Research in the Library

Access Library of Congress 7/29/18

My Job at the Library: Researching African-American Genealogy

Ahmed Johnson. Photo by Shawn Miller.

Ahmed Johnson is a local history and genealogy reference librarian in the Library’s Main Reading Room and a specialist in African-American history. A bibliography he created, “African-American Family Histories and Related Works in the Library of Congress,” guides Library researchers seeking to understand their families’ stories to printed and digital sources at the Library.

Here Johnson answers questions about his career of nearly 30 years at the Library, how he developed a passion for African-American genealogy and his search for his own family’s roots.

Tell us a little about your background.
I am one of the few native Washingtonians at the Library of Congress – my family goes back four generations in D.C. In 1989, when I was as a rising senior at Archbishop Carroll High School, I started as a deck attendant in the Library’s Collections Management Division. While attending Hampton University in Virginia, I continued to work at the Library, eventually securing a position as reference assistant in the Manuscript Division. After I graduated, I was selected to participate in the Professional Development Associate Program, a 24-month training that led to my being hired as a reference librarian in the Local History and Genealogy Section.

How did you become interested in African-American genealogy?
I was always curious as a kid and loved history. Every chance I got, I would ask my grandmother – she is now 98 – about how she grew up and about my relatives. I wanted to know about their occupations, their education, their everyday life. My grandmother showed me a photograph from 1922 of her as a 2-year-old sitting on the porch of the family home in Clarke County, Mississippi. The picture included my great-great-great grandfather, who lived to be 106, my great-great grandparents, three cousins and a traveling preacher. I was fascinated by the black-and-white portrait – it looked ancient, it was so dark and blurred. The house looked like a log cabin, and everyone’s clothing was tattered. I quickly realized the sacrifice made by my ancestors and how this sacrifice benefited me – and this sparked even more questions. But I had no idea this curiosity would lead to a career helping others trace their family histories.

What are the special challenges of doing African-American genealogy?
For any group, the further back you go, the fewer records that exist. But the slavery system increased the difficulty. Some individuals were free before the Civil War, but most black Americans are descended from slaves. Considered property, slaves left no real paper trail. They did not record their marriages at the local county courthouse. Also, slavery split families apart, and few slaves could read or write, so the likelihood of family histories being left behind is low. Census records did not include the names of slaves, only the age and the gender of each slave belonging to a specific owner.

By the time slavery ended, for generations of people, much of their original identity and history was lost. And after the Civil War, many families migrated. Some took on the names of former masters, but others simply made up names. Former slaves were poor, and records are always scarce for the poor. Stories about blacks didn’t make the mainstream newspapers until decades later. Some unique records do exist that are helpful in tracing African-American roots, but usually the history is documented by finding the last slave owner.

Which collections have you used to track your own genealogy?
Genealogy is about more than names, dates and locations. It’s about how people lived and why they did the things they did. In genealogy, we call it “putting meat on the bones.” I began my research by interviewing my older relatives. This information led to other resources and collections.

The Library of Congress has local histories from throughout the country in its collections, for example. I searched for books relating to the counties where my relatives had lived. These books provided records pertaining to county history, marriages, taxes, deaths and other details. The Library also has family histories compiled by people who researched their own families. I searched our catalog for these books as well, but unfortunately none related to my line of the family.

The Library subscribes to hundreds of subscription databases, which are free to the staff and public – although some are accessible only on site. I have searched several and located fascinating records. Ancestry Library Edition, which is our subscription to Ancestry.com, has over a billion names and allows you to search for your ancestors’ names. I’ve located U.S. census records, military records and marriage records for my family in Ancestry.

Chronicling America” is a newspaper database that allows keyword searching. My research in this database has revealed obituaries and other information. I continue to search the “Records of the Ante Bellum Southern Plantations,” a microfilmed collection housed in the Manuscript Reading Room. These are records of plantation owners containing information about everyday life on the plantations. They document when people were bought and sold, and provide details about occupations, clothing and food allowances and list slaves by their first names.

Has anything you’ve learned about your own family surprised you?
Using “Chronicling America,” I located a letter to the editor, “Remember the Fireman,” written by my great-great grandfather complaining about his pay and that of his colleagues. Imagine my surprise! I had no idea my ancestor was a firefighter. The letter was published in The Washington Herald on Dec. 10, 1913. But history tells me that black firemen didn’t exist during this time in D.C. I figured out that my ancestor was one of the guys who lit the gas lamps around the city. In 1913, they were called firemen.

Research at the Library

North Carolina Civil War & Reconstruction History Center

North Carolina Civil War and Reconstruction History Center

The NC Civil War & Reconstruction History Center is accepting stories about ALL North Carolinians—men, women, and children—who lived during the late 19th century: There’s no tidbit of information too small or story too lengthy. So, if you know something about someone who lived in North Carolina during the Civil War and Reconstruction era and wishes to share it with us, please submit it on the NCCWRHC webpage http://nccivilwarcenter.org/share-a-story, mail it to 824 Branson St., Fayetteville, NC 28305. If you have any issues with the story submission process or want to speak to me about your story, you can call (910) 491-0602.
We’re looking forward to reading and preserving your stories for everyone to enjoy, now and in the future!
Please share this post if you know anyone who might be interested. Thank you!

