Angela Y. Walton-Raji on June 26th, 2015

This Week's Pod Cast


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

Well greetings everyone, I hope your week has been good, and I can only say that the past 7 days have produced much genealogy-in-the news all week!

DiscoverFreedomLogoFreedmen’s Bureau Indexing Project

Last week, I know that many of you watched the live video stream coming from California, announcing the Family Search Indexing Initiative for the Freedmen’s Bureau. And as as result many have joined the indexing initiative as well.  I am referring to the digitization of the records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, and the task of indexing the millions of pages that are now online.  Hopefully you will be able to participate in the project.

Here is a link to last week’s events as they unfolded in Los Angeles California. This is the result of a partnership with Family Search, the National Museum of African America History and Culture, the Afro-American Historical and Genealogy Society, the California African American Museum, and of course the genealogy community. There is a video also describing the importance of the effort to make these records searchable.

As some of you know that my colleague Toni Carrier and I worked together to develop the site Mapping the Freedmen’s Bureau. Actually, she provided more of the technical work to get the sites, the field offices of the bureau, pinned to the map. After that we both worked for several weeks–no make that months to get the field offices pinned and later other sites as well. The goal was to assist researchers in learning whether their ancestors lived near a field office, and whether they lived near any of these pre and post-Civil War places of interest—battle sites, the bureau itself, freedman’s bank branches, hospitals and schools. All of these were developed around the same time and served some of the same people. So if your have not taken your research into this direction, visit the maps and see if they were in communities that may have been near your ancestral home. Hopefully these records will help us get past the wall of 1870 where prior to this time, many people actually run out of records. These are the records that will tell us what happened between 1865 and the early 1870s. This will tell us how they lived, how they survived, and how they coped.

The records are amazing as many have pointed out. On my personal blog, I also posted a set of unique records where in western Arkansas, whites and Indians were also recipients of the services of the Freedmen’s bureau. Take a look—we should all consider the value of studying the ancestral community whether our ancestors are there or not. This is still reflecting the same community where they lived.

If you have any challenges while indexing the records, bring this to the attention of the Family Search team. Thom Reed, who is on Facebook is a good contact. There are glitches that have to be worked out, and of course there is the need also to index everyone’s name on those pages.  So please speak up about the indexing project. And share the project with others.


PBS Headline

Well the other story in the news this week has been the story about PBS and their decisions to put Finding Your Roots on hold. This is coming out of the story about Ben Affleck’s request that the program not speak about his ancestor having been a slaveholder. The news came from the decision to put the show on hold after a review.

The story however brings to the front page the structure and content of the genealogy-for-tv programs. We often want to be taken seriously as researchers, and several of us in the blogging community have also addressed errors that we have seen on the PBS program, and the recent issues make us want to take note of what we do and what we can do.

It was technology—a hacking—that brought the story to light. Well, at the same time, other aspects of technology have allowed us to share our voices, our thoughts and our concerns. We have platforms that allow us to express ourselves, and we need to embrace them as tools to speak out. We have the options of social media, online hangouts and blogging, are all tools for us to put our thoughts out there. We have outlets, and we can embrace these issues and become a part of the discussion. And we have opportunities to speak about what we see, and to speak about what is unfolding.

But we shall all be following more of the outcome of the PBS decision. We are all treading new ground with news, with things offered to us, and it is hoped that many of us will embrace and keep moving forward.



The other big buzz word in genealogy is DNA. Well last night’s episode of Bernice Bennett’s program, Research at the National Archives and Beyond, was amazing! What a great discussion of the autosomal DNA programs, and if you missed it, you need to listen to it. Her guest last night was Diahn Southard. She was honest and frank and spoke of methods of analyzing, but she also addressed expectations and she broke it down. This was an outstanding episode! I appreciated her honesty that I have never heard from DNA gurus out there ever before. She compared the 3 autosomal tests, and the similarities and differences. She did not present the illusion that DNA will open it all up. She was not trying to confuse people of SNPS and snaps and centimorgans etc. She explained them, but she simply spoke plainly about the expectations and realities of testing.  If you missed it, Bernice’s s how airs every Thursday evening at 9pm on Blog Talk Radio.

Well thank you all for tuning in this week, and know that I appreciate your taking you time this week for listening.

(Also accept my apologies for a sound problem that I am having. I hope to have that sound issue resolved in the next few days.)

Please remember to keep researching, and keep sharing what you find!

Angela Y. Walton-Raji on June 19th, 2015

This Week's Pod Cast



150 Years of Freedom!


Welcome to the African Roots Podcast. And welcome to Juneteenth!

We celebrate 150 years of freedom this year and we celebrate and honor our ancestors who endured so much so that we may be here, today! I wish friends and family in Galveston where this particular celebration all started, I hope they have a great emancipation celebration!


