My work is harder now. Moving further back in my family's history will require examining slave census records, bills of sale, wills and bibles from slave-holding families and other documents. Big breakthroughs are fewer and farther between, but every now and again I get these little gifts. I'll take another look at a census and find a missing relative right under my nose. Or, a long-lost cousin will contact me and help solve a family mystery or share a wonderful story that adds texture to the bare facts about my ancestors.
Consider the details I learned a couple weeks ago about the family of Mattie Rivers, one of my maternal great-grandmothers. My new cousin Ed wrote me:
There are a handful of Rivers in Tuskegee, Alabama....The Rivers were inI can't wait to tell this story to my nieces and nephews. Learning my family's history has helped me feel connected to ancestors who lived more than a hundred years ago, and it has helped me understand my place in American history.
Talladega...teaching in the mid 1800s. Booker T. Washington was looking for a
strong black resource to relocate to Tuskegee to teach the black children there.
He asked Samuel Rivers...brother of Edmund Jr. (my great-great-grandfather) to relocate to Tuskegee to head up the program. Not sure how many of the Rivers family relocated...but Samuel and Sarah did relocate and opened the first black school in Tuskegee..still operating today..Booker T. used to ride down from Talladega...so I'm told...on his white horse to see how they were doing.
Want to research your family tree?
Step one is gathering all of the information you can from relatives to construct a loose tree of family connections. Don't just find out who was whose daddy, ask about uncles, aunts and neighbors. Where did your people live? Did they move? Did the men enlist in the service? Did your ancestors own land? Are their people of other races in your family tree? It's okay if you only have a little information. It will all help you when you begin records research.
Throughout the month, I will blog more about my family history research and how you can get started digging into your own family's past.
In the meantime...
Read more about my attempt to find female ancestors here.
Read about the importance of learning history here.
Watch http://www.ancestry.com/ this month. The genealogy site often offers free access to African American records during Black History Month.
Take part in Mamalicious' 32 Days of Black History Month blogathon here.