I encourage you to submit your stories. We have submitted five for the Johns, Holloway, Thomas and Slade families.

African American Genealogy Gulla


African American Geneology Workshop

African American Geneology Workshop

Posted by New Orleans Jazz Museum on Saturday, July 14, 2018

Free Access AmericanAncestors.org

Researchers

Free Access to ALL Databases on AmericanAncestors.org

Have some fun out of the sun this summer!
American Ancestors is granting FREE access to all online databases—highlights include our early New England collections (including the world’s largest Mayflower database) and Boston’s Catholic records from 1789 to 1900 —from now through Tuesday, July 17th.

You can use your free guest membership to search more than 1.4 billion names on AmericanAncestors.org this week. Family history is every bit as fun as a vacation on the beach—pass the word!
https://www.americanancestors.org/july

YORUBA, IGBO, FULANI, HAUSA

Source: African Royal DNA Project, access 7/9/2018

WE ARE ONE FAMILY OF PEOPLE, DO NOT GET TRAPPED INTO THE CONSTRUCT OF DIVISION AND ETHNICITY. 

I have have been asked to explain a few details again so all new members/subscribers can learn and receive the tools needed to dig deeper.  So here we go.

We know that many of us have taken the autosomal DNA test at FTDNA.com , 23andme.com , Ancestry.com or MyHeritage.com or other Autosomal DNA testing companies.  We are waiting patiently for that breakthrough of finding our Africa Born DNA matches.  We are hoping that the matches can tell us the ethnic group(s), family names, kingdoms and cultures from which they hail.

Regarding Africans Americans and other Africans that have been in the Diaspora for hundreds of years.  We have a different and new story to tell.  Our Ancestors passed DNA down to us.  African Descendants in the Diaspora, NEVER feel that you have to select ONLY ONE of your ethnic groups and stick with that one.  Explore ALL of your ancestry.

Our people were scattered and so was their DNA . We are an amalgamation of their struggles and their success .  We are here because of them!  African Descendants in America whose ancestors have been here for hundreds of years are of multiple African ethnic groups.  

Don’t allow anyone to tell you otherwise .  We are one from MANY !! Even on the continent of Africa , many groups intermarried .  We know the so called ethnic group is a social construct but on a realistic level, they are family groups that can trace their lineage back for generations.  Do the research yourself and ignore the “social media” scholars or anyone that has not sat down with African Elders and Royals to learn their family history.  Avoid TRIBALISM at all costs.  Tribalism is the belief that one ethnic group is better than all others and they are more superior.  No ethnic group or culture is better than the other.  We are ONE HUGE FAMILY.  This is OURSTORY

One confusing factor is ONLY testing with companies that tell you the results of one line.  That is OK to do.  I did it in 2008 .  Each generation that you go back, your ancestors double.  We have 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great grandparents and so on .  Each of them could be of a different African ethnic group !! 

So In addition to testing that one line, If you can afford it , Take an Autosomal DNA test and research your actual DNA matches (REAL people that you can communicate with) .  The Autosomal DNA test costs between $79-$99 at 23andme.com , Ancestry.com or MyHeritage.com .  You may find some African matches from various ethnic groups. You may find many matches from around the world.  Keep digging .  We are more than one African ethnic group.

The chart below gives an idea of about how many ancestors you have going back 10 generations.  They may have come from different ethnic groups.  

RESEARCH EACH WEBSITE AND THEIR TERMS AND CONDITIONS BEFORE USING.

We are not going to lie to you.  We all know that there is NO GUARANTEE that you will find an Africa DNA match.  Some of us have found several matches and have reconnected with our families.

Here are some ways to widen the net though.  These helpful options are steps that I have taken myself.  They have proven to be very helpful especially since many people have DNA tested at one company and have elected NOT to test at another.

There is a place where your DNA raw data can go and meet up with other people’s DNA raw data that tested at different DNA testing companies.   We can all chillax and do this for for FREE!!  OK.. Let me clarify…. Its like a meet up for ya DNA raw data.

The goal is to upload your DNA raw data to the websites that you have not tested or to the sites like Gedmatch.com to help you compare shared segments on Chromosomes between you and others that have also uploaded.

AS ALWAYS ~~ RESEARCH THESE WEBSITES AND READ THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS BEFORE UPLOADING TO THEM.

1. Log in to the company that you took the autosomal DNA test with.  This is the test that analyzes about 98% of your DNA that is from your mother’s and your father’s side of your family.   FTDNA.com , 23andme.com , Ancestry.com or MyHeritage.com and go to DNA raw data.

