Alright, before I dive into the core of this — what I am sure will be VERY controversial post — let me pen a Luckie Disclaimer:

  1. This post is not intended to address any specific person and/or medium — it’s an open address to the genealogy community as a whole.
  2. Please know, that it’s not my intention to offend you, although I accept that some folks may be offended by the subject matter and my willingness to openly discuss it.
  3. I welcome healthy dialogue and by healthy, I mean dialogue that is respectful that helps to bring understanding. If you are able to meet me there — please do.
  4. Yes, this post was preempted by the recent HerStoryan Super Bowl of Genealogy discussion and subsequent comments BUT not because of it. These feelings are far from new and I realize now, sooner or later, this post had to be written.
  5. I ask that you please think before your write — be you black, white, green or blue. NO matter of disrespect is permissible.
  6. I have come to accept that whenever I discuss a racially charged issue and/or socially *sensitive* subject matter, I immediately loose Twitter followers and blog supporters. I am 100% OK with that. I am true to me. I set the bar I’m tasked with living up to.

Okay, done.

Now admittedly, I was late coming into the conversation surrounding the formation of HerStoryan’s Genealogy Dream Team. I was away from my computer most of the day and only able to follow sporadically, long enough to know I’d been mentioned, and to see there were mixed reactions to her commentary.

Yes — the dialogue was open, flowing and healthy. Yes — we all have differing perspectives and I loved seeing them vetted here. But the more I read the 30+ comments {mine included}, I couldn’t help but ask the question — how can the Genealogy community, of which I am a SUPER-active member, communicate so freely in addressing the mention of a fictitious Snooty Patootie {sorry, just quoting facts!:-} yet never respond and/or participate in the many discussions with African-American Genea-Bloggers relating to the challenges researching our lineage due to Slavery?

In almost 2 years of actively participating in the Twitter Genealogy community, I’ve only been asked TWICE to assist with getting family slave documentation online — by Vicki (@BeNotForgot) and Gini (@Ginisology). In the 10+ years I’ve been online, I would guess no more than a dozen.

Help me to understand how you can witness my and other researchers daily struggle with piecing the fragments of our family histories together and not feel moved to share the documentation you’ve discovered and/or held through your personal research?

How can you as a researcher who understands the depth of what we’re doing and the agony of not finding the answers we seek, not be willing to be a modern day Friend Of Friends?

You greet me in the mornings. Chat with me through the day. Laugh at my jokes. Support me through my Son donating a kidney and my Mom’s daily struggle with Alzheimer’s Disease. Without fail, you consistently read my non-stop posts and *tweets*.

So please help me to understand how my research {and others like me} appears to be completely invisible to you?

Why is it that a very real Luckie, with a very real genealogy challenge can’t garner the kind of open/transparent dialogue that a good-natured {and rather clever} analogy intended for fun could?

Is it really in 2010 that we STILL can’t discuss Slavery? Is it that seasoned genealogists, aware of the value a Random Act of Kindness holds, won’t share what you know with me and others?

We’ve come up with tons of very creative ways to slice the genea-pie! Why isn’t there ever ANY mention of {or events to address} the very present slave history in this community OTHER than from an African-American author?

Before we charge Dr. Gates with acknowledging and supporting our genealogy efforts, WE must set the example within our community and do it first.

It’s just my philosophy… let small issues remain small. Let big issues be addressed and resolved quickly. Acknowledged or not — this is a BIG communal issue.

Whew! Finally, I’ve said it.


*Given this is an ARCHIVED post, the genealogy community comments received are featured below*

Hey Luckie,

I’m glad you brought this up. It is a sensitive issue and the really sensitive issues are harder to discuss, I think.

I’m from the South and my ancestors owned slaves. Not much I can do about that – it’s just a fact – but it wigs me out when I see the evidence (particularly in wills when they bequeath slaves by name to their descendants – shudder).

I used to be reluctant to document those facts online. Again, it wigged me. But then I got involved in the genea-blogger community and I started to see the challenges and frustrations of you and other African-American researchers. I admire y’all so much and I think about you whenever I hit one of my own brick walls.

So now, I do document the slavery records online and I hope that, in some small way, it will help one of my genea-buddies or somebody else, in their own quest to find these elusive ancestors.

Comment by Tonia Kendrick — 8 February 2010 @ 5:54 pm


Amen. Very well stated and long overdue. Hopefully this will break the ice, and open up some dialogue on the subject. Here’s an idea. – How about a Carnival of Genealogy-Slave Documents. Post one document you have that lists the names of slaves. What easier way to share, and help someone with their research. I’d call that being A Friend of Friends!


