2006 series “African-American Lives.”

One of the online magazine's three main sections, Roots features an article on getting started, a video about ethnic DNA testing and several book recommendations. It also has video clips from this season’s "African-American Lives 2," in which Gates works with more famous folks and one applicant from the ranks of everyday citizens.

From there, the Mapping and Family Tree links both go to a free family tree builder (you must register to use it). The DNA link, after flashing past a disclosure faster than one could hope to comprehend the first sentence, takes you to Gates’ AfricanDNA testing and research service.

I’m hoping to see this site grow—especially considering its name, there’s so much more to African-American genealogy research and resources than it currently covers.


African-American roots | Genealogy Web Sites
Tuesday, January 29, 2008 3:58:41 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, November 27, 2007
NY Times Asks "How Helpful is Ethnic DNA Testing?"
Posted by Diane

Did everyone read the article on ethnic genetic genealogy testing in Sunday’s New York Times?

It was somewhat critical of the industry with regard to DNA tests for African origins. Reporter Ron Nixon said test results are often conflicting and confusing, and testing companies focus more on marketing than on communicating the limitations of ethnic DNA testing.

Nixon sent his own DNA to five companies for a mitochondrial (mt) DNA test and got strikingly different results: Reports named from two to 12 ethnic groups, for a total of 25 possibilities.

Nixon also interviewed representatives of several test companies, as well as Harvard historian and "African-American Lives" host Henry Louis Gates. Gates’ first mtDNA test in 2000 reported Egyptian roots; one from another company in 2005 concluded he had European, not Egyptian, ancestry.

One reason for mixed results is testing companies’ proprietary comparison databases of DNA profiles from modern people. Databases may be skewed toward particular ethnic groups and not represent other groups.

Furthermore, people have been moving around Africa for eons. Your DNA could match someone who lives in a particular area today, but whose ancestors came from elsewhere.

Another issue is that there’s still so much to learn. In our November 2007 Family Tree Magazine African-American research guide, Roots Project director Bruce Jackson, PhD, said “We have a poor understanding of the genetics of African groups ... Identical genetic markers or signatures (called haplotypes) are found among different African ethnic groups for reasons that are not clear.”

Jackson went on to note scientists have studied only 1 percent of African ethnic groups, which doesn’t even include all those who were sources of the slave trade to North America.

Gates is attempting to address these issues by partnering with FamilyTreeDNA on AfricanDNA, a project offering DNA tests paired with genealogy research services for $888 to $1,077.

If that's not in your budget, do this: Research "on paper" as much as you can before turning to DNA. More African-American resources are out there than many people realize. (See our online toolkit and updates on this blog for tips.)

Then decide what you want DNA testing to tell you and carefully research your options to pick the best test. Make sure you understand the limitations of DNA testing: As you see here, results can be inconclusive, and you don’t learn where specific ancestors came from. If you don’t understand your results, ask your testing company for help and consult sources such as Trace Your Roots with DNA by Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak and Ann Turner (Rodale, $16.95).

Share your thoughts on the Times' article in the FamilyTreeMagazine.com Hot Topics Forum.


African-American roots | Genetic Genealogy
Tuesday, November 27, 2007 12:16:37 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, November 16, 2007
AfricanDNA Testing and Research Service Launches
Posted by Diane

Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Harvard professor who hosted PBS’ “African-American Lives” series, is partnering with genetic genealogy company FamilyTreeDNA to launch AfricanDNA. The new service will provide provide African Americans with family tree research in addition to DNA testing.

The genealogy part is important, says Gates, because of the limits of genetic testing. “The available DNA data are not by any means complete, and these tests will not yield the names of any of the individuals on our distant family trees—just the general geographic areas in which our ancestors lived.  Sometimes the tests yield multiple exact tribal matches, making it necessary for historians to interpret the most plausible result.”  

AfricanDNA offers mitochondrial DNA and Y-DNA tests for $189 each ($378 for both). Results are compared to FamilyTreeDNA’s database of DNA profiles from around the world. A board of scholars from institutions such as Emory University and Boston University will help interpret customers’ results.

Test takers can opt for the Genealogy Package ($888 for one test or $1,077 for both), which includes a documented lineage as far back as records permit.


African-American roots | Genetic Genealogy
Friday, November 16, 2007 4:13:00 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Just-Discovered Slave Records Go To Pennsylvania Museum
Posted by Diane

A county recorder of deeds discovered historical slavery-era papers in old Allegheny County, Pa., deed books. (Allegheny County is home to Pittsburgh.)

Read in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette how a county employee found the papers.

The office transferred handwritten documents recording the legal status of 56 African-American slaves to the Senator John Heinz History Center. The oldest papers date to 1792, the year Peter Cosco purchased his freedom from John McKee for 100 pounds.

The history center will make the papers available to researchers in its library and online.

You can find tips and resources for researching African-American ancestors in FamilyTreeMagazine.com's online toolkit.


African-American roots | Libraries and Archives
Wednesday, November 14, 2007 9:10:40 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Project to Bring SC Slave Lineages Online
Posted by Diane

For African-American genealogists, breaking through the brick wall of slavery can require thorough, painstaking research into the records of the slaveowning families—with no guarantee of success. You can’t simply log on to a Web site and expect to find meticulously researched and reconstructed lineages of slave families that connect all the dots for you.

But that’s exactly what three organizations plan to create for descendants of the slaves of Charleston, SC’s Magnolia Plantation and others operated by the Drayton family. In a project funded by the plantation’s foundation, the University of South Florida’s all-volunteer Africana Heritage Project will pore over the Draytons' plantation journals to re-create the family trees of its slaves. Those family files will be posted on genealogy wiki WeRelate, where family history researchers will be able to access them for free. Africana Heritage Project founding director Toni Carrier says the files—in GEDCOM format—will appear gradually as the research progresses. "We aim to have the first batch up by mid-July," she says.

Magnolia Plantation is also collaborating with the Africana Heritage Project on a new Web site to be launched in March 2008: Lowcountry Africana will document African-American heritage in South Carolina, Georgia and northeastern Florida’s historic rice-growing region—in particular, its unique Gullah/Geechee culture. The site will feature slaveholding families’ plantation records, a searchable database of primary historical documents, name indexes to Lowcountry history and genealogy books, historical photographs and more.

Carrier encourages genealogists and families with ties (or suspected ties) to Drayton family plantations to contact her organization. "We would love to invite them to join this exciting journey of discovery," she says.


African-American roots
Tuesday, June 26, 2007 1:28:31 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [4]