Before African-American names and families were collected in the U.S. census, they were recorded in slave schedules, or inventory records that almost never mentioned names. Instead, they mentioned age, sex, and a racial designation such as blackor mulatto. They sometimes listed skills such as carpenteror blacksmith.
African American genealogy can be a little tricky for the newbie. Thankfully, 2017 RootsTech presenter Nicka Smith shared several ideas to help those who are just getting started. Step 1: Capture Contrary to modern instinct, capturing your family story doesn’t begin online—it begins with you. “Always start with you,” Smith said.
After three bloody years of war, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862, freeing more than 3.5 million enslaved African Americans. There are many reasons why slavery can make family history painful. If your ancestors were enslaved or slave owners, then this is a painful topic.
The idea would combine traditional genealogy research with DNA test results and led Gates to first create African American Lives, a PBS mini-series. After jokingly being accused of racism for focusing solely on African Americans, the original idea evolved to include a more diverse group of celebrities.
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The African-American community faces an unusual challenge of name changes, due to slavery (as mentioned above). Matrilineal surnames are also used among some cultures. The matrilineal surname can be traced only as far as the end of the known maternal lineage, since, in English-speaking countries at least, the surname may change each generation.
Imagine meeting with prominent American celebrities and sharing with them their family history. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University, has been doing just that for the past five years and he’s coming to RootsTech to share his experience.
Gates is also editor in chief at the Oxford African American Studies Center, a comprehensive collection of online resources for African-American studies and African history and culture. It includes more than 10,000 articles by top scholars specializing in related fields.
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A frequent lecturer and writer, she focuses on African American, Slave Ancestral Research and DNA. She is recognized for her work in Slave Ancestral Research and on Genealogy Roadshow. Berry has been featured in Real Simple, Jet, Wall Street Journal, Orange County Register, Sacramento Bee, Wave Newspaper and other publications.