Monthly Archives: May 2014

African Roots Podcast Episode #269 May 30, 2014

This Week's Pod Cast


Welcome back to the African Roots Podcast! You can reach me at

Rest in Peace Maya Angelou

This week we lost an American icon, and I felt that I needed to say a few words. I have seen many accolades about her, and even some unexpected remarks even from the genealogy community of how people were moved and even unmoved by her.
But I have to say that ny life was impacted by her, because she as a poor child from the city who spent much time in a country sleepy town in  Arkansas, let me know that I too, from a small city in Arkansas, that I too, have a voice.

I was blessed to have a loving family, and a childhood life with no trauma,  but I still felt so limited in that small southern town. And I saw other children less fortunate than me, who came out of the country, and I saw their faces and I knew that the Arkansas of the 1950s south was even more limiting for them. From her book I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, I appreciated that this woman spoke of a childhood, where a little girl suffering from trauma could find her voice and she found strength by using that voice once she found it again.

For me, I was inspired to write, inspired to keep a journal, and inspired to speak.  I heard her recite poetry like no other. She gave me Paul Laurence Dunbar, when I had never heard his voice before, and she shared with me, the beauty that came from this amazing poet. I also came to appreciate so many other writers. A person’s ability to inspire is what makes them special, and I am grateful that I’ve lived while she lived and could hear her well.

And so yes, in spite of the naysayers now that she is gone—I can simply say, “and still like dust, I rise.”

God Speed, Maya Angelou.


Ok there are two more days if you are thinking about submitting a proposal to speak at the FGS conference in Salt Lake City for February 2015.



The Baltimore Agnes Kane Callum Chapter of AAHGS is having a special 25th Anniversary Banquet at St. Francix Xavier Catholic Church Hall on June 21st. There are still tickets available for the event and you may contact Noreen Goodson for more information.


I am getting ready to go to California to attend the Southern California Genealogy Society Jamboree. That is going to be a full agenda. Thursday is DNA day Friday, there will be workshops, a Genealogy Round-table session. Then on Friday they pull out the big guns—Thomas Macentee, Lisa Louise Cooke, Judy Russell, the Legal Genealogist, and so many more.

And I have the honor of sharing a panel with Bernice Bennett, Nicka Smith and myself, and we will discuss the Future of African American genealogy. We will address collaboration, DNA, slave and slaveholder collaborations, and so much more. The presenters will be names that you recognize and you will have a wonderful experience.

And for African American research stop in an listen to Bernice Bennett present about the Civil War widow’s pensions from US Colored Troops, and then she will be presenting on Homestead records. Nicka Smith will be there sharing her skills as both a photographer and professional and dynamic speaker.  And if you are thinking about writing, then Anita Paul, the Author’s Midwife will catch you attention. She will talk about taking your work to the printed page. There is so much more to see, so take a look at the dynamic schedule.


Juneteenth is Coming!


In Maryland the 19th annual Juneteenth Seminar will be unfolding with the Prince George’s County Chapter of AAHGS. The event lasts a full day from 8:30 to 4 pm, with workshops for beginners and so much more! And also for the opening Plenary, two descendants of Solomon Northup will be there–that’s right descendants of the author of 12 Years a Slave will get things started.


Bernice Bennett Blog Talk Radio Show

If you did not catch it live, tune to hear Bernice Bennett’s show that featured Joe McGill of the Slave Dwelling Project, coming from Hopsewee Plantation. Mr. McGill was staying over night with a group of students from Marquette University High School, and they were occupying two of the slave cabins that remain at Hopsewee Plantation. It was neat to hear also from one of the teachers as well as the students who were at the site.  Tune in to the link above to hear last night’s broadcast.
Well as you begin this travel season take some time out to ask and to remind yourself why you are so engaged. We have to remind ourselves that we are engaged in a serious task as we document the history of our families and our communities. We are getting energized and ready to travel and make sure you prepare yourself emotionally as well as mentally for the journeys that await you.
Thank you for listening, once again and I hope to see some of you next week  at the Jamboree. Thank you all who shared events and happenings with me. In the meantime, keep researching, keep documenting, and keep sharing what you find.

African Roots Podcast Episode #268 May 23rd, 2014

This Week's Pod Cast


Welcome back to the African Roots Podcast! I can be reached at 

Well the summer season is beginning with this weekend–Memorial Day weekend being the kick off to the summer season! And, I hope that you will take some time to appreciate the history of this holiday. Today we honor the men and women who lost their lives in distant lands in times of war. However, many of us have memories of “Decoration Day” when families would make a trip to the family burial ground and tend to the graves of loved ones who had departed this life. But how many of you have a knowledge of the real origins of Decoration Day?

