AfriGeneas News & Announcements
February 2007

Monday, February 26, 2007

Genealogists Reveal Al Sharpton Descended from Slaves Owned by Strom Thurmond's Relatives

NEW YORK (AP) � Genealogists have revealed that the Rev. Al Sharpton is a descendent of a slave owned by relatives of the late Sen. Strom Thurmond � a discovery the civil rights activist on Sunday called "shocking."

Sharpton learned of his connection to Thurmond, once a prominent defender of segregation, last week through the Daily News, which asked genealogists to trace his roots.

"It was probably the most shocking thing in my life," Sharpton said at a news conference Sunday, the same day the tabloid revealed the story.

Some of Thurmond's relatives said the nexus also came as a surprise to them. Doris Strom Costner, a distant cousin who said she knew the late senator all her life, said Sunday she "never heard of such a thing."

"My momma never would talk to me about nothing like that," Costner said of ancestors who owned slaves. "She only talked to me about good things."

The revelations surfaced after contacted a Daily News reporter who agreed to have his own family tree done. The intrigued reporter then turned around and asked Sharpton if he wanted to participate. Sharpton said he told the paper, "Go for it."

The genealogists, who were not paid by the newspaper, uncovered the ancestral ties using a variety of documents that included census, marriage and death records.

Read the rest of the story . . .

Source: USA Today

Posted by Staff on 2/26/07 at 12:09 am EST

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Ancestry Launches Largest Online Collection of African-American Historical Records

Newly Expanded Collection Traces Back to Thousands of African-Americans Living Before the Civil War

PROVO, Utah, Feb. 21 /PRNewswire/ -- In celebration of Black History Month,, the world's largest online resource for family history, today announced the launch of the largest collection of African-American family history records available and searchable online.

The collection, which represents the 19th and early 20th centuries, features more than 55 million black family history records that collectively dispel the common misconception that very few historical records were kept for African-Americans and that tracing African-American ancestry is virtually impossible.

"The power and depth of this collection speaks directly to the misperceptions of black family research, offering hope that transcends time and inspires every generation," said Tim Sullivan, President and CEO of The Generations Network, parent company of "One of our youngest customers, 15-year-old Jari Honora from New Orleans, has traced his Creole family tree to 1801, and many others are finding that tracing their family trees is possible."'s newly expanded African-American Historical Records Collection contains U.S. Colored Troops service records of those who served in the Civil War and Freedmen's Bureau records as well as a myriad of other African-American specific resources such as photos, slave narratives from 3,500 former slaves, and the soon-to-be-added Southern Claims Commission records.

The collection also includes 53 million African-American records in the complete U.S. Federal Census Collection (1790 - 1930), which is now searchable with a new, special filter that identifies African-American entries, regardless of their description in the census such as "colored," "Negro," "black," "mulatto" or other variations. The 1870 census is a major milestone in black family history as the first census enumeration to list formerly enslaved African-Americans by name.

A cross-section of the collection also reveals several black icons such as Rosa Parks, Langston Hughes and Louis Armstrong, as well as the ancestral legacies of James Earl Jones and Denzel Washington. Other celebrity highlights include --

* Jada Pinkett-Smith: Actress Jada Pinkett-Smith, wife of actor Will Smith, descends from a line of African-Americans free before the Civil War. Her great-great-grandfather Daniel Pinkett was just a young boy when he was recorded in the 1860 census. At that time, free blacks were the only African-Americans noted in the census. After the Civil War, in 1870, the 13-year-old could not read or write and had not attended school during the previous year. Ten years later in 1880, not only could 23-year-old Daniel read and write, he was a school teacher.

* Maya Angelou: According to the 1930 census, the poet's 18-year-old mother, Vivian Johnson, was a widow with two young children -- two-year-old Maya (who is listed by her birth name, Marguerite Johnson) and three-year-old son Bailey. The young family is living in St. Louis, Mo., with Vivian's parents; Vivian's mother's name is Marguerite.

* Frederick Douglass: In January 1871, the famed abolitionist's Freedman's Savings Bank account at the Washington, D.C. branch, received a $1,500 deposit. Douglass' bank record was signed by his son Lewis, suggesting that Douglass was not present at the time of the deposit. Douglass served as President of the Freedman's Savings Bank during Post-Civil War Reconstruction.

