2023 June – African American Research

Essential Tools and Strategies for African American Research

Coordinator/Instructor: Deborah A. Abbott, PhD

With Additional Instructors: LaBrenda Garrett-Nelson, JD, LLM, CG®, CGL(SM), FASG, Sharon Batiste Gillins, Shamele Jordon, Tim Pinnick, Robyn Smith, Ari Wilkins

Held 18-23 June 2023, virtually. Registration Information.

Whether you know or suspect you had enslaved ancestors or not, this foundational course teaches the importance of mastering the tools, techniques, and strategies needed for difficult research which affects all populations.  Learn how to identify, access, and analyze a variety of record sources appropriate for successful research for all populations. Case studies and examples showcase African American genealogical research with techniques and skills which can be utilized by all researchers.

MONDAY – The Basics

9:30 AM – Introductions

10:00 AM – Review of Miscellaneous Records that Should not be Overlooked (Gillins)
Researchers often say, “I’ve looked everywhere!” to find the answer to a research question after only investigating a limited range of records, i.e., census and vital records.  To be successful, researchers must examine a broad range of record types.  This session will include a survey of records – common and not-so-common.  Learn strategies researchers can use to gleam every bit of information from these records.

11:30 AM -Effectively Using the U.S Census Records – 1790-1950 (Wilkins)
The U.S. Census is an essential source for discovering and reconstructing local and family history.  Understanding the importance of what can be found in the  various census data is crucial for African American research.  Learn how to analyze the information found in the census records to ensure that the clues needed for successful research are not missed.

1:45 PM – Importance of Transcribing Documents (Garrett-Nelson)
Effective use of documents in research requires a knowledge of what it says, and transcription is a basic skill that will improve your view.

3:15 PM – Preparing the Research Plan (Jordon)
With an understanding of context, important research questions lead to the development of an effective and successful strategy to find answers and lead you to the next discovery.

4:30 PM – 5:00 PM: Office Hours (Abbott, Garrett-Nelson, Gillins, Wilkins) Q and A and discussion of the day’s topics.

TUESDAY – Importance of Context

9:30 AM – Class Review (Abbott)

10:00 AM – Historical and Legal Background (Garrett-Nelson)
Seeing the forest through the trees requires an understanding of what has happened, where it has happened, and why.

11:30 AM – Utilizing Maps and Tracing Migration (Jordon)
Place, location, and movement are three ways we attempt to answer questions about where our ancestors live at a particular point in time.  A clearer view of migration and locating places will help verify information found in other records.

1:45 PM – Researching in Libraries & Archives for African American Genealogy (Pinnick)
Locating available resources is the key to finding appropriate and complete results. Improve your understanding of how and where Libraries & Archives can help you find answers.

3:15 PM – Manuscript Collections and Oral History in African American Genealogy (Abbott)
Find the words and stories that often explain the social and historical life of your ancestor’s story in a much fuller way. Learn where to look and how to use those works as strategic tools in your genealogy research success.

4:30 PM – 5:00 PM: Office Hours (Abbott, Garrett-Nelson, Jordon, Pinnick) Q and A and discussion of the day’s topics.

WEDNESDAY – Research Skills that Produce Clues

9:30 AM – Class Review (Abbott)

10:00 AM – Using Spread Sheets as a Research Tool (Wilkins)
The importance of using rows and columns to organize your findings for clearer review and analysis.

11:30 AM – Using Land, Property, Wills & Probate (Gillins)
Metes, boundaries, townships, and estate settlements not only point us to locations but help define the family lives and assets owned by themselves and/or the people surrounding them.

1:45 PM – Using Deeds in African American Research (R. Smith)
Deed records are one of genealogy’s most trusted and voluminous sources.  Often overlooked, they can help in the genealogical search by providing information about ancestors and their communities even if your ancestors did not own land.

3:15 PM – The Voice of the People: African Americans in Early 20th Century Magazines (Pinnick)
Turn-of-the-century periodicals are an extremely valuable source of information for conducting African American genealogical research. An introduction and discussion of some key publications along with a sampling of what they contain will be presented.

4:30 PM – 5:00 PM: Office Hours (Abbott, Gillins, Smith, Wilkins) Q and A and discussion of the day’s topics.

THURSDAY – Breaking Down Brick Walls

10:00 AM – Understanding Records of the Reconstruction Era (Gillins)
See how this transitional time in our history left us great biographical records and descriptive applications that include place and time.

11:30 AM – A Case Study: From Freedom to Slavery (Abbott)
Follow this family for a great reminder that researching one’s family is a spiral process, not a straight line. Look for the facts, decisions, and relationship that link them all together.

1:45 PM – Using Newspapers for Effective African American and Slave Research (Pinnick)
Newspapers are the voice of a community. They are used to announce newcomers, new children, and the loss of citizens. Discover the skills needed to find the tough answers.

3:15 PM – Using the Records of Ante Bellum Southern Plantations (Wilkins)
Discover how to make this large set of records help as you discover new family members in your research.  This will include the details to make this resource shine.

4:30 PM – 5:00 PM: Office Hours (Abbott, Garrett-Nelson, Gillins, Pinnick, Wilkins) Q and A and discussion of the day’s topics.

 FRIDAY – Looking Forward…

10:00 AM – Utility of DNA Evidence (Garrett-Nelson)
Learn how to effectively use DNA Evidence in your research questions.

11:30 AM – Tying it all together: A Case Study: The Boykin Family (Abbott)
Listening carefully, testing your decisions, examining evidence in the context of laws, paying attention and persistence – these are all the keys of resolving long-standing family questions.

Wrap-up, farewells, and certificates before lunch