Anyone who talks to me on a regular basis knows I’ve spent the past year looking up my family’s history on www.ancestry.com. This has been so much fun because I am finding out so much about my family! At first, I literally spent hours searching, printing, calling my relatives to see what they knew and then went back to searching the online data base. Next to talking to my relatives, Ancestry.com has been the most helpful.
This experience has been an uplifting one because I didn’t think I’d be able to find very useful information since I’m African-American. African-Americans were not counted in the US Census until 1870 since they were considered property. Therefore, every generation I was able to locate was a victory in my heart. The oldest relative I found was born in 1795. I found my great- great-great-great grandmother Roseanna O’Neal on a US census record. I was beyond excited about it.
So far my research has been pretty easy because my mother’s paternal side of the family stayed in the same rural county in North Carolina for three generations. Even when great-grand parents finally did move, it was just one county south. They also had large families which helps with searching.
The next turn in my research came when I discovered some LDS websites and noticed they used Pedigree Charts and Family Group Charts. These helped with my organization because I had about fifty sheets of copies and they were cluttering up my home office area. The Pedigree Charts condensed my findings to nine pages. They also helped me see gaps in my research. The only issue was they only looked at direct family lines without including any siblings. That’s where the Family Group Charts came in handy. The Family Group Charts proved to be great reference sheets. There were spaces for information on occupations, previous spouses and burial sites.
The next step was to do more research. My Ancestry database searches have come to a plateau. I haven’t been able to go any further back because slave holders did not live enslaved people by name on their tax property sheets. I’d need to make a personal visit to look through documents in order to find out who my ancestor’s owners were.
I’ve bought a couple of books to help me with my search. This first one is “The Reader’s Digest: The Genealogy Handbook” by Ellen Galford. This book is geared towards helping a person preserve artifacts they find in their search. It’s also geared for someone looking for relative of European descent. It’s not very helpful now, but it could prove to be in the future. According to a DNA test I took last year, I have Eurasian ancestry.
The second and most useful book is David T. Thackery’s book, “Finding Your African-American Ancestors: A Beginners Guide.” This book may be slim, but it is full of information relevant to my search. I reccomend this book to any African-American who is serious about find an anscestor.
So what’s next???
Well, I’m working on a Family Heritage book that includes some pictures and obituaries I have collected over the years. My dh’s family has already traced their family tree so I can just add that into our heritage book at a later time. They even know the plantation they were on when enslaved people were declared free. They have family reunions there every five years.
I’ve also infected my friends and have been asked to do some pedigree charts for them. We’ll see how that goes. If this keeps up, I’ll have to charge ’em.