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Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed

Black Past

African American Records at Ancestry.com

PROVO, Utah, Feb. 21 — In celebration of Black History Month, Ancestry.com, the world’s largest online resource for family history, today announced the launch of the largest collection of African-American family history records available and searchable online.

The collection, which represents the 19th and early 20th centuries, features more than 55 million black family history records that collectively dispel the common misconception that very few historical records were kept for African-Americans and that tracing African-American ancestry is virtually impossible.

"The power and depth of this collection speaks directly to the misperceptions of black family research, offering hope that transcends time and inspires every generation," said Tim Sullivan, President and CEO of The Generations Network, parent company of Ancestry.com. "One of our youngest customers, 15-year-old Jari Honora from New Orleans, has traced his Creole family tree to 1801, and many others are finding that tracing their family trees is possible."

Ancestry.com’s newly expanded African-American Historical Records Collection contains U.S. Colored Troops service records of those who served in the Civil War and Freedmen’s Bureau records as well as a myriad of other African-American specific resources such as photos, slave narratives from 3,500 former slaves, and the soon-to-be-added Southern Claims Commission records.

The collection also includes 53 million African-American records in the complete U.S. Federal Census Collection (1790 – 1930), which is now searchable with a new, special filter that identifies African-American entries, regardless of their description in the census such as "colored," "Negro," "black," "mulatto" or other variations. The 1870 census is a major milestone in black family history as the first census enumeration to list formerly enslaved African-Americans by name.

A cross-section of the collection also reveals several black icons such as Rosa Parks, Langston Hughes and Louis Armstrong, as well as the ancestral legacies of James Earl Jones and Denzel Washington. Other celebrity highlights include —

  • Jada Pinkett-Smith: Actress Jada Pinkett-Smith, wife of actor Will Smith, descends from a line of African-Americans free before the Civil War.  Her great-great-grandfather Daniel Pinkett was just a young boy when he was recorded in the 1860 census.  At that time, free blacks were the only African-Americans noted in the census.  After the Civil War, in 1870, the 13-year-old could not read or write and had not attended school during the previous year.  Ten years later in 1880, not only could 23-year-old Daniel read and write, he was a school teacher.
  • Maya Angelou: According to the 1930 census, the poet’s 18-year-old mother, Vivian Johnson, was a widow with two young children –two-year-old Maya (who is listed by her birth name, Marguerite Johnson) and three-year-old son Bailey.  The young family is living in St. Louis, Mo., with Vivian’s parents; Vivian’s mother’s name is Marguerite.
  • Frederick Douglass: In January 1871, the famed abolitionist’s Freedman’s Savings Bank account at the Washington, D.C. branch, received a $1,500 deposit.  Douglass’ bank record was signed by his son Lewis, suggesting that Douglass was not present at the time of the deposit.  Douglass served as President of the Freedman’s Savings Bank during Post-Civil War Reconstruction.
  • Duke Ellington: A 19-year-old Duke Ellington listed his occupation as messenger for the U.S. government on the World War I draft registration card he filled out in 1918.  His place of employment was Chief of Staff, War Department, Washington, D.C.

"Thirty years ago, Alex Haley’s Roots ignited fervor for black family history that swept the entire nation, and yet tracing African-American ancestry remains a challenging adventure," said Tony Burroughs, African- American family historian and author of "Black Roots: A Beginners Guide to Tracing the African American Family Tree" (Simon & Schuster, 2001). "Ancestry.com’s expansive collection is a major breakthrough that opens the gateway for African-Americans everywhere to dig deeper into the lives of their ancestors via the Internet. Though black family history still presents a unique set of challenges, this collection is major stepping stone that makes African-American genealogy resources more accessible and illuminates the legacies of past generations for us to celebrate today."

This month, individuals can search the African-American Historical Records Collection and receive free access to Ancestry.com for three days. To explore the African-American Historical Records Collection, visit www.ancestry.com/aahistory.

Free on Ancestry


  • Free On Ancestry lists all the free records and resources on Ancestry.com.
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Isle of Wight County Cemetery Records

A gravesite survey team recorded grave markings at 96 cemeteries over the past three years. This week, it presented the information to the Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors.

The volume will be at the clerk of the circuit court’s office, Carrollton Library and Smithfield Library for genealogy studies, said Isle of Wight County Historical Society President Jerianne Gardner.

Since 2003, the task force has recorded more than 11,500 graves throughout the county, and the project is continuing. Anyone in Isle of Wight who might have graves on their property can call Albert Burckard at 357-6685.

from genealogyblog.com

Another One Million Historic Newspaper Pages Are Now Online

Seattle, WA – February 14, 2007 – Under a partnership between SmallTownPapers, Inc. and World Vital Records, Inc., one million exclusive newspaper pages from small towns across America are now available on the World Vital Records website.  The newspapers, part of the SmallTownPapers collection, represent unique historical content which has never before been available on the Internet and is not available from any other source.

“While it’s easy to find old articles from larger, daily newspapers which are readily available online, it’s a challenge when you trace family roots to a small town because those newspapers weren’t necessarily microfilmed or placed in the local library,” said Adam Deason, a genealogy buff in Murray, Utah with family roots in a small Alabama town.  “Having the newspapers easily accessible and searchable on the World Vital Records website will dramatically enhance my ability to document family history.”

Today, one million pages from small market, weekly newspapers across the country dating back as far as the mid-1800s are accessible through World Vital Records with that number growing weekly.  Just as Google, Microsoft and others are beginning to scan books; SmallTownPapers is digitizing the complete archive of more than 300 newspapers from small towns across America, including the current printed weekly editions.

“We selected World Vital Records to distribute our collection of small-town newspapers because of their commitment to the millions of people who want to research their family history,” said Paul Jeffko, president and founder of SmallTownPapers, Inc.  “World Vital Records is delivering on their mission to help people discover their ancestors with an incredible collection of exclusive materials, including SmallTownPapers.”

America has seen a surge in the demand for online genealogy resources.  Market Strategies, Inc. found in 2005 that 73% of Americans are interested in discovering their family history.  Last year, Pew Internet and American Life Project found that over 35 million Americans are interested in online genealogy research.

“SmallTownPapers is filling family historians’ needs for historical as well as vital record data from newspapers that otherwise might never be accessed,” said Leland K. Meitzler, genealogist and Managing Editor of Everton’s Genealogical Helper.  “I did search my own name and was amazed to discover an item from an early 1970s Eatonville (Washington) Dispatch, complete with a picture, about a nursery business I operated when I was a kid.  I had no idea the article was ever run.  All of us have family members in small towns of America.  This resource is amazing and shouldn’t be overlooked when searching your family history.”

SmallTownPapers works with hundreds of small market newspaper publishers to create this unique, searchable database rich in historical information needed by genealogists including births, marriages, obituaries and articles about family members.  To date, the company has scanned more than two million of its more than 20 million page archive, which will be available online as the digital images are created.  For more information visit www.smalltownpapers.com.

from eogn.com

WWI African American Military History


Five Civilized Tribes Ancestry Forum