Comment by Sandra Taliaferro — 8 February 2010 @ 6:12 pm

Thanks so much Luckie,

I hope this opens the door for more dialogue. You have so many in the genealogy community talking about we are like a family, but where I’m from family sticks together and helps each other out when and if they can. If descendants from slave owners would just be more open and not worry about what others think, then our job as African-American researchers would be a little easier. I would hate to think that someone has information or have records that someone needs and not releasing them. For the last time, we (African-American Researchers), hold no grudges. WE just want to know where we came from!

Comment by Felicia Mathis — 8 February 2010 @ 6:38 pm

Luckie, thank you so much for opening the door that has been closed for so long. I have nothing but respect for each and every human being regardless of their color. Helping each other is of the utmost importance to me, if I have something that will help you, I’m there.

When I first started genealogy and discovered that my paternal ancestors owned slaves, I was horrified but I knew it was a part of my history that I have zero control over other than sharing it and realizing it could make a difference now.

I have been working on trying to find as much information as I can. Reaching out to you and Toni at Low Country Africana has helped me more than you know, thank you.

As we discussed, I am currently working on a post regarding the slaves in my family history. I just received (why I haven’t posted yet) a wonderful descendant report from a relative in Ohio that is strictly slaves and their descendants. I am so excited to finally be able to share any and all information I may have with everyone and hope that it may touch someone out there that has been searching for these family members.

I think a Carnival of Genealogy and sharing your Slave documents is an excellent idea! Let’s go~


Comment by Gini Webb — 8 February 2010 @ 7:21 pm

Did I hear someone mention my name? Oh, it was YOU! How ya been, Luckie? Did I ever say thanks? Well, I do appreciate you providing an alternate method for getting our Bible pages out there — just in case they provide info that someone is looking for. We have some cases (probably more than I know about) of people keeping documents, et al, to themselves, and it really annoys me. I have been a geneaholic for so long that I would not dream of withholding information that might help someone. Now I might be guilty of not realizing that I have information that I have not made readily available, but I’m working on that — it’s called blogging! As a matter of fact, I have a new blog I need to tell you about — there will be multiple mentions of some Texas slaves and slave-holders. I will send you a private email about it. E-ya later, from Texas. V.

Comment by BeNotForgot — 8 February 2010 @ 7:36 pm

Hi, Luckie,

You bring up many valid points. First of all, to my knowledge, none of my North American ancestors owned slaves. In fact, I only have one line that ever lived below the Mason-Dixon line, and that was a family in Maryland that eventually moved to New York State. Now of course, slavery was legal in the North as well as the South until the Thirteenth Amendment (1865), except in the free states that were admitted in the North after the Missouri Compromise of 1820, and the Confederate States (by order of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of 1862 and 1863, although he really had no true control over the issue, as they were states in rebellion). But it appears that all my ancestors from 1865 back to when they set foot on North American soil were your typical Union-loving, Northern-state settling, Protestant people who did not own slaves.

Secondly, although I have found one ancestor of my husband’s who owned slaves (most of his lineage settled in Southern states), I have no names or other documentation AT THIS TIME, and only because he’s so far up the line, I haven’t really researched him. I’m sticking closer to our current generations, but working my way on back.

However, your post has prompted me to re-look at the documents I have to see if any of my own or perhaps more of my husband’s ancestors to see what I can find to help my African-ancestored genealogy friends.

Well said! I’m glad you brought this up!


Comment by Miriam Robbins Midkiff — 8 February 2010 @ 10:39 pm

I too agree those with information on slave information shouldn’t withhold.

If I were to find slave owners in my ancestry I’d share the information — but I’m not exactly sure where I’d share it. I’ve made the decision not to blog about stuff that would upset living descendants. Which of course is completely separate from making a record of it and letting those living descendants know the truth about their ancestors privately, offline.

But if there is (as I suspect there is) an online database where I could submit this information, along with supporting documentation, so those looking for it can find it. That’s different. I just wouldn’t put it on my blog.

I have ancestors who were on American soil back to the 1600s, but most of them were in the North. I do have ancestors who were in Texas during the civil war, but so far I have not found evidence they owned slaves.

This said, I do feel though we can’t and shouldn’t expect people to talk about what we don’t know. Those of us who don’t know, we should listen to those with the experience on the issue, whatever the issue may be, so we can learn, through them. But if we listen, and don’t contribute, it’s not necessarily because we don’t care. It’s possibly because we don’t feel we have anything to say.

Comment by TransDutch — 9 February 2010 @ 12:17 am

Dear Luckie,

It is a BIG communal issue; in the sense that we need to identify and nurture that community.

