Friday, September 28, 2012

So, Why Do I Blog?

A collage of my three blogs

A good conversation emerged today in one of the Facebook groups that I have joined. The question arose around the topic of writing and sharing. One participant admitted that she was not yet ready to blog and a bit nervous about it. I jumped into the dialogue and hope that I was able to encourage her to do so.  

I fully understood her point, she was hesitant and did not yet feel that she could blog. Then I thought about it-and I truly wanted to know why I have become so engaged in the blogs that I have. Now, I don't post in them all the time, and they each very different types of blogs. And though I don't post daily or weekly, they are still very important to me, and I decided to explain why. I realized why I have found blogging to be so special--it gives me the platform to share my stories.

As genealogists we all know that everyone does not share our passion.
Everyone we meet does not know the feeling of euphoria we get when we make "the big find".
Not everyone wants to hear how hard it is to find Mariah.  BUT---a fellow genealogist does!

We know the "rush" we get when we are on the trail, but we also know the emotion we feel when we find someone long sought. 

We all know how we felt when we first got started and we found the gr. grandparents in the early 20th century and we did the math when we saw their ages. We know the emotion when we realized that we were looking at someone who had been born enslaved. And when we follow that ancestor back in time to 1870---and we see the family a mere five years into freedom, we know how we felt that first time we saw that--and we want to tell everyone.

But---we also know that everyone does not share the passion.

But---there is comfort, because there is a family that wants to read about what you have found. 

There is a community that wants to read HOW I found Uncle Sephus, or WHY I was so captivated by Madam Martha Hockenhull. There are others who are excited to hear about my journey documenting a man called Spottswood Rice, and his journey to freedom and life as a dynamic AME leader. I even have a new friend whom I have never met, trying to locate the ruins of an all African American academy called Tushka Lusa Academy that thrived in the Choctaw Nation. And another friend---whom I have never met has also developed curiosity in a mysterious Black settlement that existed for several decades  in the late 1800s and early 1900s and then it disappeared. The new friend has himself become interested, and is visiting old courthouses to examine land records to see if he can also learn more.

I have tons of stories to tell and blogging allows me to share them.  

My hope is that in some way the people who were affiliated with these places will be known. 

I hope that in a small way that the names of these people who are ancestors to someone, will have their names called once again.  

My hope is that I can provide the platform so that  yes, we can call their names.

I guess that is why I blog.

"An ancestor never dies till there is no one left to call their name."
~African proverb~

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Remembering September 11

A beautiful day in September was a day that changed the world.

It was a gorgeous day in September. A remarkably beautiful day, that whispered only a hint of fall in the air, for it was cool, clear, dry and beautiful.

On the way to the university campus where I worked, the radio was on in the car, and my husband and I were chatting about the traffic. While we were talking, the local public radio the usual Morning Edition in the background, or so I thought. But something caught my attention, from the news report---this was a special live-on-the-street broadcast, for something was happening! I hear references to dozens of emergency vehicles being called so I listened more closely. I remember that I finally interrupted my husband's talking and said "Shhh, listen---something is happening!"  We caught pieces of the story. Some kind of aircraft had hit the World Trade Center in New York.

It still had not registered what was going on. My husband dropped me off on campus at the university's  technology center where I had to attend a special meeting that morning. I entered the lobby and the saw that the receptionist had turned on one of the televisions in the lobby. The story was still unfolding but the word was that a passenger plane had hit the World Trade Center. The perception was still that it was an accident.

I wanted to watch what was unfolding, but I reluctantly entered the meeting upstairs that had already begun. Upon entering the room, I asked if several people if they were aware of what was taking place in New York. A few people looked up, and I mentioned that a plane had hit the World Trade Center, but there was not much concern from the meeting moderators who had called the meeting. The gravity of what had happened was not yet known. And they had to discuss the topic at hand---branding and marketing!!!

So I sat through that meeting which was basically one that was one of of those dull useless committee meetings  focusing on university public relations and branding and marketing. The moderators continued to babble while the world was coming to a halt watching the happenings in New York! (I also recall being more than annoyed at the somewhat dismissal of the news that I had tried to describe.) And yes, horrors unfolded while we were idling away discussing "branding". The chatter of the meeting eventually died, and a long wasted hour later, we finally disbanded and descended into the lobby to learn the horrors of the day. Both towers in New York had fallen, and by the time we arrived back at our office on the main campus, the Pentagon had been hit, and another plane had crashed in Pennsylvania.

