Yesterday, I posted a question to my new African-American Genealogy and Slave Ancestry Research Facebook Group, asking how many over the course of their research, had identified and attempted to contact the descendants of their Ancestors slave owner(s).

There were several responses citing the positive and sometimes, not so positive exchanges that occur when our research leads us back to the descendant of a long-gone slaveholder. Our hope? That the descendant is willing to engage us and moved to share any documentation/information that might shed light on our once enslaved Ancestor.

These dialogues can be awkward and unpredictable. As a family historian who’s outreached many white descendants, I still never know what to expect when I hit my “send” button.

I’ve been appreciative of the WINGFIELD and CODY support received over the years to push my research further. Angered when it became clear I might never fully know Catie’s Story due to the unwillingness of the DICKEY family to share with me what information exists about her in the bibles/journals of Rev. James Madison DICKEY, her Washington-Wilkes owner. And disappointed beyond words to find the Southwestern Claude CARR CODY Collection — which contains hundreds of original documents belonging to Catie’s first owner Madison Derrelle CODY — completely purged of ANY reference to the family’s abundant slave holdings.

Yes, engaging white descendants in an attempt to identify your lost family lineage can be a mixed bag! There’s a lot of ugly history to sort through, and even after 15+ years of researching, I still struggle to make my peace with it — as well as its cultural, genealogical and […]