* Duke Ellington: A 19-year-old Duke Ellington listed his occupation as messenger for the U.S. government on the World War I draft registration card he filled out in 1918. His place of employment was Chief of Staff, War Department, Washington, D.C.

"Thirty years ago, Alex Haley's Roots ignited fervor for black family history that swept the entire nation, and yet tracing African-American ancestry remains a challenging adventure," said Tony Burroughs, African- American family historian and author of "Black Roots: A Beginners Guide to Tracing the African American Family Tree" (Simon & Schuster, 2001). "'s expansive collection is a major breakthrough that opens the gateway for African-Americans everywhere to dig deeper into the lives of their ancestors via the Internet. Though black family history still presents a unique set of challenges, this collection is major stepping stone that makes African-American genealogy resources more accessible and illuminates the legacies of past generations for us to celebrate today."

This month, individuals can search the African-American Historical Records Collection and receive free access to for three days. To explore the African-American Historical Records Collection, visit


Posted by Staff on 2/22/07 at 3:02 am EST

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Discovery of Prominent Relative Surprises Local Exhibitor

Friday, February 02, 2007

Felix Hoover

A Protestant�s last-minute discovery about a prominent black Roman Catholic left her scrambling to update her exhibit for Saturday�s Black History Collectors and Memorabilia Fair near Port Columbus.

Reita Smith of Upper Arlington had planned to reprise her Underground Railroad display from last year�s inaugural fair until her recent phone conversation with Art Thomas, a cousin in Springfield who shares her passion for genealogy.

The two were chatting about the fair and its sponsor, Black Catholic Ministries, when Thomas mentioned Daniel A. Rudd, founder of the National Black Catholic Congress.

Read the rest of the story . . .

Source: The Columbus Dispatch

Posted by Staff on 2/20/07 at 5:03 am EST

Seventh Graders Learn About Their Pasts

DNAPrint Genomics AncestryByDNA(TM) Product Helps New York City Seventh Graders Learn About Their Pasts
Students Surprised by Results; Project Draws Media Attention

SARASOTA, FL--(MARKET WIRE)--Feb 6, 2007 -- DNAPrint Genomics, Inc. (OTC BB:DNAG.OB - News), today announced the successful completion of an ancestry project involving five classes at Middle School 223, The Laboratory School of Finance and Technology in The Bronx, a New York City borough, that employed the Company's proprietary AncestryByDNA(TM) product and which rendered results that surprised some of the students and drew media attention.

The project was the brainchild of Eric Lincoln, a teacher at the Bronx school. The project involved the taking of swab samples from 11 students (nine Hispanic and two African-American) who were selected on the basis of written essays, and a sample from Mr. Lincoln, a Caucasian. DNAPrint Genomics donated 12 AncestryByDNA(TM) kits and processing fees to the project.

The results surprised some students, who were profiled in stories that ran in The New York Daily News and on New York 1, the local cable news channel.

Read the rest of the story . . .


Posted by Staff on 2/20/07 at 4:47 am EST

Obama Wouldn't Be First Black President

By Aysha Hussain

� DiversityInc 2007 � All rights reserved. No article on this site can be reproduced by any means, print, electronic or any other, without prior written permission of the publisher.

You've seen the headlines: "Are Americans Ready for a Black President?" "Is Obama Black Enough?" "Obama: America's First Black President?"

Ever since the nation first met Illinois Sen. Barack Obama in 2004, his race has been called into question more times than Michael Jackson's. Obama is clearly a black man, but is this really a breakthrough? Some blacks say Obama isn't "black enough," which seems ironic because for many blacks, former President Bill Clinton was "black enough." In 2001, Clinton was honored as the nation's "first black president" at the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Annual Awards Dinner in Washington, D.C.

Were there other "black" presidents? Some historians have reason to believe people don't really understand the genealogy of past U.S. Presidents. Research shows at least five U.S. presidents had black ancestors and Thomas Jefferson, the nation's third president, was considered the first black president, according to historian Leroy Vaughn, author of Black People and Their Place in World History.

Read the rest of the article . . .

Source: Diversity, Inc.

