Archives for February 2012

Mary Walker’s Descendants Realize Their Rich Family History

Mary Walker was a former slave who escaped her owner, fled north, and came to owna Cambridge landmark. Recent celebrations at the Blacksmith House have brought generations of Walker’s descendants to the Harvard Square home. It’s the first time they visited with the knowledge that the home is part of their own family heritage. Fifteen of Walker’s descendents have come from as far away as New Jersey and Michigan, as well as right here in Massachusetts. The house is relatively new information for Clare Kenney, of Midland Park, N.J., now 85 years old. She gingerly climbs the stairs of the … [Read more...]

South Jersey history is all in the family

Sisters Marion Buck and Elizabeth Johnston are determined to make sure their family’s historic legacy is preserved. The nonagenarian members of the Still family — South Jersey’s best-known African-American dynasty — are links in a chain that began with ex-slaves Levin and Charity Still, who settled in Burlington County around 1800. “I want people to know all the great things my ancestors did,” said Buck, 94, who in January moved to Spring Hills, a new luxury assisted living facility in Cherry Hill, along with Johnston, 91. Read More … [Read more...]

African-Americans unearth family histories via new technology

Like so many others, Patricia Watts longed to find out more about her family history. For several years, she searched databases and made numerous trips to local libraries to research her family tree. It was during an exhaustive search of her mother's side of the family that she received an unexpected gift. A New York-based historical society contacted Detroit genealogist Dale Rich, looking for the Detroit family of decorated former slave John W. Jones. Searching government records, Rich discovered Watts is a descendent of Jones, who was responsible for helping to lead more than 850 … [Read more...] Partners with W.E.B. DuBois Institute to Publish the Patriots of Color Database

REDWOOD CITY, Calif., Feb. 24, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- In honor of Black History Month,, a website devoted to making family history simple and affordable, today announced the launch of the Patriots of Color Database. is bringing this collection online for the first time, compiling years of research facilitated by the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University. These records unveil new and invaluable information about some of the men and women of color who fought for American independence in such roles as soldiers, … [Read more...]

Blair Underwood’s journey to his family roots

Actor Blair Underwood will take a journey to the past when he traces his family roots as part of TV show. The former Petersburg resident is starring on the next episode of the genealogy documentary series "Who Do You Think You Are?" - which airs Friday night on NBC. On his Facebook page, Underwood recently wrote how much he had learned from being on the show. "I discovered some amazing things about myself and family that I've never imagined," he wrote. Last September, the film and TV star - whose last major role was as president of the United States in the NBC sci-fi series "The Event" - … [Read more...]

Initiative aims to find lost grave sites of slaves

For decades, the stretch of grassy land in an elbow of the Mississippi River held no trace of the people buried underneath. No signs, markers or tombstones pointed to the more than 300 African-American former slaves buried in two cemeteries about 20 miles west of New Orleans. Only a handful of people knew they ever existed, despite their being listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Now, the Army Corps of Engineers, which owns the land, and local historians are reaching out to descendants of the deceased and planning a memorial at the grave sites commemorating the lives and … [Read more...]

Webinar – African American Genealogy – Migrations and Manuscripts

Thursday Evening, February 16, 2012 WEBINAR - 7:00 until 8:30 PM With Presenters Jim Ison, AG, CG, and Deborah Abbott, Ph.D. :                   Migration Patterns: An Alternative for Locating African Origins Jim Ison will discuss how DNA testing has become the only option for many in learning about African origins. As popular as DNA is in providing clues to ancestral origins, there are limitations to what can be learned using DNA tests. Learn major migration patterns of millions of African Americans … [Read more...]

Long-lost identities of slaves uncovered in old Virginia papers

A historical society in Virginia, where slavery began in the American colonies in 1619, has discovered the identities of 3,200 slaves from unpublished private documents, providing new information for today's descendants in a first-of-its-kind online database, society officials say. Many of the slaves had been forgotten to the world until the Virginia Historical Society received a $100,000 grant to pore over some of its 8 million unpublished manuscripts -- letters, diaries, ledgers, books and farm documents from Virginians dating to the 1600s -- and began discovering the long-lost identities … [Read more...]

Vanderbilt Group Preserves Deteriorating Slave Records

There are thousands of pages of names, places and people that are disappearing by the second. "Right as we're talking, we're losing things," said Vanderbilt history professor Jane Landers who has been working to stop it for a decade. "As if it's a broken piece of pottery and you have to put things back together." Landers and her team have been to country after country photographing every page they're allowed to. Many come from churches, and are possibly the only way to track slaves brought to Central and South America from Africa. Read More … [Read more...]

Tale of forbidden love preserved by historical marker in San Jacinto County

A fascinating love story is behind the latest historical marker that has been dedicated in San Jacinto County, a fitting occasion to mark the 50th anniversary of the current Official Texas Historical Marker program. It’s the story of William “Bill” Kelley, a white man, former slave plantation overseer and confederate soldier, and Dinah Rush, described as a “mulatto” freed slave. In spite of their differences, this unlikely pair withstood hardship, racism, and a world that would never accept their relationship. Read More … [Read more...]