13 Classes Focused on African Heritage at RootsTech 2017

February 8, 2017  - by 

By Falande Swain

World-renowned experts in African-American genealogy and family history will be on hand at RootsTech 2017 to teach you how to unlock your family’s past and make connections with your heritage. Classes on topics such as getting started, how to use technology in your research, and overcoming genealogical challenges will be explored over the four-day conference.

Here’s a list of 13 different classes focused on African heritage. If you see a class that interests you, add it to your schedule in the official RootsTech app.

Wednesday, February 8

Oral Genealogy: Crossing Generations in Africa

It is estimated that more than one third of the earth’s population is not accounted for in written records. Many of these people live in Africa. This presentation will discuss recent work by FamilySearch to collect and preserve genealogical information from the oral traditions of ethnic groups in Africa. FamilySearch has interviewed more than 16,000 people worldwide, asking participants to share his or her history and up to 15 generations of genealogy. This has resulted in the preservation and publication of over 7 million genealogical records. Interviewers have been recruited and trained to identify and interview ethic groups in Africa with rich oral genealogy traditions. These oral histories will be the primary, perhaps only, source of information about these people that will be available for future generations.

Brent Hansen
Time: 4:30 p.m.
Room: 155D

Documenting My Freedmen Ancestors

This class aims to take some of the guesswork out of documenting your freedmen ancestors. You will learn how to access Freedmen’s Bureau records and how time spent researching your family in the years prior to this time enables you to more easily locate your family members in Freedmen’s Bureau records. You will learn how to identify ancestors who were emancipated. You will also see the importance of researching the family who had enslaved the ancestor’s family. We will see examples of different record types and discuss the reasons why your ancestor may not appear in these records.

Janice Sellers
Time: 4:30 p.m.
Room: 255A

Thursday, February 9

Using Genealogical Periodicals for Research

Although genealogical periodicals can be a great source of information, they are often overlooked or underused by family historians. Why? The common excuse is that inconsistent or nonexistent indexes make them hard to search. But the effort is well worth it. The useful information in genealogical periodicals is voluminous, and there are so many possibilities since genealogical and historical societies have published them for decades. This workshop will focus on the value of published cumulative indexes and other time-saving tips to narrow the search for an ancestor using examples found in national periodicals and Alabama’s periodical collection.

Frazine Taylor
Time: 11:00 a.m.
Room: 255A

Exploring the Testimonies of Former Slaves in the Southern Claims Commission Records

This session will explore the Southern Claims Commission Records that were created from claims filed by residents of 12 Southern states for reimbursement of personal property losses due to the Civil War. The claimant’s testimony included a list of losses and witnesses to support those losses. These records produced eyewitness testimonies from former slaves, family members, and neighbors. Freedmen provide details about their lives and information about their former enslavers.

Bernice Bennett
Time: 1:30 p.m.
Room: 255A

Mapping the Freedmen’s Bureau: New Research Guide

The records of the Freedmen’s Bureau are among the richest for tracing African-American ancestors. FamilySearch recently announced the completion of the Freedmen’s Bureau Project, a collaborative effort to index all surviving Freedmen’s Bureau records. A new website developed by Angela Walton-Raji and Toni Carrier, Mapping the Freedmen’s Bureau, is an interactive map interface to help researchers make the most of Freedmen’s Bureau records by identifying the Freedmen’s Bureau field office, hospital, or contraband camp nearest their area of research interest. This session will present an overview of the Mapping the Freedmen’s Bureau website and present a case study that illustrates the importance of digging deeper into these valuable records after searching the FamilySearch index.

Toni Carrier and Angela Walton-Raji
Time: 1:30 p.m.
Room: 251D

Census Data: More Than Just a Population Count

Every genealogist is familiar with Schedule I of the federal census as the official population count. However, this schedule does not present the census in its entirety. Every ten years, Congress authorized topical reports in the form of supplemental schedules to describe growth in the country. Titled “Supplemental Schedules” from 1820 to 1880, these reports capture data on agriculture, business, industry, mortality, and other social variables in the newly formed country. Now available in digitized format, these schedules aid in completing family composition. The schedules may identify missing cohort groups and community relations and list those in asylums, institutions, and those incarcerated in a county jail or prison. With the growth of the internet, access to these schedules has increased, providing valuable genealogical, cultural, and community content about ancestors.

Janis Forte
Time: 3:00 p.m.
Room: Ballroom B

Black Women in the Civil War

This workshop will explore the surprising records that reflect the women of color who served in multiple jobs during the Civil War and will explain how to find them. There are service records and even pension files that describe the work performed by these women. These records point to unwritten chapters in American history, and hopefully they will pull back another layer of many untold stories of ordinary people who did extraordinary things.

Angela Walton-Raji
Time: 3:00 p.m.
Room: 250D

Freedmen’s Bureau Records on FamilySearch

In 1865, the Freedmen’s Bureau was established in the South to assist freedmen and refugees. It provided medicine and clothing, established schools and hospitals, provided transportation, helped with labor contracts, and assisted soldiers with pension claims. For many researchers with African-American ancestry, Freedmen’s Bureau records are a starting point in making that link to that first generation of former slaves. This class will focus on the Freedmen’s Bureau records on FamilySearch, and will teach how best to search the record images, explore the scope of the Discover Freedmen Project, look at the records that were indexed, and discuss a strategy for using the records with other Reconstruction era collections, such as census records and voter registrations.

Ken Nelson
Time: 4:30 p.m.
Room: 255D

Friday, February 10

Tech Resources to Begin African-American Research

Do you need to know how to get started researching African-American family history? This class will teach beginners how to start their African-American family history research using free technology resources available online. African-American research is difficult, and ancestors cannot always be found in conventional ways. This class will help participants learn the process, tips, tricks, and resources to research and document African-American families.

Sherri Camp
Time: 11:00 a.m.
Room: 255A

African-American Genealogy for Newbies

America’s youth between 1982 and 2000 now number 83.1 million and are more diverse than the generations that preceded them, with 44.2 percent being part of a minority race or ethnic group. Many of these millennials identify as African-American and have relatives who likely don’t check the same racial designation box as they do. In this session, you’ll learn the basics of researching African-American genealogy and have a safe space to ask even the simplest questions.

Nicka Smith
Time: 1:30 p.m.
Room: 255A

Dealing with African-American Genealogy Challenges

This session will help you consider your research goals, understand what you are looking for, and define what challenges you will face in researching African-American ancestors. In addition, attendees will be provided with some tools and online resources that are available to help combat the inherent challenges of this type of research.

Shelley Murphy
Time: 3:00 p.m.
Room: 255A

Identity by Descent: Using DNA to Extend the African-American Pedigree

Using illustrative examples, this session demonstrates how DNA analysis, when used in concert with traditional genealogical research methods, can help family historians overcome challenges unique to African-American genealogy research.

Shannon Christmas
Time: 4:30 p.m.
Room: 255A

Saturday, February 11

Finding Family Members in Freedman’s Bank Records

The Freedman’s Bank was started so that USCT soldiers and former slaves could invest and save money after Emancipation. The records for these more than 70,000 accounts can show you family members listed together—at times three generations for one account—and sometimes the former slave owner’s name, which is the key to finding more information about enslaved individuals prior to 1865. Examples will show how family relationships can be documented with these records.

Janice Sellers
Time: 1:30 p.m.
Room: 255A

If you haven’t registered yet there’s still time! Register for RootsTech here, and get ready to learn more about your African heritage!


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