A lot of folks are only interested in getting and not giving. Others are hesitant about sharing or dispensing bad or regrettable information. Some are too quick to point fingers and blame. Defense and Offense.

Bump all that! Keep doin’ whatcha doin’; keep giving, good things will come to you! Works for me.


“Guided by the Ancestors”

Comment by George Geder — 9 February 2010 @ 12:59 am

Okay, I’m sitting here knowing what I want to say, but the words won’t come out. Oh man, I offended people talking about Snooty Patooties! Can you imagine the anxiety about discussing an issue like this? Pushing past the emotion and into reason, I think this is a GREAT topic! I can only speak for my feelings and thoughts – I make no generalizations or characterizations for anyone but me, myself, and I. Okay folks?

Luckie, because of you I now know I have a responsibility to share any piece of information I might have. I couldn’t come to this realization myself because of anxiety. A huge number of my ancestors were from the South and unfortunately we know what that means. But here’s the thing – it is SO hard for me to process and get a grip on it!!! I probably never thought to write about it, because I can hardly think about it myself. When I am reading a Will and I come across a slave’s name it brings me to tears every time ( I kid you not ). When it is tied to my family, I can barely type the word slave without tremendous anxiety and shame. Logical thinking would lead one to believe that the descendant feeling pain inside is from the ancestor that was the slave not the ancestor that was the owner. But I do feel pain. I now see that I can use that pain and turn it into passion to tell their story so that their names won’t be lost to time. I vow to make a conscience effort to track down any information I might have in my files and post it online. I love the idea of a Carnival of Genealogy – Slave Documents. It provides a clear and common goal as well as a safe environment to post as a community. There is safety in numbers. What I mean by that is that I think I have been raised to be so colorblind that just the idea of posting such information is tremendously overwhelming to me. But it’s not about me is it? It’s about them. They who count on us to tell their story. I have a responsibility to listen to their whispers and give them a voice. Thank you for always making me think AND for hitting me over the head with the voice of reason when MY thinking gets me no where! A Friend of Friends 😉

Comment by Herstoryan — 9 February 2010 @ 2:07 am

I like Sandra’s idea. I have not participated in a carnival yet but that’s a carnival where I know I can contribute. The exchange would be good for us all.

Comment by Darlene — 9 February 2010 @ 10:30 am

Wow! This community never ceases to surprise me! I really do believe that because of our common bond (genealogy) we have the potential to set a great example.

I asked folks to talk openly & you did — thank you.

Because you each share such different vantage points & took the time to post, I felt the need to respond to everyone individually…

Tonia – indeed, the sensitive stuff is harder to talk about but silence is worse because folks don’t know where you stand & are left to form their own [often wrong] opinions. I hear your heart in your comments. Please let me know where your data is posted & I’m happy to get the word out. You’re setting the example with your actions. You’re right, we can’t do a thing about our history but we can effect positive change now.

San – a wonderful idea! We (all of us) have to take the “sting” out of this subject so that we can make progress — communication is key. A community scan-fest is a GREAT start!:-)

FeFe – I feel your frustration but I still believe communication is the key to move us forward. Like you, I only hold folks accountable for they do now. We’re getting there, look at the comments from Tonia, Miriam, HerStoryan, Gini… I am encouraged!:-)

Gini – you are a great example of how I wish we’d all tackle this hurdle — accept what happened & move forward doing what you can. That’s all anyone can ask!:-)

V – you don’t have to say thanks, you’ve been a OGR supporter from the start! You were one of the ones who welcomed me in! I can’t wait to hear about your new web project — you RAWK!:-)

Miriam – thank you for approaching with such an open mind & heart! It really is just sharing what you find. Anytime you encounter info, if you need a hand getting it out to the community, I’m there!

TransDutch – I believe this is your first visit right? Welcome to OGR! I don’t expect (nor am I requesting) the community at-large to post slave data on his/her respective site. If that’s what he/she WANTS to do great, but that’s not really my interest. My request is that you share what information you encounter. If you encounter none, then this doesn’t apply to you specifically. However, if you DO find slave data, there are MANY channels that slave descendants frequent to post information — LowCountry Africana, Afrigeneas, GenealogyWise, Ancestry — all have forums specific to Slave Research.

George – 100% agree, we have to identify & nurture the community in its entirety. This country’s history is a MESS & we each have our own accountability to making it less painful & to effecting positive change. I think this dialogue is an excellent start within the genea-community.

