African Roots Podcast Episode #287 October 3, 2014

This Week's Pod Cast


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


Well this is October folks and this is probably the month that also has a large number of events going on—starting with next weekend—conferences, lectures, heritage day celebrations are all taking place. Of course after October things wind down for the holiday season—so we can understand that for sure.


Tomorrow, October 4

Little Rock Group Hosts Research Day

Giving a shout out to folks in Little Rock Arkansas where they will be hosting a Research Day tomorrow. The Arkansas AAHGS  Chapter will host a Research Day on Saturday, October 4, 2014 at the Arkansas History Commission located at #1 Capitol Mall (parking is located in the back of the Capitol turn on Wolfe Street) downtown Little Rock. The event beings at 10:30 am  and will last throughout the day.If you are interested in learning how to trace your family history, and live in that area, you may want to join them!

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Maryland State Archives Family History Festival

And for those in the Mid-Atlantic area, the Maryland State Archives is launching and hosting American Archives Month, during the month of October. and tomorrow, they will be celebrating by hosting a free Family History Festival on Saturday, October 4, 2014 from 10:00am to 4:00pm in Annapolis. 

One of the speakers is a must-hear presenter Robyn Smith! I have heard her presentation on the value of court records—and she will present a session on U sing Court records in Genealogical Research. She is also the host of the blog, “Reclaiming Kin” as well.

The EVENT is free to the public.


Family History Day Workshop in Baltimore

For folks in Baltimore—there will be a big family history day workshop next weekend—October 11th.  The opening keynote is at 8:30 am and of course this family history day will run throughout the day in Stemmers Run in Essex MD. Robert Barnes a retired president of the Maryland Genealogical Society as well as the Baltimore County Genealogical society will be featured opening keynote speaker where he will share the lessons that he has learned as a researcher and as an author.

Another speaker will be Noreen Goodson who is well known for her beginner’s workshops and her work with the Baltimore AAHGS Chapter. The event is free and is sponsored by the the Baltimore stake of the LDS Church.


Two Black Genealogy Conferences Next Weekend!

Now next week—from Pittsburgh to Chicago—folks will be busy. The national AAHGS conference
will unfold from October 9 -12th, and in Chicago, the annual AAGHSC conference will take place the same weekend—10th and 11th. These are two large and very active groups in the African American genealogy community. I have placed links for you—so you can see what is planned for both society experiences. I have had the pleasure of attending the events for both societies and surely I know that participants will walk away inspired and motivated to get back to the projects on hand.

Speaking of projects–once we are motivated to launch a new project, how do you manage them all? You know what we do as researchers is engage ourselves in various genealogy or writing or blogging projects. I have been involved with trying to organize them myself, and what an experience I am having. Perhaps I will try to address the issue of project management in the future. I am learning so much and with the amount of paper that we all produce we are sometimes bogged down with our many projects. And then add conferences and events to them–it takes a different kind of energy to address them.


Incarceration Records for Genealogical Data

Have you ever looked for someone and could not find them, although you know that they were not deceased in a record? Well you may want to consider exploring some amazing and not often mentioned records from the American penal system. Last night on Blog Talk Radio’s program hosted by Bernice Bennett, her guest gave us an earful! Records of prisons, prison dockets and state and federal  data were presented. Sharon Battiste Gillens is an amazing researcher and an excellent presenter anyway. She took us through some amazing data collected on inmates some of which are so filled with details about the lives of those incarcerated, especially in the early 20th century.

She also pointed out that many of the prisoners were not just found in prison records, but were in many cases enumerated in the federal system. We all listed to the story of James Banks, who from the age of 11, was a part of the system that just could not let him go.  Other issues were discussed also such as those cases of peonage—the detaining of men on charges on vagrancy, and them feeding them into a structured work system from which so many could not escape for years. The discussion was well done and truly an enlightening one. Bernice Bennett’s show, Research At the National Archives and Beyond, airs every Thursday evening at 9:00 pm on Blog Talk Radio.


Reflections About Genealogy Television Programs

 Well—-I am sure that you have been reading some of the chatter which has been engaging, about the recent episodes of Finding your Roots. There are some doubts whether data presented to the guests truly reflected what was being said. Yes we saw the female child being presented as a male child, and we also know that being described as “Creole” is a physical description and another person being describes as being “African” is also a physical description—and it is not an indicator of the place of birth of the person whose name appears on the a document. We saw other data where the voice over did not match proven fact and have learned that some assumption were made.

However—there is still so much to appreciate:

1) More are asking questions and looking for answers to family mysteries.

2) Many now appreciate the involvement of family in the genealogical inquiry process.

3) These shows have demonstrated a strong need for standardization of the presentation of genealogical data to recipients. And in the case of African American genealogy—assumptions and generalities and old sayings (such as slaves had no names) must be avoided.

This is a great time to address the issue—for some of the most egregious errors and remarks are a call for others of us in the community to speak, write, teach and lead.

This week several blogs and discussions have occurred also on several genealogy blogs that I share with you here:

1)  Nicka Smith share her feelings in her post, Jumping the Shark with Green Jeter.  She confronts many critical rules that African American family researchers must face–the issues with the mulatto term–which is no guarantee of a bi-racial parentage of each person.

 2) Terry Ligon asks questions and looks at the issues of persons learning about their missing fathers in his piece In Search of Our Fathers. He addresses how such issues should be approached with respect and frankness, as the voids in the lives of the guests are being presented.

