Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., a New 10-part PBS Series That Explores Race, Culture and Identity Through Genealogy and Genetics

Finding Your Roots builds on the success of African American Lives 1 and 2 and Faces of America, journeying deep into the ancestry of remarkable individuals Harry Connick, Jr., Robert Downey, Jr., Samuel L. Jackson, John Legend, Branford Marsalis, Condoleezza Rice, Michelle Rodriguez, Barbara Walters, and many other well-known names learn long-lost secrets from their family histories. NEW YORK, March 23, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The basic drive to discover who we are and where we come from is at the core of the new 10-part PBS series Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., … [Read more...]

Mayor Hits Genealogy Lottery

Cory Booker, the Mayor of Newark, today calls New Jersey home. But in the first episode of the new PBS series, "Finding Your Roots," Mr. Booker explores his genealogy with the help of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.  Skip Gates reached out to me and said he'd like to use me as a subject matter—I felt like I'd hit the lottery! Read More … [Read more...]

Family Tree’s Startling Roots

Thirty-nine lashes “well laid” on her bare back and an extension of her indentured servitude was Elizabeth Banks’s punishment for “fornication & Bastardy with a negroe slave,” according to a stark June 20, 1683, court document from York County, Va. Through the alchemy of celebrity and genealogy, that record and others led to the recent discovery that Banks, a free white woman despite her servitude, was the paternal ninth great-grandmother of Wanda Sykes, the ribald comedian and actress. Read More … [Read more...]

For African Americans Seeking to Reclaim Family History, University of Buffalo Workshop Offers Hope

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Because so many of their ancestors were slaves, African Americans have often had a difficult time tracking down documentation of their early roots through public and genealogical records and, as a result, early family histories may be unavailable to them. However, those who have succeeded in this endeavor have sometimes succeeded spectacularly. Two of those searchers will be at the University at Buffalo for a free public workshop entitled "Searching for African Ancestors: Extraordinary Discoveries" on March 23 in 1004 Clemens Hall, on UB's North Campus, from noon to 1:30 … [Read more...]

‘It gives me gooseflesh’: Remarkable find in South Side attic

It wasn’t much more than a ghost house by the time Rufus McDonald got the call. The front door of the abandoned home near 75th and Sangamon was unlocked and swinging in the wind. Drug addicts, squatters and stray animals carried away whatever they wanted. Everything that wasn’t termite-infested seemed to have been stolen. Even the copper pipes were gone. But the scavengers missed something incredible. Hidden in the attic that McDonald was contracted to clear before the home’s 2009 demolition was a trunk. Inside were the papers of Richard T. Greener, the first African American to … [Read more...]

Major find shows cruel life – and death – of slaves

As Professor Mark Horton tells me as he opens the lids, these boxes represent almost the entire sum of the physical relics of the Middle Passage. These personal possessions had been lovingly clung to by the terrified Africans after their capture, after being transferred into the hands of ruthless slave traders, and even after being squashed into the barely imaginable claustrophobic squalor of an Atlantic-bound slaver ship. But the team of archaeologists from Bristol University, led by Dr Andrew Pearson and Professor Mark Horton, spent four months excavating a unique slave cemetery on the … [Read more...]

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...]