African Heritage Day

February 10, 2017

From Africa to America and Back: Celebrating the Journey and Practices That Connect Us to Our African Roots

Speakers on African Heritage Day



Headlining the keynote session of African Heritage Day will be LeVar Burton. He’ll be sharing some of his own journey of family, storytelling, and the influence of African culture on his American experience.

In addition to Burton, accomplished African American genealogists, speakers, and authors Kenyatta Berry, Sherri Camp, and Melvin Collier will speak about their connection to their African roots and experiences that have kept them close to their ancestors.

Shelley Murphy, Bernice Bennett, Angela Walton-Raji


World-renowned experts in African American genealogy and family history will teach you how to unlock the door to your family’s past and make connections with your heritage. Topics range from how to get started as a newbie, to tech resources available, to overcoming genealogical challenges, to understanding DNA analysis. You’ll walk with a better understanding of who you are and where you come from.

Expo Hall

Expo Hall

Get in on the action at RootsTech’s giant expo hall. The expo hall is the place to discover helpful solutions, watch demonstrations, and interact with innovative family history technology. Come and see what hundreds of exhibitors from around the globe have to share, including event sponsors like Ancestry, findmypast, and MyHeritage. In the expo hall, there’s something for everyone in the family to see or do.


Cultural Celebration

Earlier in the day, you’ll be treated to the inspirational sounds of the Calvary Baptist Church Choir of Salt Lake City. In the evening, you’ll experience a special cultural performance held in the demo theater of the expo hall, featuring the Jambo Africa, Heartbeat Burundi Drummers, an all male drumline cultural group that was formed in 2009 with the goal to spread awareness of peace from traditional African drum music. Put on your dashiki, and join us!

8:30 a.m.
General Session (Streamed Live)
11:00 a.m.
Tech Resources to Begin African American Research
Sherri Camp

Do you need to know how to get started researching African American family history? You have come to the right place. Beginners will learn the process to begin research on African American family history using free technology resources available online. Many times African American research is a difficult process and cannot be found in conventional ways. This class will help participants learn the process, tips, tricks, and resources to research and document African American families.

1:30 p.m.
African American Genealogy for Newbies | Beginner
Nicka Smith,, BlackProGen

America’s youth between 1982 and 2000 now number 83.1 million and are more diverse than the generations that preceded them with 44.2 percent being part of a minority race or ethnic group. Many of these millennials identify as African American and have relatives, who likely don’t check the same racial designation box as them, who are eager to help them trace their genealogy. In this session, learn the basics of researching African American genealogy, and have a safe space to ask burning questions.

Session Number:RT1666
3:00 p.m.
Dealing with African American Genealogy Challenges | Beginner
Shelley Murphy

All genealogy has the so-called brick walls or genealogy challenges. This session will help you consider your research goals, understand what you are looking for, and what challenges you will face in researching African Americans. In addition, attendees will be provided with some tools and online resources that are available to help combat the challenges.

Session Number:RT1457
4:30 p.m.
Identity by Descent: Using DNA to Extend the African-American Pedigree | Intermediate
Shannon Christmas, Through The Trees Blog

Using illustrative examples, this session demonstrates how DNA analysis, when used in concert with traditional genealogical research methods, can help family historians overcome challenges unique to African-American genealogy research.

Session Number:RT1436
5:30 p.m.
Cultural Celebration

This special cultural performance will be held in the demo theater of the expo hall.

Room:Expo Hall