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It’s been a while…..

Life has, once again, taken me off-line and out of touch with my wonderful hobby. I do, however, peel a few minutes away every now and then. In one of those precious moments, I came across a great potential resource for researchers of African American ancestry that I’d like to share.

Tom MacEntee over at GeneaBloggers runs quite a few inspirational theme ideas for other family history bloggers. One of his recent ones is called, “Friend of Friends Friday”. The premise is this:

“if you have encountered records of enslaved ancestors, whether they are your own ancestors or not, make it a point to transcribe those records and get them posted on the Internet via your blog.”

WHAT A GREAT IDEA!  There is simply no repository of this kind of information and no replacement of it as a resource to peek behind the shroud of slavery before 1870.  Of course its not indexed, comprehensive or, in some cases, written to be very useful for researchers.  But it is a start.  I’ve attached the Google reader RSS URL here.  Enjoy and check out some of the other great ideas Tom and his friends have come up with over time.  There’s also a special section on African American blogs as well.

 

FL & TN Collections

I’ve been researching my family history for quite some time (mostly online which I plan to change in the near future) and one of the most frustrating moments for me is when I come across a GREAT database or index for Oregon…..or Delaware…..or some other state/locality that I’m certain my ancestors never saw.  It was one of those moments recently that gave me this idea.

The vast majority of my research is centered around two states; Florida and Tennessee.  I’ve collected hundreds of pieces of information when I’ve come across one of these online gems that happens to cover my family’s slice of the world.  Going forward, every time I find one, I’m going to post the link here so that others might stumble across this information about our place in the world.  You’ll find these collections on the tab above or by clicking here.

Wow!

For me, truthfully, documentaries about African American genealogy begin and end with African American Lives 1 & 2. I didn’t really get into NBC’s “Who Do You Think You Are” during its first run. This year, one of the show’s (which premieres February 4th at 8pm/7 C) first celebs is Vanessa Williams. As it turns out Ms. Williams family history yields some genealogical gems worthy of prime time television:

a visit to the national archives

She had me at “United States Colored Troops”, so I guess I’ll be watching……

UPDATE: Really, really good stuff!  I’ll be watching every Friday (or at least on DVR)!

Tennessee Breakthrough

After climbing back in the saddle over the weekend, I began to explore some of my old website haunts to see what I’d missed in my absence. A fellow family site (who has sadly pulled her site down in recent days; hope to see it come back, but I get how life might get in the way) posted a link that helped me source more than a dozen death and burial dates and locations on Sunday morning. The Familysearch.org beta site has really moved forward in the last few months. Several of their libraries including, Tennessee Death Records, 1874 – 1955 have proven invaluable.

If you haven’t been there in some time, pay them a visit. They provided several wonderful hours of discovery for me.

Inspiration

A few years ago when I started this wonderfully obsessive hobby, I became very frustrated with the difficulty I was having documenting the first generation beyond my grand-parents.  I mean, these were people that lived during my lifetime in some cases; but woefully little documentation (let alone pictures) where available for me to put my hands on.  Now, if you’ve visited my little space in the world here, you know that I got over it.  In fact, recently I documented my 1,000th direct relative.

Pushing ahead through the frustration was due, in no small part, to my old friend Dr. H.L. Gates.  I became an avid fan, and purchaser of African American Lives I and II.  What encouraged me beyond the fascinating stories and details of lives long past was the fact that, even with extensive research time, funding and dozens of professional genealogists, sometimes there are just ‘blanks’ on your pedigree chart.  There just are… and it doesn’t mean you are a bad researcher or something is wrong with your family.  It simply means you haven’t turned over the right rock…..yet.

Well, it seems Dr. Gates is at it again…. and this time he’s tackling genealogy beyond black folks.

I’ll certainly be watching, and I hope others are similarly inspired.  In case anyone visiting here hasn’t seen AAL I or II, here’s a pre-view of II to get you inspired to watch….

More Genealogical Current Events

It is not my intent to use this site to talk about current events, but when they keep cropping up with direct connections to African American genealogy; I feel compelled to post.

Dr. Henry Louis Gates (before his unfortunate episode with the police earlier this year) produced a fantastic series called African American Lives.  The two part series was devoted to using a variety of genealogical methods to uncovering the ancestral pasts of several well-known blacks.  Tom Joyner took part and learned of his family’s anguished encounter with “southern justice”….

Well, today CNN published a story on the follow-up Mr. Joyner has done since learning about these circumstances.

Nearly 100 years had passed since his great-uncles, Thomas Griffin and Meeks Griffin, were wrongfully executed in South Carolina. On Wednesday, a board voted 7-0 to pardon both men, clearing their names in the 1913 killing of a veteran of the Confederate Army.

It marks the first time in history that South Carolina has issued a posthumous pardon in a capital murder case.

I haven’t been doing this research very long, but I get the sense that these recent past meets the present stories are just the start of things to come.

Slaveholder vs. Slaveowner

I haven’t posted in a bit and this is probably an interesting subject to jump back in on, but it’s my site so…..

When I started peeking into my family’s past a few years ago, I knew that (if I was lucky) much of my research would lead to a “brick wall” around 1865.  With African-American genealogy this is the case more often than not.    I’ve found the names of several whites who possibly held legal title to my relatives before the end of the civil war  (Now, just typing that last sentence bothers me greatly).  I prefer to call these people “Slaveholders” vs. “Slaveowners”.  It’s probably a semantic argument at best legally, but I view my ancestors born into slavery as people held captive and not owned; as I don’t believe one human being can “own” another human being.  The notion seems to run counter to the very definition of human being.   One of the best websites I’ve ever found to help researchers on this subject is here.

So far, using a very less than definitive process, I’ve attempted to identify the last slaveholders for all of my ancestral lines.  Less than definitive is an understatement.  Given the lack  of names or identifiers other than gender and age, I pieced through the 1860 Slave Schedules and found people (slaves) close to the attributes I know of my relatives.  If there were any duplicate matches (more than one person fitting the profile), I don’t connect them in my database.  The results of what I’ve been able to compiled are listed below.Compiled potential slaveholder data

My next step is to explore what I can to find out about these slaveholders online.  After that, trips to Murfreesboro, TN and Lake City, FL to see if I can find legal documents to validate (or invalidate) what I’ve uncovered so far.  I know I have a few visitors out there from time to time, so if anyone has other ideas, please let me know.

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