As we left the south campus I took note of the sky again. It was still a beautiful day with few clouds but this time I noticed--there was strangely no air craft. Now the university where I worked is not far from Marshall Baltimore Washington International Airport, and the campus is on the fly way- the usual route to the runway at BWI.  But now mid morning on that quiet September day, there were no planes, in the air. In fact, no aircraft would fly in the area for the next 4 days.

The day unfolded with phone calls to people we knew in New York, and like countless thousands, the calls would not go through.

I don't recall working that day. I left early, as I felt that being on campus was not fruitful, and I also felt strangely unsafe. We all did. The whole nation did.

On the way home, I noticed also the silence. No horns blowing, few people were talking, and even the birds and insects were somehow quiet.

The world changed on that day.

Like the rest of the country, I watched the news continually, showing the towers falling and I saw the devastation knowing the world would be forever impacted by what happened. I still find the memories of that day to be painful.

I would learn eventually the fate of our friends who survived, but learn of their other friends who did not. The degrees of separation were so close!

We all changed on that day. And we must all pause to remember the lives that were lost, and to try to understand the impact of something so unspeakable and how it changed all of us.

In Memory

Monday, September 3, 2012

Images from the FGS Conference in Birminham

Image Courtesy of

The FGS Conference took place last week in Birmingham Alabama and in spite of  recent changes in my own schedule I was able to attend the events although briefly. 

For many, a highlight of such a conference is the chance to visit the exhibit booths to see the vendors and people who had products and services to sell, and also to see the array of organizations that were present. was present and had a chance to share a number of aspects about the website and the African Ancestored Community in general.  

Many of the participating organizations were given space in the exhibit hall as part of the "Society Showcase".

The Society Showcase featured organizations and genealogical entities of all kinds.
(Photo courtesy of )

Several visitors came to the AfriGeneas table to have questions answered.

A Visitor to the AfriGeneas Table

Among the visitors to the Exhibit Hall were also people from the local Birmingham area who heard about the conference on local television and who decided to come and see if they could connect with others and learn.

A Local couple from Birmingham asked questions at the AfriGeneas booth

One visitor to the booth expressed her extreme enthusiasm about attending the event and of meeting AfriGeneas founder, Dr. Valencia King Nelson.

Dr. Valencia K. Nelson (right) and Sedalia Gaines (center) listen to visitor (left( at the AfriGeneas display

A very special event occurred when one visitor stopped by to look at books on display on the AfriGeneas Table. Her ancestors were from North Alabama and the book focused on that part of the state. She carefully began to examine the book.

Visitor examines book on the AfriGeneas table

An entry in the book caught her attention. And what a surprise it was for her to find her ancestors listed! The book was called, Slave Genealogy North Alabama 1865-1874, by Thomas Henry Kinney.

An ancestor found!  The visitor to the booth found one of her ancestors in one of the books on display.

There were many other activities going on in the Exhibit Hall, and for many the first stop was the booth representing the Federation of Genealogical Societies. The several members of the staff were on hand greeting visitors, and all who entered were met with warm smiles, and a genuine spirit of warmth and hospitality.

Visitors were greeted warmly by FGS Directors

There were numbers of large vendors from the online services to the software companies. But in addition there were smaller vendors who offered fascinating services as well. I enjoyed visiting them, and one such company did capture my attention, JustAJoy, a company that focuses on unclaimed heirlooms. If you are one who appreciates antiques of any kind, then this site will be of interest. The site is a membership site where it is best described as a place "where history and heritage meet". Simply put, the site reunites lost heirlooms with the heirs. 

I was also impressed to learn that there among their many treasures one can find artifacts that reflect African Americans families as well. I learned quite a bit by visiting this booth and found Joy, and her husband George to be more than friendly, they were both, "just a joy" to meet.

Joy Shivar of JustAJoy Antiques at the display booth at FGS

Another highlight of the event was the chance to see a representative of ProQuest. ProQuest a company that connects readers with information, is also a partner with AfriGeneas, in the effort to bring forth African American history to an inquiring public. William Forsyth of ProQuest, was present and visited the booth in the Society Showcase. 

Angela Walton-Raji, Valencia K. Nelson, William Forsyth, Sedalia Gaines

In general the atmosphere was a friendly and lively one. Most people who had heard of AfriGeneas came over to say hello, and most who had heard of us in passing also came to extend greetings, and express their interest and support. And the chance for many to meet the AfriGeneas founder, Dr. Valencia King Nelson, was a special treat as she brought her charm, grace and wisdom to Birmingham and made the experience a memorable one.

A small gift from the AfriGeneas Family

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