HerStoryan – your comments left me speechless! They’re the very definition of “healthy dialogue” — they not only bring understanding, they bring healing. Such transparency is rare in any circumstances, let alone around the subject of slavery between descendants on both sides of the gene-pool. Amazing! Thank you!:-)

Renate – for the record, I like your idea too!:-) Slavery is a challenging topic — period. We (African-American researchers) adjust by default because if we plan to research our Ancestry, we have no choice but to find a way to process (and live with) the slave experience. Yes there are some who CHOOSE not to share their family’s slave data but I bet there are many others who just don’t know what to do & how to process their families piece in it. This is the type of dialogue I’d hoped for!:-)

I am so, so proud of all of us… this is a VERY good thing.


Comment by admin — 9 February 2010 @ 10:57 am

Darlene – thanks for your support! Looks like a Carnival will happen! Stay tuned my Friend!:-)


Comment by admin — 9 February 2010 @ 1:44 pm

Hi Luckie,

I think you were probably the heaviest hitter of the defenders on HerStoryans team! You pose an interesting challenge for all of us in the genea-blogging community, and the entire genealogy community as well.

Like Miriam – I have no ancestors born below the Mason-Dixon Line. Like Steven Colbert, I am a “very white” guy. However, I know from my research that several of my Rhode Island and New Jersey colonial ancestral families had slaves. My wife has several ancestral families from Maryland and early colonial Virginia, and I’ve found probate records that indicate there were slaves in some of the families. So, So I do have some slaveholders in my background, but none from the southern plantation cultures to my knowledge.

In my own genealogy research, I have not concentrated on other people’s ancestors – I’ve concentrated on mine, and it’s a big job because of my particular ancestral scope – many of my lines go back 10 to 12 generations and there are records in New England (especially New England!) for them. I haven’t made time to research your, or other people’s, ancestors because you haven’t asked me to and haven’t paid me to do it.

What I’m trying to say above is that my knowledge base and experience in dealing with African-American research is limited, and I’m never going to be an expert in it. You are because it dominates your ancestral lines. I read your blog posts (and published articles by all authors) because they inform and teach, and the lessons provide general and specific genealogy research methods and helpful research examples. They may be useful to me in working with colleagues in my genealogy society, or future clients, that have similar interests.

I appreciate your posts, and read them every day you post. I don’t comment much on anybody’s blog because it takes significant time from my own genealogy work, but I try to make up for my lack of comments through the Best of the Genea-Blogs posts.

Each genea-blogger starts with a limited audience and gradually gains readers based on their published work. After one year, I was so happy to have about 30 visits per day. It takes time – well-reasoned and informative posts gain readers and commenters, as you’ve found, I think. But it takes some time to get to where you’re well-known in the genealogy community.

My point in this discussion is that your specific research interests and your blog posts are not invisible to me and to many others, but they are invisible to the larger genealogy world that exists outside the Internet. There are millions of “genealogists” who have no clue who Dick Eastman and Megan Smolenyak are, let alone you, me and other geneabloggers.

What you can do is to publish your work concerning your ancestral families – slave-holding and slave alike – online and in books/magazines/journals. Invite those with common families to share with you. Demonstrate your research abilities and knowledge. Work to foster the spirit of sharing, openness and cooperation in all of genealogy. Write articles for publication and speak to local and regional groups about your research, emphasizing methods and case studies.

Attitudes concerning respect, trust, discrimination, gender, race, age, sexual identity, religion, etc. change slowly over time. We’ve made tremendous gains in American society towards an [issue] blind society in my lifetime, but there is still more to gain. Frankly, I think that genealogy is ahead of American society in terms of accepting diverse persons and views.

Enough rambling – give me a keyboard and I drivel, it seems.

Cheers — Randy

Comment by Randy Seaver — 9 February 2010 @ 1:53 pm

Randy – thanks so much for offering your perspective to this *complex* dialogue ~ it ain’t easy!:-)

I certainly get where you are coming from & respect (and appreciate) your insight. However, let me clarify a few of my comments. For the ease of conversation, let me use myself (and you) as the example:

* Slave Research. I’m not requesting that you or anyone dedicate themselves to researching my Ancestry — I have that covered. I would however like to see the same kind of reciprocity I witness daily in the broader genealogy community extended to me. The genea-community thrives on random acts of kindness, sharing of information & open dialogue. However African-American researchers rarely yield this benefit when discussing slave lineage. Slavery is very often the historical elephant in the room. What I am trying to say is that the expectation is NOT for you to become an expert of slave research; it is for you to share what you find via your own personal research.

