Angela Y. Walton-Raji on July 24th, 2015

This Week's Pod Cast


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

Well summer is moving along quickly and finally the rains have stopped for a while and we are getting lovely dry weather here on the east coast. I do realize though that our friends and family in the far west have not had much rain at all, and hope that the on going drought will let us soon.

Claims Index Heading

Well here is some good news!  Yesterday I learned about the Social Security Death Claims index. Well as you know that there were many restrictions that were made in recent years about the Social Security death index, the SSDI. It turns out that now, on Ancestry that there is an interesting claims index available.

This pulls up information that we as genealogists seek. The names of parents of the applicants of deceased ancestors.  This is called the Social Security and Claims Index 1936-2007. I was delighted to see that it truly pulled up the names of the parents–which is what we are seeking. (I have blocked out the full names for family privacy.)

Claims Index

This is worth exploring and hopefully you will find it useful.


Obituary Photo Agnes

Remembering a Mentor, Teacher and Friend Agnes Kane Callum

This week the genealogy community lost a giant in the field. Dr. Agnes Kane Callum passed away this week due to complications from Parkinson’s Disease. Dr. Callum was a pioneer in the African American genealogy community and she is one whose shoes cannot be filled.

Born in Baltimore, Agnes Callum began researching her own family history over 30 years ago. Her research on her enslaved ancestors on Sotterley plantation in southern Maryland is immeasurable. Her work bringing the story of Irish Nell – Eleanor Butler, an Irish indentured servant, and her marriage to Negro Charles, brought to light the occurrence of many indentured women who met, and married Negro men in Colonial America.

Her work to restore the slave cabin at Sotterley plantation, is a model for many to follow. At the same time, her work to preserve the legacy of the United States Colored Troops has inspired many of us to find the Civil war ancestor in our own lines.

I met Agnes Callum in the spring on 1991, at a genealogy meeting in Baltimore. At that time she was publishing her yearly journal, Flower of the Forrest, A Black Genealogical Journal. During those years, she was steadily researching African American history of St. Mary’s County Maryland, and expanded her focus to include other parts of Maryland as well. She inspired all of use who met her, and I owe much of my own work to the model that she presented. She saw the value of looking at the larger picture, and sharing much more beyond the confines of one’s own single family. She saw the value of the community having a story and needing to have it’s voice, long silenced, be heard.  I value the lessons that I learned and owe so much of my work, to her and her insistence to put something down on paper.

She has left an amazing legacy, and we can only be grateful that we were honored to have been influenced by her. We shall miss her, but her legacy will continue.

God speed, dear teacher, and dear friend.


On that note, I shall close out a bit early this week. I hope you have a good weekend, good week of research, and remember to keep researching, keep documenting, and keep sharing what you find.

Angela Y. Walton-Raji on July 17th, 2015

This Week's Pod Cast


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

I am glad to be back home in Maryland, after last week’s experience at MAAGI (Midwestern African American Genealogy Institute in St. Louis. Yes, I am still enjoying the aftermath of that experience and have been so impressed with the posts that participants have been sharing on social media as well as on their own blogs as well. I have been particularly impressed with the commitments that many have been making to various writing projects, for the coming months. The next 12 months should be quite exciting for many of us in the genealogy community!

Well now that I am back, I had a good week especially a three fold great Archives experience. Living close to the Archives I try to get there at least once a month. Well yesterday I made a trip there, and I had three special experiences to share with you about that experience.

1) I was able to pull some Freedmen’s Bureau Records, that provided amazing insight into the plight of formerly enslaved people among America’s forgotten slaves. I am referring to the Freedmen of Indian Territory. I found a detailed summary of the status of the former slaves within all five of the slave-holding tribes. The records were found in National Archives Microfilm publication Number M979.

FB Asst Commr RecsUnboxing M979 Roll 52

Data on this collection is different from the records that have recently been digitized by Family Search and the Internet Archive. This publication is not specifically from the Field offices, like the records in the indexing project, but this publication comes from the records of the Assistant Commissioner of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands. The one report that caught my attention was one that had been transcribed before on Freedmen’s I was interested in seeing the original records, and surely enough, I found the documents. M979 consists of 52 reels of microfilm and I ended up capturing data from Rell #52, and the last 10 images.

