Try a new Membership!

AfriGeneas News & Announcements
August 2007

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Dr. James M. Rose Helps Families Connect to Their Ancestors

James Rose began researching his family's roots for his own peace of mind.

But the genealogist's work has ended up putting hundreds of spirits to rest.

The Sun City Hilton Head resident's most recent project, "Eyewitness to American History," has combined the controversial Works Progress Administration Slave Narratives with census records, wills, maps and pictures on DVD to help authenticate the stories of former slaves and provide their families with information that might otherwise be impossible to navigate.

"It was my job to bring them alive, to put their family on paper," Rose, 66, said. "Substantiating the data that's in those narratives turned them into real people. I call them my 'spirits.' This was my destiny."

While the multimedia project has been deemed a milestone by some of Rose's peers in African-American genealogy, he considers it to be the culmination of a journey that began when he was a graduate student more than 30 years ago. He was haunted by a question more college students ask of themselves than not: "Who am I?"

"I was in graduate school at Queens College in New York taking an African studies class when I told my teacher I didn't know my family history," Rose said. "My father used to tell us that he was Cape Verdean, but I didn't know where the heck Cape Verde was. My mother was close-mouthed about what she was all about. She didn't talk about her family with me."

To encourage Rose to explore the questions he had about himself and his family's beginnings, his teacher introduced him to Alex Haley. At the time, Haley was exploring the possibility of doing oral history in Africa and asked Rose to join him as a research consultant. While the work served as a forerunner to Haley's "Roots," a novel based loosely on Haley's family's history that started with the story of Kunta Kinte, Rose's discoveries led him to pursue his own project.

"When I was working with Alex, he basically told me to do an oral history of my family first," Rose said, recalling how he began his research by interviewing his father, aunts and uncles. He discovered his father's family came to the United States from the West coast of Africa with the name "Ribiero," but changed it to "Rose" upon their arrival. Because they were Portuguese, their birth certificates designated them as "white."

On his mother's side, he discovered he was a descendent through marriage of Sally Hemings, a slave owned by Thomas Jefferson. He said his ancestors also might have been the "first White House band," playing the piano and violin for the Marquis de Lafayette when he visited

Read the rest of the story . . .

Source: The Island Packet

Posted by Staff on 8/23/07 at 5:45 am EST

6 Jul 2003 | 05 Sep 2007
Copyright © 2003-2007. All rights reserved.
AfriGeneas ~ African Ancestored Genealogy