* Community Visibility. On an average OGR gets approx. 500-700 visitors per day/3500 visitors per week, which is pretty good for a niche blog. I’ve been online since the late 90s with my research. I dare say *Google* Mechie + Taylor + Georgia + Roots & you’ll probably pull-up a post/message from 1998!:-) I’ve more than paid my genea-dues, with no goal in sight to make my name better known. I’d just be satisfied to have the opportunity to discover my bloodline beyond the year of 1865.

* Northern/Southern Slaveholders. For me the issue is the record type, not the locale. My interest is not solely in making available southern slave data but any/all slave data. Also, just for clarity — I am not speaking to records pertaining to my line specifically. My request is far broader! If you are a researcher, and encounter slave data via your own personal search, know that unless you are willing to share what you’ve discovered, the living descendant of that slave ancestor may NEVER know of it.

* Blog Comments. I love the times when I find OGR included in your Best of the Week posts! I certainly hope I’m making myself CRYSTAL clear this post/discussion is NOT about “popularity”? If we were members of a tennis club & didn’t discuss Slavery, I’d be fine with that because we are there to play and/or learn about tennis. However, we’re members of a genealogy community & a large portion of our collective history involved Slavery. Part of being inclusive is to support/nurture the interests & needs of people in your community. This hasn’t happened on the level it should.

* Invisible? Luckie — quite possibly! But again, this isn’t about seeing my name in print or tossed about the genea-community. It’s about African-American researchers experiencing the kind of reciprocity other genealogists in the community benefit from daily. My genea-quest is very personal & I am only working to please the folks who chose me to do this work — my Ancestors.

* Give It Time. I agree society has made tremendous strides & yes — we do have some distance to go. However, here’s where I have to be frank. IF the American genealogy community were ahead — you, I & a host of other folks would not be having this very relevant online/offline dialogue. In truth, the issues that swirl around us daily in society, are mirrored here too… just on a much smaller scale. But just like society, we can choose to effect change to move viewpoints/discussions forward.

I hope that is what we are doing here today.


Comment by admin — 9 February 2010 @ 3:25 pm


It was my first time commenting on your blog. Ironically, less than 24 hours have passed since my comment that I haven’t found any slave owners in my ancestry, and I can no longer say that.

I received a copy in the mail today of a family history book published back in 1947 that contains a reference. Turns out to be a 17th century ancestor in New Amsterdam – not exactly where I would have expected to uncover it. Genealogy is filled with surprises. I have to to see if I can find the source the author cites, but I will share the information I find, somewhere. May even bring it up on the relevant Rootsweb surname message board, since it has been rather active in the past, and it has never been discussed.

Comment by TransDutch — 9 February 2010 @ 6:24 pm


I am impressed and appreciative that we can all come together and even discuss this. It is a sensitive topic, but as we have all conceded, will only improve with honest discussion, which is what I see going on. Love San & Renate’s idea about the Genealogy Carnival. Count me in.

And to TransDutch, even though this is a serious topic, you must be amused on some level, as it seems your ancestors have chimed in on our conversation! (-: Great news about the find!

Comment by A_CAIN — 9 February 2010 @ 11:20 pm
TransDutch – I think your Ancestors have really good timing & a sense of humor!:-)

Amy – It is a VERY sensitive subject & I’m proud that we could tackle the subject in this manner. It’s the first open dialogue between descendants (black & white) I’ve ever been involved in & I am encouraged by the results.


Comment by admin — 10 February 2010 @ 6:56 am

Hello everyone! Just an FYI that I’ve been following the great post by Luckie and the comments – it further reinforces what my mind and heart know: we have a great, committed community of genealogy bloggers. I was on vacation over the weekend with limited access to I haven’t had time to comment before this.

First, I want to thank Luckie for the great post.

Second, even though most of my ancestry is from New York, I have encountered records listing slave ownership, namely my Freer family in New Paltz, NY. These records are known and are public but after this discussion, I realize that a blog post on my personal genealogy blog can cast that information further so researchers can find them. I am committed to doing that this week.

Third, I chatted on the phone with Luckie yesterday while I was in Reno, NV and she and I agreed that an African-American Genealogy carnival would definitely benefit not only the genealogy blogging community but the genealogy community as well. So I will work to get that going – and to have the first deadline possibly by the end of February. Luckie and I also decided it would be great if we could have rotating carnival hosts to share the burden. Look for more info at GeneaBloggers this week!

Finally, while I try to avoid long comments on my own posts or making them on others, I urge you to go and look at all the comments again and write down ideas for posts on your own blogs. The dialog is rich, and we can take those riches and make them work on our own sites to continue the conversation.