FB Circular DocNational Archives Publication M979 Roll 52

The letter is significant because it addresses the plight of Freedmen of Indian Territory in early 1866. The report came out of Ft. Smith Arkansas and reflected a variety of states with each of the tribes presenting different situations for the Indian Territory Freedmen.

FB Circular Doc Letter 1a

I will be going into much more detail about the contents of this report as it is quite revealing about the state of affairs in Indian Territory!


I had a second experience yesterday when reviewing a Civil War pension file. It was suggested back in April that I look at the pension file of Aaron Brooks a man who served in the 54th Arkansas US Colored Infantry. He was a young man who died in the 1890s, and whose widow filed for, and obtained a pension until her death in 1914. The file was not a thick one and contained a few scant details about their lives. There was nothing unusual about the file, until I found a simple document that was truly a delight to see and to hold. A photo of the soldier.

USCT Aaron Brooks Full View

Aaron Brooks, Company A, 54th US Colored Infantry.

What a find! The photo was a small one, but there it was, nevertheless, a full standing image of this young soldier. This is perhaps the second image of an Arkansas USCT and the only one taken of an Arkansas Black Union soldier, while the soldier was serving during the war. He is clearly a  young man, in his twenties.

USCT Aaron Brooks Service RecordService Record of Aaron Brooks, Company B,
54th Regiment US Colored Infantry

The physical image of the soldiers says that he was approximately 22 years of age, of dark complexion, and 5 feet 8 inches in height. And a close up view of the soldier’s face reflects his youth.

USCT Aaron Brooks Face View

It is noticed that the photo was most likely taken after April 19, 1864 when he was made corporal. His uniform reflects the rank of corporal. 
USCT Aaron Brooks Corporal

Also upon examination it can be noticed that there is a signature underneath the photos, which may have been that of the soldier himself.
USCT Aaron Brooks Signature

Signature underneath image of soldier.

It is not necessary to say that finding this image in the pension file of an African American Union soldier was not only a treat, but a true element that made the day special.


Finally, the trip to the Archives also brought something new to my attention. I had the chance to visit the Innovation Hub! Now as a patron of the National Archives since 1991, physical changes in the research are not new. I began in the 1990s when research was conducted in the 4th floor reading room, where all of the microfilm readers were located. Then the readers were moved to the 1st floor. The library and congressional record were also to be found there. In recent years the microfilm space has been reduced, and now the library on the 1st floor has been relocated to Archives II in College Park Maryland. In the physical space at Archives I, is the new Innovation Hub.

Archvies Innovation Hub 2

Entrance to the Innovation Hub at the National Archives.

What makes this space unique are two qualities. There in area for scanning original records. This is a special opportunity to take records such as Civil War pension files and to make full color scanned images of the records. The records can be scanned to your personal flash drive, and you will have a full color image of documents scanned. The only requirement is that if a file is pulled, the entire file is scanned. Every page of the file must be scanned. But the better new is that this service is FREE. There is no charge for use of the innovation hub, no charge to scan and no charge for the copies. There are 10 scanning stations for use.

Archives Invtn Hub Scanning Station

Secondly, the Innovation Hub also has space–lots of space. If space is needed for a meeting, or for a small gathering, or even a brown bag lunch meeting—there is space available. A conference table is there, several sitting areas, one has a choice of ergonomic chairs or comfortable sofas were as few as three or as many as twenty people can gather and chat.

Archives Invtn Hub Conference Table

And like the scanning area-use of the open space is free to patrons of the National Archives.

Archives Invtn Hub Seating Area1

So, needless to say, this visit to the Archives was fruitful and was filled with findings and offerings for patrons.  If you live in the greater Washington DC area, you are encouraged to go and experience the Hub, and to continue to explore the wonderful records there to be found.

Well that’s plenty for this week, everyone. Thanks for allowing me to share my findings at the Archives with you, and of course thank you for taking time from your busy day to listen to me. You are so very much appreciated. In the meantime, have a great week, and remember to keep researching, keep documenting and keep sharing what you find.