Well the day has its origins with former slaves in Charleston South Carolina. In early May of 1865, former slaves by the thousands to honor and commemorate the death of Union soldiers, and to celebrate their own freedom.

It is said that close to 10,000 people, including children marched through Charleston to give thanks and to honor the fallen.

Through the years the holiday has spread nationally and is now a federal holiday. For decades many families would visit cemeteries on this holiday, tend to the graves, and have an outdoor picnic for the day. Today the day has morphed into a nationwide time to commemorate the role of veterans who served in both domestic and foreign wars. I hope that you will all honor your own ancestors on this holiday weekend, and will also revel in the summer season that has arrived and it is time to enjoy family, enjoy your legacy and make some memories!


Memorial Day Weekend Brings Free Access to Records!

My Heritage  has announced that through this weekend starting today through May 26th there will be free access to their military collections! A special page has been created so that you may view their military collections online. This is a good opportunity to learn more about what My Heritage is all about if you are not familiar with it.


Earliest Birth Records from New Jersey were Slave Births

New Jersey Slave Birth Documents

Judy Russel the Legal Genealogist has made an interesting discovery that she shared on her blog. Possibly the earliest birth records have been found! These come from the early 1800s as early as 1804.  And they reflect the births of children born to women who were enslaved! You must read this article!

Quoting from her blog, she explains, “…that very earliest set of New Jersey birth records are the children of New Jersey slaves, born into freedom, under New Jersey law.”

This is incredible information to learn about and apparently this was not widely known by researchers, she shared with her readers this week! What a find! AND at least one of the New Jersey county records of these require slave births are digitized! (see them HERE.)

Special thanks to Judy Russell for sharing this information!!


 Well I have also had an amazing week—-I had an interesting experience following up on a story told to me about my gr. grandmother. The story was that she was invited to visit France, all expenses paid to visit her son’s grave who had died in France in World War I.  This inspired me to conduct some research, to see what I could find out!! Well—-I got more than I bargained for! It was truly an amazing find–I learned about the Gold Star mothers–the African American Gold Star mothers and I learned of their invitation to France, the saga of their journey in a Jim Crow system, and I learned of their experiences while in France.

The story is on my blog and is found HERE. 


Speaking of World War I, last night’s episode of Bernice Bennett’s show featured a woman who has researched the little known history of the 371st Infantry of World War I. Her guest was Sonya Hodges, and her second guest was Douglas Culbreth. Both of them spoke about this little known regiment that served in France and was highly decorated in France for their service with the French Army in the Great War.

Ms. Hodges spoke about many accomplishments of that unit and she spoke also of artifacts that she has obtained and collected over the years. She also mentioned that there is a flag of this unit that is housed in , of all places a Confederate room of a museum in So. Carolina. Why the flag of these men of color, is held by people who adore the southern confederacy and all that it stands for, and that is not clearly understood.  But the show was interesting nevertheless, and the work of Mrs. Hodges is certainly to be admired. Tune in if you missed the episode last night on Blog Talk Radio.


Remember that the deadlines are quickly approaching for Roots Tech 2015 and FGS 2015 so get yours in in the next few days!


Unavoidable Realities of Southern Research

About a week ago, Cheri Hudson Passey a blogger with SC roots wrote a very moving piece about researching southern ancestors. Her piece is called, Research In The South: The Unavoidable Realities”

I mention this because of the fact that her topic is one that is not addressed enough by southern states based researchers. She discussed a plantation which her family owned over the years. And she addressed the one subject that needs to be addressed for southerners. People enslaved worked in the estate house the fields and provided the labor that sustained them. And old papers from these estates contain the names of the “servants” and these are the people that we seek.  The only way that we can find them, is for those engaged in southern research, to share those plantation ledgers, wills, probate records and so much more. And more importantly—the grounds—including the slave cemeteries should be preserved.


The discussion about sharing slave data brings up another issue of the intense need for genealogists of all background to share. I appreciate the fact that not only did  Cheri Passey address the issue, of sharing the names of slaves, but how do we get others out there—and they are there by the thousands to see the critical need of putting this information in the public arena? There needs to be a way for all persons to open up–and put it as it is found out there. We have a few women who have heard that call on Facebook and I commend them. Anne Mulligan and Sandy Mudd are sharing information and others are joining that effort.  Another writer has addressed the lives of slaves who lived upon her own family estate, Andrea Cuomo, in her book The Slaves Have Names. We need more of this kind of consciousness, and I hope that this is a trend that will continue.

Well, thank you again for tuning in and for listening, and I hope that you will enjoy this holiday weekend and kick off the summer season in a memorable way. And do remember to honor someone and have a great Decoration Day!

And remember to keep research, keep documenting and keep sharing what you find!