Comment by Thomas MacEntee — 10 February 2010 @ 3:06 pm

As always, I’m late to the discussion and think many of the points I would have covered have already been discussed. Love the Carnival idea.

Comment by Mavis — 10 February 2010 @ 10:22 pm

I am very new to this community of Blogging and Twittering, I honestly love your writing and they way you have brought this up for our attention. I never knew this problem existed. Know that I know I will do whatever it takes to help in any way possible.You have a great blessing in your writings and in your heart. God bless!

Comment by Gwen Kubberness — 11 February 2010 @ 7:05 pm

T2 – thank you for both your comments & your ear to what is a very *prickly* topic! I too was amazed by the responses received from the community — communication is such a lovely tool! Looking forward to keeping the channels open & the dialogue flowing!:-)

Mavis – thanks for dropping-in my friend & you are not late, this dialogue needs to continue in order for us to see the fruit from it! See you next week in Savannah!:-)

Gwen – welcome to the community & to OGR! Thank you for the compliment too — the only way I’ve found to survive is by following my heart… I think that’s what you read in my writing — it’s 100% how I feel. Please visit again & I’ll be sure to get you added to our bloglist!:-)


Comment by admin — 12 February 2010 @ 9:20 am

What a wonderful discussion of a most sensitive topic. I can’t help but suggest, however, that the reason few articles appear in the genea-blogging community about “slave owners” and their “slaves” is because the ever-changing way in which the African-American community has insisted that the rest of America refer to it. Over the seven decades I have lived it seems that the very terms by which African-Americans demand to be called changes every decade or so — and as a result many researchers simply don’t know what is politically correct today. “Black” seems not to be acceptable although almost all of the early census resports use “Black” as a racial designation; “Mulatto” seems not to be acceptable although such information is widely found in the census reports; and the word “Negro” has all but disappeared from our working vocabularies. “Slave” is an emotional charged term — and whereas at one time wealth was often determined by the number of “slaves” one owned, “slave owner” is also a negatively viewed term because of the super-charged speech of the last few decades.

Indeed, how do we reasonably discuss a situation which a huge segment of our population refuses to let a spade be called a spade — slavery happened. To discuss slavery in the setting of a family history is not to advocate its return but simple to record what happened. I rarely list the names of slave owners nor the names of their slaves (of which I have thousands of such names) because of fear that I will be tarred with the notion of being politically incorrect.

In my humble opinion, the primary reason genea-bloggers avoid this topic is because we simply don’t know which way the wind is blowing regarding the words to use to discuss issues such as Caucasian, Negro, White, Black, White Americans, Black Americans, slave, slave owners etc etc etc etc.

Comment by Terry Thornton — 14 February 2010 @ 5:31 pm

Luckie Love:

Thank you for this discussion.

I am a researcher and I have a commitment to my research, wherever it takes me. I am one of those who talk and joke with you on Twitter. I read and am always interested in your research methods knowing you may have to be far more vigilante than I. (Each one teach one.)

I hope that you’ve seen Shades Magazine in Black History Month. I discussed some of the wonderful black American photographers in history in the 1800s & early 1900s and their accomplishments. I was so intrigued by the information I found and shared. It was easier to find because they enjoyed some level of notoriety. Yet, I was concerned that I would be viewed as “not knowing whereof she speaks.” I did the research and I believe it to be thorough. In the end, research is research regardless of the color of the researcher or the researched. It is the journey the researcher and the researched each take that make them unique.

Shades doesn’t just discuss black ancestors, photographers, or photographs in Black History month. I try to include some information every month as it is an area of historic photographs that is often overlooked.

In the 1854 article I read and used to write about J.P. Ball, there was absolutely no mention of his color. Today, 2010, I mentioned it often and was struck by the irony of that. How far have we really come? I so hope that members of the J.P. Ball family contact me, I will share everything I’ve found.

I have a black ancestor. I know this because I was recently found to be a sickle cell carrier with an extremely high sickle cell count. I am pouring through my family records and have found that my Missouri relatives owned slaves. I have found some of their names and am doing research to write an article to list those names in the hope it will trigger something for someone somewhere. But I want to be certain of my research before I share it online.

All that said, you have made me stop and think. And that was the purpose of this post. I have not done enough. In my research I found photographic databases, books, newspapers and magazines containing information for black family historians (slave and freemen). I had no idea that Helena, Montana, in the late 1800s early 1900s had a large black community. I have an obligation to share all this information with the genealogy community as a whole.

You got me.


P.S. If you ever want to share a family photograph and your research of it with Shades, I would be thrilled.