Pray For Charleston

Before we begin our celebration of freedom, let us pause and remember the tragedy of the week from Charleston. Let us pray, for today we mourn. Nine people lost their lives without cause this week, and as we celebrate 150 years, we must pause as acts of terror are being directed to people of color. As we celebrated freedom in 1865 acts of terror were directed to the newly freed. And today as we note 150 years of freedom, another heinous act of terror has been directed to the descendants of those once enslaved.

So before we talk about celebration, we must be reflective of Charleston, all of South Carolina, and the nation. For peace, we pray.


Freedmen’s Bureau Initiative Launches Today!

DiscoverFreedomLogoIndexing Project

Today an announcement will be made coming from California African American Museum. In a partnership with Family Search, the Smithsonian NMAACH, the National Archives and the Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society ( AAHGS)the Freedmen’s Bureau Indexing Project will be announced.

The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, known also as the Freedmen’s Bureau and to many researchers as Natioanal Archives Record Group 105 (RG105) was a government agency created at the end of the Civil War that provided help to former slaves and poor whites in the aftermath of the Civil War. For African Americans, it was also the beginning of their new status as free people.

This partnership will launch an effort to secure volunteers to index the millions of pages that reflect those Americans in need in the critical years after the Civil War.  Today, at 1:00pm Eastern time, a live video stream will be shared with the genealogy community today. To watch the announcement click HERE.

There are millions of pages reflecting family history, and the challenge before us now is to get them indexed.

Let’s bring forth their names, so that we can bring forth their stories!

Free Webinar on Antebellum Records


A free webinar on Antebellum records will be hosted tonight by Our Black Ancestry. The presenter is Jean Cooper who is a librarian at the Library of Virginia, and she will talk about the amazing resources to find pre-Civil War records, from deeds, to wills, and much more. The Webinar will take place at 7pm (EDT). More information can be found HERE.

Celebrating Freedom in Hampton Virginia


If it’s Juneteenth, it is time for Professor Dru’s Juneteenth Jubilee.

For the third consecutive year, genealogist and teacher, Drusilla Pair is taking her own research to the stage. Tonight at 7 pm (EDT) the third annual Juneteenth Jubilee will unfold. The curtain will rise tonight at the Ella Fitzgerald Theatre, at the Downing Cross Cultural Arts Center in downtown Newport News, Virginia.

What a wonderful way to celebrate freedom by taking the stories that she has been researching on a local level, and putting it on stage in a unique way. Ms Pair has taken a family with local roots, and has woven an amazing story and presenting it tonight. So if you live in the Tidewater area of Virginia, this is a unique way to kick off the Juneteenth weekend.


Save the Date for Cultural Festival in West Virginia


The 25th anniversary of the West Virginia African Heritage Festival will take place in September of this year in downtown Clarksburg. This is a family friendly event, so save the date- September 11-13, 2015.


AAHGS Conference Schedule is now Available

AAHGSConference2015AAHGS 2015 Conference Schedule

The schedule for the 2015 annual conference of AAHGS, is now available for download. To access the program, click the link above.

Midwest Institute to Unfold in St. Louis 
MAAGI Banner Framed

The third Midwest African American Genealogy Institute will unfold in St. Louis Missouri again this year. The program has merged tracks for two basic tracks this year, a “Basic Methods” track will be offered and a brand new “Writing Track” with a professional writing coach to get things started. MAAGI is a major project of the St. Louis African American Genealogy & History Society.



The Ultimate Family History Interview Primer

Last night’s episode of Bernice Bennett’s show featured genealogist Nicka Sewell Smith who discussed her new publication, the Ultimate Family History Interview Primer.


This beautiful 12 page booklet is a perfect oral history guide for African American genealogists. Last night, on Bernice Bennett’s blog radio program, author Nicka Sewell Smith discussed the publication of this guide and shared some of her better tips that she has learned from over 15 years of genealogical research, and interviewing elders. Copies of the primer can be obtained from MagCloud.


This Juneteenth weekend provides a good opportunity to reflect what we have. Remember to incorporate the family’s freedom story. If it is not yet known, then study the local history. How did the ancestral community treat the newly freed population? All of that is part of the family narrative, and we should remember to search for that story as much as we search for more names.

And—as we work on that narrative—don’t forget to record your own story. Keep a journal, or interview yourself, and leave a written legacy for the next generation.


Interesting Family History radio show.

Have you heard of Extreme Genes radio? This is a radio program, and I tuned into an interesting interview yesterday. I was previously unfamiliar with this program and it looks like something to tune into from time to time.


African American Knoxville Genealogy

KnoxvilleGroupA new group on social media has surfaced. Let’s welcome the Knoxville African Diaspora Research Group to the Facebook community of genealogy groups. It is great to see another African American community emerge online, and I look forward to reading about their activities.

Well, time to wind things down for another week. I hope that many of you will tune in to today’s announcement about the indexing initiative with Family Search, and that you will become actively engaged in that effort.

Let’s also remember to keep Charleston in our prayers.

And of course remember to keep researching, keep documenting and keep sharing what you find!