2. Download the DNA raw data.

3. Rename the file to the name of the person that tested. This is VERY important!! Especially if you have more that one that you will download and it is coming from more than one company. Make each file name unique. I usually add the name and company tested on the end (examples AncestryDNA_AdaEze.zip or 23andme_AdaEze.Zip )
.
4. Save the file in a back up location because you will need it a few more times

5. Go to Gedmatch.com for FREE (register if you do not have an account)

6. Upload the DNA raw data to Gedmatch.com .  If you have issues uploading , no worries, go to step 7.

7.  EVERYONE should follow this step.  Go to Genesis.Gedmatch.com . Sign in with the same username and password that you created for your Gedmatch.com account.  (This site has a BETTER DNA matching system and  This is extremely important if you want to see if you match any of the African Royals of our African Royal DNA Project)

8.  Upload the DNA raw there as well.

10. Go to FTDNA.com for FREE (register if you do not have an account)

11. Upload the DNA raw data to FTDNA.com

12. Go to MyHeritage.com for FREE (register if you do not have an account)

13. Upload the DNA raw data to MyHeritage.com

14. Go to DNA.Land for FREE (register if you do not have an account)

15. Upload the DNA raw data to DNA.Land

16. Go to wegene.com/en/ (register if you do not have an account).  This site is for DNA percentages ONLY.  No matches.

17. Upload the DNA raw data to wegene.com/en/

18.  Go to www.gencove.com and create an account.  Verify the account creation via your email. This site is for DNA percentages ONLY.  No matches.

19.  Opt out of Research if you wish and Upload your DNA Raw Data.

20.  Create and Account at www.Geneplaza.com .  This site is for DNA percentages ONLY.  No matches.

21.  Upload your 23andme.com or Ancestry.com DNA Raw Data.

22.  Complete the steps and this link and upload the DNA raw data https://www.livingdna.com/en-us/one-family/research/apply

24. Create an account at https://www.yourdnaportal.com .  This site is for DNA percentages ONLY.  No matches.

25.  Upload your DNA raw data there to see health details and/or Population Calculations

Join us on Facebook .  Click here or the image below, select Join and answer the required questions .

AFRICAN ROYAL DNA PROJECT
We have Autosomal DNA tested several African Royals born in Ghana, Cameroon, Nigeria, Cote D’ivoire and Benin via Ancestry.com.  I have uploaded their DNA raw data to Genesis.Gedmatch.com, Gedmatch.com, FTDNA.com and MyHeriatge.com for FREE.  If you have ALREADY taken the Autosomal DNA test and have uploaded your DNA raw data to Genesis.gedmatch,com , you can check to see if you match any of them.  Click the image below for details about the African Royal DNA Project.  Click the image below.

Read More:
Discovering Our African DNA Cousins
Continue reading YORUBA, IGBO, FULANI, HAUSA

Research Tips

By: Monica Primus

Fayetteville, North Carolina, USA

Source: Johns Family and Relatives 7/7/18

I have been doing family research for over 20 years and have been using Ancestry.com and Family Tree Maker (FTM) for almost as long so I have a couple of pointers I would like to share.

1. Do NOT use the tree of someone else as your source documentation. They may remove their tree and then you have no documentation of your facts.
2. Document and source your facts, otherwise it is just hearsay.
3. Create sources for personal sources (i.e. grandma told me blah blah blah – create a source using grandma). If you do not know how to do this in FTM then ask.
4. Label your photos with who and date (if known) information. There is nothing more aggravating than looking at a photo and wondering who is who and when was it taken. I now use a free program (PhotoScape) that allows me to add this info above or below the photo. I know it takes time, but just think about the other people that are going to see the photo. They may not know what Uncle Joe looks like.
5. Do NOT use nicknames in photos or as the preferred name (in FTM). It is okay to add them so long as the given name of the person is also there.
6. Standardize place/location names. If you use FTM it is quite easy. (i.e. if you use Waterbury, New Haven County, Connecticut, USA as the location then all listings for Waterbury should match that otherwise it is considered a separate location.)
7. Make sure your sources match the facts you associate them with. 8. For those that have private trees that really do not want to be bothered, please change your settings so that you Exclude from Ancestry Search Index; that way it does not show up when people are doing their searches.
9. For those that have multiple trees with the same info on Ancestry.com: MERGE them and then get rid of the duplicates OR just get rid of the old ones. This will help you and others. I hope you find these tips helpful. 
*I am more than willing to assist anyone who asks.

VIRGINIA LOST PAPERS

By Kyle Rogers, LVA Newspaper Project volunteer

As part of an ongoing effort to give voice to nineteenth-century African Americans through digital projects like Virginia Untold and Virginia Chronicle, the Virginia Newspaper Project has identified nearly 500 advertisements posted by free African Americans during the antebellum era and the Civil War (c. 1800-1865) concerning their freedom papers. The example, below, was published in the Richmond Daily Dispatch on July 12, 1859:

Two "Lost-Free-Papers" notices from the Richmond Daily Dispatch, July 12, 1859

These notices were grouped with other advertisements for lost or stolen goods, and they could even be found on the same page as rewards posted for the capture of runaway slaves.

Freedom papers, or “free papers,” were protective documents that certified a free African American’s non-slave status.  Frederick Douglass, as usual, best explains the legal and personal significance of free papers to their bearers:

Read More:

VIRGINIA LOST PAPERS

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