Tag Archives: African American History

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

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

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

Book Discussion Group: “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome”

Book Discussion Group:
“Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome”The spring 2018 book discussion group is reading Dr. Joy DeGruy’s 2005 book, “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury & Healing.”Saturday, June 16 | 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. 
Tanner Community Development Corporation, 2nd floor
700 E. Jefferson St. | Phoenix, AZ 85034
The June session will focus on black male/female relationships as an essential component in the healing and change process as the village is created.
Register
Free | Open to the public | Ages 18 years + | You don’t have to read the chapter in advance to attend 


Native American’s are apart of our history

Donna Koch

Multi-Ethnic Virginia and Carolina History posted June 9

14hrs

I was researching somewhere else and this is a partial response I received. Is this true? ” Native Americans no matter what Tribe they belong to would not be on a US Census until after 1924 when they were allowed to be US citizens. Each Tribe listed their own on their own Rolls. Cherokee have all listed back to 1817.”

Did people not lie to census takers or the census takers made his own determination?
What am I not understanding?

Thanks for educating me.

Response: Native Americans were treated in some cases worst than Africans in America.  They were not allowed to vote or be educated until the 1900’s around 1922-1924. The Indian rolls (Dawnes Rolls) were created to register every Native American and can be found in the National Archives.  Some Native Americans passed as white and therefore did not register.  Most of those groups can be found in Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina insignificant groups. There are ofter states with this population. Seminole Nation ancestors went to Mexico along with Africans to avoid being sent to Oklahoma. Only a few came back after the Indians wars. They still can be found in Mexico today. You can find a large number of Native Americans now living in Canada who crossed over from Connecticut and New York.

Some reference for your research journey.

  • www.archives.gov/research/native-americans
  • American Indians Census Rolls 1885-1940
  • Census records for Eastern Cherokee (Force march from SC to OK)
  • Chippewa
  • Pueblo
  • Seminole
  • 1857 Shawnee Census – Kansas Territory
  • Yakima, Tulalip, and  Swinomish – Washington Territory

There is a Native American Ancestry group on Facebook for further treatment of the subject. This is a valid conversation to have and to discuss.

1880 Defective, Dependent, and Delinquent Schedules

Genealogy resource rarely used in ancestry research

1880 Defective, Dependent, and Delinquent Schedules

The 1880 census is the mother lode of questions pertaining to physical condition, criminal status, and poverty. In addition to the basic questions on the population schedule, additional questions were posed in the ‘Supplemental Schedules for the Defective, Dependent, and Delinquent Classes’, commonly called the Defective Schedule or DDD Schedule.

When a person was noted as blind, deaf and dumb, idiotic, insane, ‘maimed, crippled, bedridden, or otherwise disabled’, or was enumerated in a prison, orphanage, or poorhouse, further information was to be gathered on one of seven special schedules:

  • Insane
  • Idiots [defined as those ‘whose mental faculties was arrested in infancy or childhood before coming to maturity’]
  • Deaf-Mutes
  • Blind
  • Homeless Children (in Institutions)
  • Inhabitants in Prison
  • Pauper and Indigent Inhabitants (in Institutions)

Census

These special schedules are arranged in the same order as the population schedule. When you find someone on the 1880 census who is noted as insane, etc., make note of the enumeration district, page number, and line which that person appears. The special schedules should exist for each enumeration district; this information is listed at the top of each special schedule. Each person is listed in the order he or she appears on the population schedule; the page and line numbers are given before each person’s name.

The Figure below shows Eliza Derickson enumerated in the 1880 census in the County Alms House, Wilmington, New Castle County, Delaware (enumeration district 20, page 21, line 2). We can see that she is ‘maimed, crippled, bedridden, or otherwise disabled’. With the enumeration district, page and line numbers, we can go to the correct special schedule

Figure: Eliza Derickson enumerated in the 1880 Census

Eliza5V.jpg

Defective Schedule

The Insane and Idiots schedules are similar in many regards. Both ask the age at onset. The Insane schedule asks for ‘Form of Disease’ [defined as mania, melancholia, paresis (general paralysis), dementia, epilepsy, or dipsomania.] The Idiots schedule asks for the supposed cause. The instructions to the enumerators give as examples, ‘scarlet fever, measles, meningitis and etc. Blow on head, fall, and etc. Fright, and etc. Both schedules ask for the names of any institutions the person had been in, the length of stay, and year discharged.

With many records of mental hospitals and asylums closed to the public, the Insane and Idiots schedules may be a researcher’s only record with medical information of those who were institutionalized. It must be remembered, however, that it is unknown who gave the information, especially if the person was not in an institution at the time of the census (when the enumerator was likely getting information from the institution records.)

Figure: Insane Schedule, District 36, Kent County, Delaware

Insane Schedule5V.jpg

Figure: Idiots Schedule, District 36, Kent County, Delaware

Idiots Schedule5V.jpg

Dependents Schedule

The Deaf-Mutes and Blind schedules are virtually identical. Both ask for the supposed cause, age of onset, whether the person was self-supporting, the name of institutions attended, length of time in that institution, and year discharged.

Figure: Deaf-Mutes Schedule, District 24, Fulton County, Ohio

Deaf-Mutes5V.jpg

Figure: Blind Schedule, District 24, Fulton County, Ohio

Blind5V.jpg

___________________________________________________________________

Where did your ancestors come from?

Skip to toolbar