Angela Y. Walton-Raji on April 10th, 2015

This Week's Pod Cast


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


Well yes, we are well into April, and I hope that many of your realize and appreciate the significance of this month. This time is so special. As we try to construct our family histories, we need to incorporate those events that unfolded 150 years ago this month and this week to be specific. Our ancestors were free or enslaved were part of the battle for freedom. We have ancestors served in the Union Army from the regular Army such as the 54th and 55th Mass, and 29th Connecticut, to the volunteers that made up the United States Colored Troops. Well there are those who were free and enslaved from Louisiana, to Kansas, to Indian Territory.

This week marked the surrender of Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Courthouse. Well the 9th was the anniversary of the surrender—and the beginning of freedom for thousands–no make that millions of people–our people. I hope that many will go through the discomfort that we have with slavery, and having come from enslaved people. We descend from survivors–persons whose lives were changed this week. The direction of our ancestors’ lives changed 150 years ago this week. But this week 150 years ago—they had a new word that was applied to them. We as genealogists–we have to not just go for the next name—we need to tell that story.



In light of all of that another event is unfolding today in fact in Appomattox Viriginia. A funeral will be held today for Hannah Reynolds who was the only civilian, or the only non-military person killed as a result of the confrontation in Appomattox County Virginia. A genealogist, Alfred Jones made an interesting discovery about her life. Hannah Reynolds did not die before the surrender. He apparently made a discovery that Hannah did lived for a few days after having been injured. She drifted in an out of consciousness, and did know that she was finally at this end of her life, able to learn that she was now free. Well as a result of Alfred Jone’s discovery, there will be a ceremony for Hannah Reynolds—a funeral for this woman who was now free, and who tasted 3 brief days of freedom. More information about this story comes from Atlanta Black Star.

My hope is that every community will celebrate this change in status! How did your family become free? How did the word come to the town, the village or hamlet where they lived? How did they learn about it. This is great incentive for us to find this story!

A Webinar on Widow’s Civil War Pensions


Coming up later in April, on the 24th from 2-3 pm EST a webinar will be held and presented by Bernice Bennett on the gems and wonderful pieces of data from these pension files. Why look at these records? Well if your ancestors were not soldiers, you will be surprised to see the many depositions made by civilian witnesses who also tell parts of those stories. These records present stories that we need to incorporate into the family narrative. We need to take them seriously and pursue them! This exploration of freedom should be a part of the process.

ReunionStory See story here

How many of you followed the story of the woman who met her daughter after 50 years separation? She never gave up her child, after giving birth, and she was told that her child died after a few hours.

But it was not true–her daughter lived. Something clearly occurred that was odd. The now grown daughter, with assistance from her own children, found her living mother. Thanks to DNA, it was confirmed–her mother was found. The birth mother is a well known gospel singer in St. Louis area. There are two videos reflecting this story. Of course there is more to be told, but for those of us who from time to time assist adoptees in exploring their history—this is an amazing heart warming story. But we know that there is another story in the background. I also think about the story as it unfolds after the first meeting. How do the new contacts fare after some time. So many questions—many of which may or not have answers, but these are stories that do make one pause and think. All of the “what if” are there as questions in the background.




Somerset Homecoming by Dorothy Spruill Redford

This book as served as an inspiration for me. In fact I re-read this book about once a year. Somerset Homecoming is the story of a woman’s journey to follow her own history and also to find herself. After watching the mini-series Roots with her mother. The author explores not only who were ancestors were, but also who she was. It speaks about identity, about self perception. It is a journey into the past, but a journey about one’s identity. She eventually finds the actual homestead where her own people lived enslaved.

I personally identify with that journey that she made, and remember the first time that I visited the community where my grandmother grew up in Sevier County Arkansas. Our family had attended a family homecoming in the old town where one branch of my family came. My grandmother’s parents–who were enslaved there, are also buried there. As we pulled into that community and drove to the town of Horatio Arkansas, I was so moved–as I know that there were tears shed by slaves there, and I knew that somewhere my ancestors had lived painful lives right there, and this realization that I was there where they had been, touched me so much.  This was the first time in a level of real consciousness that I was walking upon the soil where direct ancestors had been enslaved. The emotion was running through me without words. Well, Somerset Homecoming was the first book where someone had addressed the story of walking not only through the research experience, but also upon the real soil of enslaved people. I was so inspired, as there are so many secondary stories embedded into it. As I say I read this book every year—it always reminds me of why I do what I do. Genealogy has been a journey not just to find names—but also to find myself, and this book is a good reminder of the benefits of that journey as well. It was the first book that let me know that such research was possible and that such a journey could be taken.  Put this book in your own library! 