Posted by Staff on 2/20/07 at 4:30 am EST

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Volunteers Needed for Virginia Freedmen Extraction and Indexing Project

The Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia is recruiting volunteers for the extraction and indexing of records from the Virginia Freedmen's Bureau. This project will enable historians and descendants of emancipated slaves, freed Blacks, and Black Union Soldiers to access data, much of which has never before been available.

This project is a partnership between the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia, the Genealogical Society of Utah (GSU), and FamilySearch. GSU will scan into digital images the microfilmed records produced by the National Archives and Records Administration. Volunteers will review the images and document the pertinent information in software templates provided by GSU. The images consist of letters, marriage records, labor contract lists, rations lists, etc. GSU will validate the records and make available to extraction and indexing volunteers information via The Black History Museum will recruit and coordinate the efforts of the volunteers across the state of Virginia.

Based on the experience gained from the Virginia Project, GSU will organize projects for extracting and indexing Freedmen records from other southern states. Ultimately, Howard University will place the broader collection of extracted and indexed records on the Internet for access to genealogists and historians.

For more information, see the Black History Museum and Cultural Center's website.

Source: Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia

Posted by Staff on 2/08/07 at 10:18 am EST

Virginia Will Lead the Way in Digitizing African-American Historical Information

RICHMOND - Governor Timothy M. Kaine announced today that Virginia will be the first state in the nation to participate in an historic project to index and digitize Freedmen�s Bureau records, allowing historians and descendents of emancipated slaves, freed Blacks, and Black Union soldiers to access historical data, much of which was never before available.

Virginia was chosen to take the lead in this important project in recognition of the Jamestown 2007 Commemoration of America�s 400th anniversary, and considering the critical role African-Americans have played in Virginia�s early history.

�This is an exciting opportunity for Virginia, and really, for the world,� said Governor Kaine. �Just like the archeological work being done at Jamestown Island, this project gives us the unique opportunity to see and learn for the first time about the lives of these early Virginians.�

The Freedmen�s Bureau records are effectively the "genesis records" of African- American identity post Civil War. They provide the earliest major compilation of information on the African-American community, documenting for the period 1865-1872 names, legalized marriages, educational pursuits, work contracts, and receipt of rations, health care, legal, and other services.

After nearly five years of effort, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) of the United States recently completed the microfilming of all Bureau records, which produced over 1,000 rolls of microfilm. The Genealogical Society of Utah (GSU) will scan these records and provide overall direction to the extraction effort, and FamilySearch will provide online access to the genealogy-related data extracted.

The GSU is now scanning the 203 rolls containing the Virginia records, and will assess over 300,000 digitally scanned images for inclusion in the Virginia Freedmen Project. Ultimately, Howard University will place the broader collection of extracted and indexed records on the Internet for access to genealogists and historians.

�These records capture a special moment in the history of our nation,� said Dr. Roice Luke, a Virginia Commonwealth university Department of Health Administration professor who attended the news conference on behalf of the Genealogical Society of Utah. �This is the first attempt we made as a nation to apply the equality principle, articulated by the founding fathers, to all Americans. We are proud to be part of today�s announcement and pleased to see Virginia taking a leading role.�

The Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia will spearhead the recruitment and coordination of community volunteers, who will extract and index information contained on the scanned records. The Virginia volunteers will utilize updated FamilySearch indexing software and implementation procedures that FamilySearch is currently using to index the 2.4 million rolls of microfilm in its collection.

�This partnership fits perfectly with our mission,� said Stacy Burrs, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia. �Educating people about the experiences and contributions of African-Americans is at the very heart of what we do. We are enthusiastically embracing this project and can easily envision the benefits it will carry for those seeking information about their ancestors.�

Volunteers interested in participating in the Virginia Freedmen Project can do so by contacting the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia at (804) 780-9097.

By focusing exclusively on records generated by the Virginia Freedmen�s Bureau, the Virginia Freedmen Project will serve as a �pilot� for subsequent freedmen extraction projects in other Southern states.

Governor Kaine also unveiled a mock-up Virginia historical marker today that will be erected outside the General Assembly Building signifying where the Freedmen�s Bureau first operated in Richmond. The Governor�s Office is working with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources to begin the process of creating and placing a permanent marker on the site.

Source: Website of Governor Tim Kaine

Posted by Staff on 2/08/07 at 9:57 am EST

6 Jul 2003 | 08 Feb 2007
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