3) I also addressed the issues from the first broadcast last week, on my personal blog when Courtney Vance learned the story of his grandmother Ardella Vance. In that piece In Search of Victoria Ardella’s Family, I addressed some of the missed opportunities to provide a platform that transcended the tragedies in a young girl’s life. Editing issues often affect what we see, but we as an inquiring audience and as people whose histories are on the same historic landscape have the right to have the story told differently. Yes the medium of television often features the salacious stories–but then again–some of these are coming through a portal that is considered the least salacious in structure–PBS! So I felt compelled to take Ardella’s story to another place and to say her mother’s name.

I hope that others will write and share their thoughts as well. Are we up to that task?

I shall leave that question unanswered and hope that you will think about it and perhaps we can collaborate in ways to see that our stories are told, and told with respect and dignity, and told without assumptions. We can do this!


Thank you all for listening and know that you are appreciated. In the meantime, remember to keep researching, keep documenting and keep sharing what you find.


African Roots Podcast #286 September 26, 2014

This Week's Pod Cast


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


Genealogy Authors Speak at CBC Event in Washington!

Congratulations to the writers from Edgefield SC—the Memory Makers! These are the 5 authors who wrote about their ancestral research from Edgefield South Carolina. Well, yesterday they gave a wonderful presentation about their research and their book Our Ancestors, Our Stories, in Washington DC at the Congressional Black Caucus event at the Convention Center in Washington DC! They were among hundreds of authors present—but they were on a special panel discussing their work and their research. Their work should be encouragement for others to share and to collaborate. Community efforts such as this take our work to another level. And don’t forget to tell the story as they did about the research journey. You don’t have to tell always the story of your family—share your research journey with your readers! So congratulations to the authors of Our Ancestors, Our Stories!


Genea-Friends Gather as “Finding  Your Roots Airs”


This has been a busy week—-and I know that many of you were watching Finding Your Roots on PBS this week. Hopefully you got some interesting insights on how things can been learned about the family. But it should be pointed out—that it is not all an easy task and does not always come in a quick fix—the research is a process that has to be undertaken step by step.

I watched the program with genealogy friends in the AfriGeneas chat center and about 16 others watched and shared thoughts and reactions as the show unfolded. You can join us next week, in fact and watch the next episode. We meet online in the AfriGeneas chat center, and you are most welcome to join us there. Nothing like watching a program with genea-friends. To join the fun, simply go to:, type your name or initials, then join the fun! What did you think about the program?


Link to this Episode

Are you researching the south, for enslaved ancestors and in need of more primary resources? Well if you missed it, tune in to hear the rebroadcast of Bernice Bennett’s show. The episode focused on finding antebellum slave records.  The featured guest was Jean L. Cooper who spoke about amazing slave records. You know—there are literally millions of pages that contain data from plantations from multiple states and many of these incredible records have been microfilmed and there are some good index guides that have been created to access these records. Not every state is full—but places like the Carolinas, Virginia, Louisiana, Mississippi—there are amazing records that await you!

If you are that stage in your research and ready to go looking for additional records—you need to explore this. And by the way—-Texas researchers—there are records from various plantations for you as well. We don’t often hear about Texas resources—so this is good news for Texas Ancestored people as well.

October Events

Lots of genealogy events emerging, AAHGS, ChicagoAAGHSC, and other groups are holding their fall events. Well, I know many of you are involved also in Cemetery preservation. Robyn Smith in South Carolina is working on a local cemetery, friends in Arkansas work hard with PAAC, Etta Daniels works to save Greenwood Cemetery in St. Louis, and preservation friend Jack Robinson is working alone on African American cemeteries in Onslow County North Carolina. Well here is an interesting event for cemetery preservationists. There will be an event sponsored by Find A Grave.

The event is described as a Global Meet Up Day where the goal is to get people worldwide to be aware of the need for cemetery preservation and documentation. I am putting some information up for you to participate.

(Click photo for Link to Event)


African Heritage Celebrated in South America

I want to send a special hello and saludos to friends in South America—some of our Latino brothers and sisters are busy celebrating their African heritage and culture as well. We have cousins all over the world from Africa to other parts of the Americas.

Well, I belong to a group on Facebook called GenesPeruano—so a special “Hola Mis Amigos” to all of them! Apparently this weekend in Miraflores there is a special celebration of the history and heritage of Afroperuvian people.  A special dance ensemble there is holding a special event where as they say “Dos Culturas y Un mensaje.” Two cultures and one message. Their goal is confirm Peruvian identity  – peruanidad and to strengthening their African identity as well!  Buena suerte con todo—best wishes for a successful event to our amigos from Peru!


 Ancestry Day Planned in Oklahoma—An Opportunity Remains

Ancestry Day in Oklahoma

From Oklahoma—I hope listeners in the Oklahoma City area will contact the historical society about Ancestry Day being held in early November. The schedule is online, and looks interesting, however, for some reason there is no African American history/heritage being included.

Perhaps the organizers simply did not know what to include, but the African American history of the two territories is a rich one—so please Oklahomans—so I hope that Oklahoma friends will reach out to OHS and discuss the events and work with them to diversify the program just a wee bit more.

African Americans were on the pioneer landscape of both territories and also arrived in the west on the same Trail of Tears.  Many were enslaved, and some were free. African ancestored people worked on the lands as cowboys and settlers and of course there are the Black towns.  So it’s time to step up and step out and discuss our history!! Oklahoma–we were also there!


Southern California Genealogy Jamboree Extends Deadline for Presenters

The deadline to speak at the Southern California has been extended to October 10th, so if you are considering presenting this might be the venue for you!


Thank you all for tuning in this week and know that I appreciate your time and also I love hearing from you all. In the meantime, remember to keep researching, keep documenting and keep sharing what you find.