February 2023 Program
African American Genealogy - Strategies, Tips, and Resources
Presented by Rodney Barnet
This program will focus on the unique challenges that African American researchers face in their genealogical research. Many techniques are the same for all researchers, but there are many more obstacles presented to the African American researcher because of their unique and often painful place in American history. There are some topics that are difficult to talk about but must be addressed in order to successfully research this area of genealogy. Whether you are a beginner or a more advanced researcher, there will be something for everyone. This presentation will also go into some more in-depth topics including DNA analysis and software tools that are also available.
The archived presentation may be watched here.
Rodney Barnett has been researching his family for over 20 years. Born in Washington DC, he was raised in the Prince George's county, Maryland. Most of his research revolves around slavery in Virginia and Alabama. His travels include many trips to courthouses, cemeteries, family land, conferences, libraries, and other research facilities. Rodney has given many presentations of the subject of African American genealogy.
Program overview by Becky Anstine:
Rodney has spoken to our group in the past about researching African ancestors. Using a slide show, he had six topics that he covered in more depth. He also introduced us to a new tool, the Collens Leeds Method that he is excited about using.
- Why it is important to research one’s genealogy – genealogy is a part of the history of African Americans. One needs to figure out one’s heritage and its importance in their life. Genealogy research challenges include slavery issues, continued discrimination, lack of knowledge of history and heritage, and misinformation among records and family records.
- The Barnett family – in researching his own family, he discovered branches not only in Virginia (which had been his primary research area) but also in Alabama. As he discovered more connections and branches – his family tree grew and expanded.
- How to start – no matter who you are; the basic research steps are the same: start with what you know through family interviews and vital records. Rodney stressed the importance of recording family interviews and using original documents.
- Other records that he suggested searching were court, church, probate, land, tax, military, newspapers, institutional, and society records.
- Slavery is very often the “brick wall” in African American research but it’s possible to break it down. After the Civil War, many families remained on the plantations – census records can provide clues as well as unusual names. Probate files and estate inventories can help make connections. DNA matches can help make and prove connections.
- The Collens Leeds Method is a commonly used tool for clustering your DNA matches based on the Leeds Method. Data is put into a matrix of colored blocks which connect the matches. This was a new tool that many of us had not heard of. More information and a better explanation can be found by googling “Collens Leeds Method.”