Holidays are great for probing the past; here’s how to start

Between bites of turkey and pie today, enjoy an enriching dish of family history. Thanksgiving is an ideal time to mine your family's lore and ask some long-postponed questions. Grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles are all together and the turkey's L-tryptophan loosens the tongue. Ask questions. That's how Margaret Rennaker, 74, of Scottsdale, discovered her mother's side of the family was known for having photographic memories. Inquisitiveness led Marsha Allen, 59, of Tempe, to learn that her great-grandmother was 42 when she gave birth to Allen's grandfather. Read More … [Read more...]

Settlement ends decades-old dispute over black cemetery

Descendants of a slave in Lexington will be deeded a piece of the land he once owned for a family cemetery. The agreement announced Wednesday ends a decades-old dispute. The family has been barred from the property since the 1930s. The descendants of slave Dave Draft will receive roughly a quarter-acre for a fenced-in cemetery off a dirt road. Two sets of remains unearthed this summer will be buried there, along with any more remains found during construction of a housing development. Read More … [Read more...]

Slaves among our ancestors says professor

BLACK slaves brought to Scotland in the 18th century could be among the nation's ancestors, evidence uncovered by a leading academic from Edinburgh University has suggested. John Cairns, professor of legal history, discovered that at least 80 slaves from the West Indies, Bengal and the British colonies in North America came to Scotland, and there is evidence that several married and had children. Read More … [Read more...]

Slave-owner heirs find harmony over history

Opera singer Andrew Frierson of New York City sang from his heart here Sunday for a special hometown audience of whites and blacks, many of whom shared a connection to his last name from the days of slavery. Frierson, 83, a music teacher and longtime performer with the New York Civic Opera, is the grandson of a Tennessee slave. In those bygone days, Frierson's ancestors worshiped from the vantage of the balcony while the master and his family sat on benches below. On Sunday, the positions were intentionally reversed — the idea of Elizabeth Queener, a white Nashville resident and one of the … [Read more...]

A Daughter Discovers Branches of the Family Tree Pruned by Her Father

In a white-box living room in an apartment on lower St. Charles Avenue here, the dining table was set for a family party: plastic bowls of chips, dip and salsa; a plastic bag of sepia-toned family photographs waiting to be opened; and a copy of Bliss Broyard’s new book, “One Drop: My Father’s Hidden Life — A Story of Race and Family Secrets.” In town late last month for a publicity tour, Ms. Broyard, 41, grabbed and greeted cousins one after another as they came through the door. The gathering was at the temporary apartment of one cousin, Sheila Marie Prevost, 43, who lost her Upper Ninth … [Read more...]

Jamaica’s Maroons remember the fight against slavery

Steep hills, towering cliffs and a dense limestone forest shroud this remote mountain village, born out of the decades-long struggle between English colonizers and runaway slaves.Back then, the drums of resistance could be heard across the rugged terrain as bands of freed and escaped slaves outwitted and ambushed their enemy. In 1739, the British empire sued for peace and signed a historic treaty giving the once-enslaved Africans autonomy and recognition as free people -- 68 years ahead of Britain's ban of the brutal trading in enslaved Africans across the Atlantic. Read More … [Read more...]

Shaking the family tree: Filmmaker explores her family’s role in the slave trade

Should Rhode Island, which sent more slave ships to Africa than any other state, apologize for its role in the slave trade? Should lawmakers jettison the last half of the state’s official name, The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations — a reference to the state’s colonial farms, often worked by slaves? A provocative new documentary is sparking these and other questions about the state’s responsibility for transporting an estimated 100,000 Africans into New World slavery. Read More … [Read more...]

Finding ancestor wills is a historical treasure

Though not all of our property-owning forbears left a will, many of them did. For the genealogist, finding an ancestor’s last instructions recorded for posterity is comparable to discovering a map with an “X” marking the spot where treasure is buried. Read More … [Read more...]

Slave Labor Helped Build Capitol

Tours, exhibits and commemorative plaques in the Capitol should recognize the contributions of slaves in constructing Congress' home, experts told a House committee Wednesday.Such citations would help encourage blacks to make a historical connection to the building, a congressional task force said. Read More … [Read more...]

1845 document connects Stokes family to slavery’s grim reality

An 1845 document filed away at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Georgia attests to the magnitude of what Carl B. Stokes accomplished in Cleveland just a century later. It is a two-page will bequeathing more than 85 slaves - including Stokes' great-grandfather, Seaborn Brinson - from a white Georgia landowner to his daughter. Read More … [Read more...]