Comment by footnoteMaven — 14 February 2010 @ 7:01 pm

Wow wow. I do know communication is opening and many commentors on this blog I am familiar with advocating open communication. This research is going to be somewhat difficult due to the confusion of names and the incomplete paperwork of the Emancipation Act. Yes I have information and research I am willing and able to share. Gini Webb and George Geder have really encouraged my studies in this area. It has been mentioned that we need to get over any issues and share, rejoice and honor all our ancestors and their relationships. God willing and the river does not rise. I will blog about the Mooring/Needham family before and after the Great War and then try to follow up with the slave children that lived with them and took their surname after the war. I have another family I will blog —-emancipated by Holiday Hayley in the early 1800s that had to be settled in another state that allowed free afro-americans. I would love to hook up and follow these families. Many of my relatives included narratives that again I want to share with their families. So if anyone gets a carnival together please please invite me.

Comment by ruth himan — 14 February 2010 @ 7:22 pm


I don’t know if you will read this comment or not, but I am an avid reader of your blog and enjoy your posts very much. I have been researching my genealogy for about 5 years now and have found it very rewarding. Much of my ancestry is from below the Mason-Dixon line and it’s certainly possible one of my ancestors was African. I agree that more information about slaves needs to be preserved (although to my knowledge I haven’t any ancestors who owned slaves). If one is lucky, than slaves may be listed in the church’s parrochial registers (such as the slaves in Argentina). There are numerous collections of slave owners’ manuscripts and personal/business papers rotting away in negligent persons’ homes right now as we speak. If it is possible, the LDS church should be invited by these slave owners’ descendants to film them before it’s too late or possibly purposely disposed of.

And this brings me to another point: The information of slave ancestry may not be interesting to Caucasians right now, but what about their descendants? Certainly because of the adimixture of races in the USA, this information will be interesting to your descendants who will be of mixed race eventually. If not today, then maybe 50, 100, 200 years from now? Many records neglected by genealogists today will be valuable to their descendants. For example: church parish registers of Polynesia, the Tewahedo Orthodox Christian church records of Ethiopia, the Japanese Shinto and Buddhist church registers (which date back to the 1600s and most times even earlier), and the familial genealogical records of the Arabs. All these records will eventually disintegrate if the LDS church does not, or is not allowed to film them. Most of the Catholic Church parish records of Port-au-Prince in Haiti were most likely destroyed in the earthquake a few weeks ago. Something has to be done.

Best of luck with your search


Comment by Guillaume Archambault — 14 February 2010 @ 8:30 pm

[…] Whew! Earlier this evening I received comments from Terry Thornton (included below) in respect to my Madness Monday: Open Letter To The Genealogy Community – Help Me To Understand. […]

Pingback by Why The Dialogue MUST Continue: My Answer to Terry Thorton’s Query « Our Georgia Roots | Our Ancestors of Washington-Wilkes — 14 February 2010 @ 8:38 pm
I recently posted this genealogical sketch online, complete with slave details in the will: This is New Hampshire. I am still straightening out the 4th and 5th generations of this Wallis family. However, two of the slaves, Caesar and Phyllis marry and settle in New Hampshire adopting the Wallis family name. When I get to the 6th generation I will have to sort out their family and their descendants as free blacks from the Wallis family. My question to the African-American researchers out there is this: This is the second time I’ve researched a family out of which slaves became free and adopted the name of the former master. Should I include, as an addendum, their families as a part of the study because they share the same surname or is that insulting because they weren’t of the same family? I deal only with northern families (both families in question are from New Hampshire) which outlaws slavery shortly after the American Revolution.

Comment by Martin — 14 February 2010 @ 10:37 pm

fM – I adore you & the DIVINE Shades! As an artist, I find that I always want to “comb” through it slowly — taking in each page. Tonight is my night (Mom’s gone home) to partake. Thank you for sharing the laughs & the hard topics — that’s what friends do!:-)

Ruth – thank you for visiting OGR & sharing in what I know can be an awkward discussion. I wish every reader could know that I (and most other African-American researchers) do not take issue with slave owning Ancestors who are long gone or their living descendants. You can’t change history any more than I can. Our work is about progress & moving forward. So thankful you are willing to share with us in that effort!

Guillaume – thank you for supporting OGR ~ I love hearing that you enjoy my posts! You’re so right about the importance of our historic data across cultures. I often say that my family looks like the United Nations, ranging from the darkest to the fairest of shades. We love them all. Here’s hoping we, the community, find a way to restore all our Ancestors.

Martin – thank you for posting about Caesar & Phyllis. Yours is an interesting question & one I never been asked before! I LOVE it!:-) I honestly will have to query a few fellow researchers to get there take. I think we’re often just so happy to see the information captured — how it’s recorded doesn’t pose an issue! Look for a follow-up email from me soon!