Well thank you all for sharing stories and links this week. Remember to explore your own ancestral stories, and how freedom came to them. Find out the ancestral story, and the missing community story as well–they are there to be told.

In the meantime, remember to keep researching, keep documenting and keep sharing what you find.

Angela Y. Walton-Raji on April 3rd, 2015

This Week's Pod Cast


Welcome back to this week’s episode of the African Roots Podcast.  You can always reach me at African Roots Podcast.

Well this is an anniversary broadcast for me—this is the 6th anniversary of the African Roots Podcast! Yes—six  years ago this week, I began this podcast and I am amazed myself that I am still here going at it week after week! Thanks to you and the wonderful support that I have received over the years from so many of you. And note six years of continuous weekly podcasts makes this the longest continually running podcast in the genealogy community! But none of it was possible without you and your continuous support.
As this is an anniversary for me, I am willing to entertain some new ideas from you, if there are features that you would like to see added to the podcast, I am surely willing to entertain those suggestions.

I will be adding book reviews to the podcast as I had once done when I began the podcast, so if there are books to share, let me know, as I am always delighted to share a good read with others.


Happy Easter

This is also Holy Week and many of you will be celebrating Easter this weekend. I hope that you have a good time with family and loved ones. Some are also rushing out today for Good Friday services I am sure, so I do hope that you will have a blessed Easter weekend.



Spring events, from national conferences, state conferences as well. I am looking forward to speaking in Arkansas at the Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission event on April 18th. I will be speaking about Freedom and how freedom came to those enslaved, in the state of Arkansas. I look forward to seeing old friends there.



Save the Date June 6th, the Prince George’s County Chapter of AAGHS along with the Prince Georges Historical Society will be hosting the Juneteenth. Note that this is an all-day long seminar, and the keynote speaker is Char McCargo Bah, who is well known in this area as a researchers, genealogist and author.



The annual Black Memorabilia Show will unfold next week in Gaithersburg Maryland. This is always an interesting event and there is usually something for everyone, old books, historical documents, photographs, Negro League items, and so much more. Worth attending.


I want to mention that all of the videos taped in Salt Lake City at RootsTech are now featured on the Family Search website together. Most were interviews conducted by Bernice Bennett, and also one I also conducted. The Roots Tech experience was amazing and one in which I would urge many of you to consider attending at least once. There was something for everyone, beginners, and experienced as well. Roots Tech is in Salt Lake City in February and worth the experience. So much was going on. Take a look at the videos and get a feeling of what unfolded there.


FB Groups

Speaking of the genealogy community—I am continually impressed with the kinds of items, articles and information shared on social media. Often members of the community share articles that  they find with a larger audience. This kind of article provides an opportunity for research. One article was about a group of slaves who walked 50 miles away from the plantation where they were so cruelly treated by the overseer. This story of resistance provides an opportunity for a tenatious researcher to explore the story, and the history of the plantation.  The story of their resistance is an amazing one and I hope that a good Louisiana researcher will tell that story. This is an advantage of social media, where a member of the FB group was looking at Ohio newspapers and shared it with everyone. If you are not a member, join AfriGeneas, join OBA and others. You never know if a new and interesting, project might emerge for you.


Cherokee Rose by Tiya Miles

Book Cherokee Rose

Cherokee Rose is a book that caught my attention, because it is an area in which many African Americans feel is part of their history.  She looks at descendants of people with connections to Cherokee and Creek Indians. She bases the story loosely on the history of the Chief Vann House, in Georgia. But she brings it to light in the lives of 3 women of color who all have ties to the Georgia plantation!

My interest is based on my own family history as Choctaw Freedmen, who were slaves in the Choctaw Nation. I will say that this is a treat, to get a glimpse of life before removal of those who were enslaved in the Five Civilized Tribes. This provides a glimpse of life on an Indian slave-holding mansion. The James Hold plantation in the book, is a fictionalized version of the real James Vann estate. The family upon whom the story is loosely based was the Vann family, a wealthy slave holding. The three main characters are people whom we would see in life–professional woman, of means, another who has ties from the Muscogee Creek Nation, and another–a writer. All of the characters found a strong interest and an unusual bond. The book wanders between places in time, from the present to the plantation era, through the words of the people of the past. So well written and those with ties to Oklahoma, or parts of the south and south east. I have to thank Dr. Tiya Miles for writing this story. Now for those who are interested in the historical background of the Chief Vann house, can read her work The House on Diamond Hill.

We don’t see enough stories where we as a people move beyond being more than simply victims of cruelty.  I urge you to obtain a copy of the book, as I think it is an excellent one to have in your library.

Well as I wind it down this week again I must thank you for joining me in this 6th anniversary podcast! I look forward to seeing many of you in the upcoming weeks.

Until then, keep researching keep documenting, and keeps sharing what you find.