We Arrive in Ft. Wayne for IBGS

Well, good, people, we finally got here. It’s been a long trek from Selma, Alabama. Thank goodness I had some help with the driving.

Registered earlier and had dinner with Bill Forsyth and Lanell James from ProQuest. We arrived too late to do research at the Allen County Public Library and missed the Ancestry.com reception but I heard it was very nice.

Tomorrow is the first day of the conference. We have to set up at 7 am. Will pick up again from the exhibit hall at the Allen County Public Library. Peace.

Commentary: Tracing Michelle Obama’s roots — and yours

By Tony Burroughs
Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Tony Burroughs is a professional genealogist and author of “Black Roots: A Beginners Guide to Tracing the African American Family Tree.” He taught genealogy at Chicago State University for 15 years.

(CNN) — Last week a New York Times article reported that Michelle Obama’s great-great-great grandparents were a white man and a slave whom he impregnated. This story highlights the growing importance of genealogy in America.

Some of the comments posted online were from people skeptical that the full story of Michelle Obama’s ancestry will ever be known.

One said, “The concept that records simply don’t exist beyond the mid-1800s for so much of her family is so telling about the legacy of slavery we’ll never shed.”

Another said, “Where in Africa did Michelle Obama’s ancestors come from? What was their tribe? When were they enslaved, and what were their experiences as individuals? What happened to these human beings after they were brought in chains to America? These things will very likely never be known.”

While these may be the common perceptions of the public, they are not the views of sophisticated genealogists.

Most people don’t have a clue about all the documents that exist, and that the paper trail never ends. The amount of paper that exists in libraries, archives and historical societies is mind-boggling. Much of it isn’t catalogued, so the owners don’t even know what they have.

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Ancestry.com to Get $75 Million in IPO

Genealogy company Ancestry.com is going for an initial public offering (IPO) hoping to raise about $75 million in the process. The plans were laid out in an SEC filing yesterday. The economy isn’t bouncing back just yet but this is a good sign as, after four quarters of no venture-backed IPO, things started to pick up in the second quarter, with several IPOs, and it looks like the trend is continuing.

Ancestry.com, based in Provo, Utah, goes back 25 years and has been online for the last 12. It changed its name from The Generations Network to Ancestry.com Inc. last month, in anticipation of the IPO. The company offers genealogy-related services through a series of associated brands like Ancestry.com, Family Tree Maker, myfamily.com, MyCanvas, Rootsweb, Genealogy.com, Jiapu.com and a number of international sites, and now employs over 600 people.

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African American Funeral Programs from East Central Georgia Placed Online

The Digital Library of Georgia announced the availability of a new online resource: African American Funeral Programs from the East Central Georgia Regional Library.

The African American Funeral Programs from the East Central Georgia Regional Library online collection consists of over one thousand funeral programs ranging from 1933 to 2008 (with the bulk of the collection beginning in the 1960s) from the Eula M. Ramsey Johnson Memorial Funeral Program Collection. A majority of the programs are from churches in Augusta, Georgia, and the surrounding area, with a few outliers in other states such as New York and Florida. The programs typically contain a photograph of the deceased, an obituary, a list of surviving relatives, and the order of service. The collection provides extensive genealogical information about the deceased, including birth and death dates, maiden names, names of relatives, past residences, and place of burial. Alongside this genealogical information, the obituaries provide a rich source of local history about African Americans. Many of the people included in this collection were prominent in their communities, and many were involved locally in the struggle for civil rights.

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ProQuest Announces ProQuest African American Heritage and Partnership with AfriGeneas

ANN ARBOR, Mich., July 10, 2009 – ProQuest announces the first digital library resource dedicated to the unique needs of African American genealogical research. Available fall 2009, ProQuest® African American Heritage is a groundbreaking new resource that provides key genealogical and historical records specific to tracing the lives of African Americans. The resource goes further to set itself apart by including a critical set of research and social networking tools that address the common genealogy need for research guidance, personal assistance, and mentoring.

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Finding Slave Ancestors

By Barnetta McGhee White

Most African Americans can diagram or outline a rather complete genealogy using 20th and 21st century public records. Going further back in time to discover those ancestors who were born and died in the late 19th century becomes more problematical and to uncover those who were enslaved prior to 1865 can be daunting indeed because they were identified in the records by enumeration or by first name only.

There have been many opinions as to the origin of the surnames used in the 1870 Census yet if one looks carefully and deeply into the research that has been done on the origin of surnames one is hard pressed to find a definitive answer that fits all situations. Strongly held beliefs are difficult to dislodge and the reasons behind the adoption of one surname or the other varies from one locale to another. Misunderstanding is generated by not being aware of the difference between slaves adopting the surname of the “last” slaveholder rather than a “former or prior” slaveholder. A last slaveholder is a former slaveholder, but a former or prior slaveholder is not necessarily the last, but rather could be one dating back to the 16th and 15th century.

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Millions of Historic Southern Records Now on the Web

SALT LAKE CITY—April 14, 2009-FamilySearch announced today it has published millions of records from Southern states to its rapidly growing, free online collection. The collection includes both digital images and indexes. Millions of death records from North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida were the most recent additions. Viewers can search the free collection on the Record Search pilot at FamilySearch.org (click Search Records, and then click Record Search pilot).

In the past 18 months, FamilySearch has been diligently publishing digital images and indexes from Southern states. It is part of a worldwide initiative to provide fast, economical access to genealogical records. Fueled by over 100,000 online volunteers, FamilySearch is digitizing and indexing historical records and publishing them online.

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Taking Mikes From The Mouths Of Savages

By Preston King
Special to AfriGeneas

preston_kingAt independence, in 1956, Ghana’s slogan was: ‘Forward ever, Backward Never!’ We expect to improve on the past. We hope to add to what the parental generation leaves. Though we are right to aspire to moral progress, these days, in so many ways, hope is confounded. We are moving backwards.

One of the best things America ever did was to elect a new president in 08. This man is not absolved from criticism. His excellence lies precisely in qualities of flexibility and receptiveness. And every American’s voice should be heard in the ongoing debate. But Obama has not been subject to criticism, properly speaking.

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DNA Proves Author Alex Haley Had Scottish Roots

By Patrick Sawer

DNA tests have proved that Alex Haley – the black American author whose book Roots traced his family origins from the slave plantations of the US back to Africa – was of Scottish ancestry.

The tests have established that Haley – whose work is credited with helping transform the self-image of millions of black Americans – is directly descended from a Scottish paternal bloodline.

The findings came after a sample of DNA from Haley’s nephew Chris Haley matched that of his distant cousin June Baff-Black, who lives in Wales and whose shared lineage starts in 17th century Scotland.

Until recently, Chris Haley had only word of mouth family history to show that his great, great-grandfather had been born of an African slave mother and white Scottish father, both of whom lived and worked on a slave plantation in the US.

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