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.

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

This Week's Pod Cast


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

Greetings everyone from the lovely city of St. Louis Missouri! I am coming to you from the campus of Harris-Stowe State University in the lovely city of St. Louis Missouri, which lies on the banks of the Mississippi River! That’s right I am here in St. Louis for MAAGI, the Midwest African American Genealogy Institute!

And—-I have some wonderful guests lined up for you to hear share their experiences with you. I have 6 guests from the Writer’s Track here at MAAGI, and they have graciously agreed to share their opinions with you about their experience

Dr. Shirley Greene, Toledo Ohio
MAAGI 2015 Shirley Greene

My first guest is Dr. Shirley Greene from Toledo. She is focusing on a paternal line and free men of color who were revolultionary soldiers. She hopes that by August of 2016 that she will have something in writing. She has enjoyed the writer’s track, and has come to understand and become more informed  about the options for writers that are available. She is not a first time attendee, as she attended MAAGI two years ago, and came back again this year. Dr. Greene is also a historian and works to engage the students through emphasis of the stories.


Faye Sigers, Austin TexasMAAGI 2015 Faye Sigers

Secondly we welcomed Faye Sigers who came to MAAGI this year from Austin Texas.  She described her ancestors from Alabama and Mississippi. She is also a member of the Chicago AAGHSC as well. She appreciated getting ideas from other people, and how to get her own story told. She enjoys reading blogs and she has been told to tell more of her own stories. She found that MAAGI inspired her level of confidence.


Sandra Cowan-Dorton

MAAGI 2015 Sandra Dorton

Sandra Cowan-Dorton is a native of St. Louis and she is here to share her experience of having attended MAAGI and the writing track. She has a fascinating family history background that you will want to hear more about. MAAGI exceeded her expectations. She has a unique story to tell. She has an interesting story of discovery of your own family. When she was in her 30’s, she learned that her grandparents were passing, and came northward on the Great Migration. This revelation had a major impact on her life, and her goal is to write about the family history and share it with others.

Dr. Shelley Murphy

MAAGI 2015 Shelley Murphy

Dr. Shelley Murphy is one of the members of the faculty, and she is involved in the Strategies and Methods class. As the creator of the “So What” concept, she is one of the critical must go-to classes. She shares her perspective about teaching at MAAGI. She discusses

Linda M. Simms

MAAGI 2015 Linda Simms

Linda M. Simms a recent blogger really dove into the writing class and has a strong interest in writing a book about her family. A native of St. Louis. MAAGI exceeded her expectations. She learned techniques on blogging, and she is interested in enhancing her blog where she documents her family based in Mississippi. She strongly recommends the MAAGI experience. She has been a genealogist for over 25 years and hopes to take advantage of her experience and document it in her family book.

Tracey Hughes

Tracey Hughes

Tracey Hughes, is one of the “founding participants” in MAAGI. She resides in Kansas City and shared her sentiments about this third year experience. She described how she introduces her readers to her ancestors. The writing track has given  her several ideas on how she will enhance her writing, and get herself on a calendar to produce a publication within the following year.

It was a pleasure to speak to those MAAGI participants who were so enthusiastic about what they experienced here. Ihope that next year that many new listeners will want to explore the experience of an institute.