Again thank you friends… there is certainly hope!:-)


Comment by admin — 14 February 2010 @ 11:25 pm


Wow! I think you’ve opened the dam!!! And it’s about time someone did! Thank you for bringing this to light for so many [me included]. I would LOVE to see a COG on slave documentation! I recently ranted on a Madness Monday about clients wanting me to “erase” and “delete” such records from their family history! While it was a terrible, shameful, time in our nation’s history, it is a time that needs to be preserved! Cheers to you for bringing our faults to light, and making us “toe the line” as professionals! Way to go Luckie!

Comment by Cyndi Beane Henry — 15 February 2010 @ 9:51 am

Luckie, timing is everything?? before I found links to this post and some others, I was working on the post at Reflections posted today here:

You will note some comments from GeneaBlogger, Thomas.

I sure hope someone can use the docs and leads I found. Wouldn’t that be something??


Comment by Carol — 15 February 2010 @ 12:24 pm


I too am late to the conversation, I have no slavery in my ancestry, however, I cannot let this opportunity pass without applauding you for calling out this issue. Thanks for bringing the problem to the forefront for those experiencing this disturbing problem but also for those of us who are unaware of your frustration. By the out-pouring of support that I have read above, there certainly is reason to hope. I look forward to hearing how your efforts are rewarded.

Comment by Lynn Palermo — 16 February 2010 @ 8:52 am

Thanks for the prod. I’d been saving some little bits of information on slaves in the family to write stories later. Well, the stories can wait! I just posted the bits I have on today’s blog, and more to follow tomorrow. Not only may these bits help someone NOW who is searching for information, but they may know the rest of the story!

Heather at

Comment by Heather Rojo — 16 February 2010 @ 9:03 am


Thanks for opening this conversation for all of us.

Comment by Kathleen Brandt — 19 February 2010 @ 10:04 pm
I forgot to mention. Please visit my site for blogs on Free Coloreds/African American Genealogy, The Wiley Morris Family – 1807 and The Strader Family. Also under Cultural Patterns, I have a couple of relevant blogs.


Comment by Kathleen Brandt — 19 February 2010 @ 10:09 pm

Aye Dios Mio… I’ve missed you 😀

I have obviously missed a very interesting discussion. But, after reading your blog…i can’t agree with you more. This is the frustrating part of any AA research. You come across a slave owning family of same surname as yours, same area..however, when you look at their information..slavery is all but left out of their detailed family history.

Comment by A. Spence — 22 February 2010 @ 8:32 am

[…] have responded to my call to action for the genealogy to share important slave data with their African-American research counterparts. Many more will show their support via the […]

Pingback by Madness Monday: The Digital Divide Revisited ~ Tough Love For The African-American Genealogy Community « Our Georgia Roots | Our Ancestors of Washington-Wilkes — 1 March 2010 @ 7:04 am
[…] genealogy community took my Open Letter to heart, and immediately began setting the stage for what, to my knowledge, has never occurred […]

Pingback by Madness Monday: Announcing A Week Of Carnival MADNESS At OGR!:-) « Our Georgia Roots | Our Ancestors of Washington-Wilkes — 8 March 2010 @ 11:20 am
[…] has shaken up the genealogical community and she is best described as an Ancestral activist. Her Open Letter to the genealogy community has resulted in an incredible response from white researchers who have information about enslaved […]

Pingback by African Roots Podcast #50 March 12, 2010 « African Roots — 12 March 2010 @ 1:44 pm
[…] Thanks to Luckie of OurGeorgiaRoots Madness Monday Post: Open Letter To The Genealogy Community-Hel… and Sandra of I Never Knew My Father Friend of Friends: Lessons From The Underground Railroad Post, Now there are some SlaveOwners Descendants that are willing to share Slave Records that their Family has owned or Slave records that they might have came across in their Research, but there are some that think of this as “SHAMEFUL” and there are some that is “ASHAMED”. […]

Pingback by Echoes of My Nola Past » Blog Archive » Carnival of African American Genealogy: Restore My Name — 17 March 2010 @ 5:39 pm
[…] February 8, the genea-community began answering my charge to become a Friend of Friends to their fellow African-American researchers, by sharing oft times private slave data encountered through their own personal genealogy […]

Pingback by 1st Edition ~ Carnival of African-American Genealogy: Restore My Name – Slave Records & Genealogy Research « Our Georgia Roots | Our Ancestors of Washington-Wilkes — 19 March 2010 @ 7:13 am