Saturday, March 31, 2012

1940 Census Countdown -Only 2 days left

On Monday, April 2, 2012, the long awaited 1940 census will be released. For the first time, it will be available to the public to search free of charge by the National Archives.

The 1940 census will be released online on April 2, 2012.
Please bookmark this page:
This is where you will be able to access the digitized census records starting on April 2. The digital images will be accessible free of charge at NARA facilities nationwide through our public access computers as well as on personal computers via the internet.

You can go here to obtain information to prepare for the census:


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Episode 1: Our American Stories

Mark your calendars and set your DVRs. The latest Gates series, the 10-part “Finding Your Roots,” premieres Sunday at 8 pm on PBS, and it's easily his most ambitious says the New York Times. All I know is there is another great genealogy show that promises to inspire the masses to trace their ancestry. Check out the preview:

Watch Preview on PBS. See more from Finding Your Roots.

On Sunday evenings beginning March 25, Henry Louis Gates Jr. returns for his fourth season on PBS with Finding Your Roots. With a format that blends two notables each week and places greater emphasis on genetic discoveries, this series will peek into the past of 20 high profile individuals: Kevin Bacon, Tyra Banks, Cory Booker, Angela Buchdahl, Geoffrey Canada, Margaret Cho, Harry Connick, Jr., Robert Downey, Jr., Sanjay Gupta, Samuel L. Jackson, John Legend, John Lewis, Branford Marsalis, Yasir Qadhi, Condoleezza Rice, Michelle Rodriguez, Kyra Sedgwick, Martha Stewart, Barbara Walters and Rick Warren. And yes, in case you're wondering, Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick are cousins, so the six
-degrees phenomenon will definitely be on display.


One celebrity, Wanda Sykes recently discovered her colonial family history. One of her ancestors, Elizabeth Banks was an indentured servant who received Thirty-nine lashes “well laid” on her bare back and an extension of her indentured servitude was Elizabeth Banks’ punishment for “fornication & Bastardy with a negroe slave.” Click link below to see full New York Times article.

Watch full episode below:

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Slave Marriages

During slavery, most slaves were not able to legally marry since they were considered property and therefore less than human. They were however, in many cases encouraged by slave-owners to informally marry since it was believed that married men was less likely to be rebellious or to run away. Also, the slavemaster felt that marriage meant the procreation of children and some even offered freedom to slaves who produced at least 15 children.

This is a sad and awful truth that many of our ancestors had to endure. In addition, since slave marriages had no legal standing, it meant no protection from the abuses and restrictions imposed on them by slaveowners. Slave husbands and wives, without legal recourse, could be separated or sold at their master's will.

Couples who resided on different plantations were often only allowed to visit with the consent of their owners. However, in some of the slave narratives that I have read, some men preferred it that way. As John Anderson explained, "I did not want to marry a girl belonging to my own place, because I knew I could not bear to see her ill-treated." Moses Grandy agreed he wrote: "no colored man wishes to live at the house where his wife lives, for he has to endure the continual misery of seeing her flogged and abused without daring to say a word in her defence." As Henry Bibb pointed out, "If my wife must be exposed to the insults and licentious passions of wicked slave-drivers and overseers. Heaven forbid that I should be compelled to witness the sight."

Most slaves married without the benefit of clergy but instead the marriage ceremony was often performed by other family members and only with the master's permission.

It also was not like the other traditional marriages that took place during that time. Instead, most slaves "jumped the broom." This was a practice in which the couple before being pronounced as man and wife, they literally jumped over one or in some cases 2 brooms, one for each person into the land of "holy matrimony."

These were the lucky ones, some marriages consisted only of the slaves simply getting the master's permission and moving into a cabin together." Hence, comes the term, "shacking up."

After emancipation, a lot of slaves became legally married even though by that time, they often already had a house full of kids.

The federal government also established the Freedmen's Bureau to help former slaves get established in the society as free men. One of the services provided by the Bureau was to record marriages that had taken place during slavery.

Several of my own ancestors did just that even though in a lot of cases, they already had grown kids.

These are some couples that  became legally married after slavery ended:

1. Oliver and Edy Williams Clayton "re-married" 7/24/1869 in Caddo parish after slavery ended and they already at least 3 children at this time. The oldest known was 8 years old so they had been together at least that long.

2. Levi and Mary Clay Green renewed their vows on September 24, 1872 in Bossier Parish. At that time, they had about 8 kids.

3. David and Mariah Pressley Hines (Hinds) exchanged their vows again on April 1, 1873 in DeSoto Parish. They already had at least 3 children at that time and another (My g-grandpapa Isam) on the way.

We have definitely come a long way from back then and we are truly blessed for having come so far. It must have meant a lot for these former slave couples to legalize their marriages.

However, I believe that in the eyes of God, they were already bonded and their love and commitment to each other and their families are eternal!

One of the places you can find marriages for your ancestors, log onto and search marriages for your state and county. If the marriage records for your area are not digitized, contact your County or Parish Clerk of Court. These are usually inexpensive to order.

Click on the image below to see a testimony of the joy the formerly enslaved when they legally married!

Sunday, March 4, 2012


Black Loyalists were former slaves or free negroes who in exchange for the promise of freedom by the British Government during the American Revolutionary War, promised to fight against the American Colonies.  In an effort to fortify the British forces, some  Generals issued proclamations declaring that slaves who joined the British Armies would be freed despite threats from outraged Virginia slave owners who decreed that runaway slaves would be executed.

Slavery in England had been abolished in 1772 after a decision from Lord Mansfield, Chief Justice of the King's Bench, but this decision did not apply in the colonies.

The Black recruits formed regiments such as the Dunmore's Ethiopian Regiment, Sir Clinton's Black Pioneers, Jersey Shore Volunteers, the King's American Dragoons, the Jamaica Rangers, and the Mosquito Shore Volunteers. Many of these regiments won key battles.

However, as history records it, the British lost the War to the Americans and unfortunately many former British Black Loyalists were returned to their former Masters or sold back into slavery. In addition, the approximate 2500 slaves of White Loyalists, remained slaves until 1834 when slavery ended in the entire British Empire. Hence, the British did not hold up to their end of the bargain that they made to these former slaves.

However, some generals were insistent that the former Black British soldiers be rewarded for their service. There were over 3,000 free African Americans who migrated to Nova Scotia primarily and are listed in the Book of Negroes, a book that documents the Black Loyalists. In 1793, these Blacks were taken to Florida, Nova Scotia and England as free men and women. Their names were recorded in the "Book of Negroes" by General Carleton. The group of refugees who arrived in Nova Scotia were the largest group of people of African descent to arrive there at any one time. Included in the "Book of Negroes" was a Mary Braveboy. Braveboy is one of my ancestral names on the paternal side of my family tree. Mary was aged 44 at the time of her relocation and she traveled on the ship,"Thames Abraham Ingram," to St. Johns River which in New Brunswick.

From many of these free and enslaved Africans descended the Black Canadian culture which exists today. They have made a significant impact on the Canadian culture. There is documented evidence, that game of Hockey was created by descendants of these Africans. The story is documented in George and Darril Fosty's book,"Black Ice: The Lost History of the Colored Hockey League of the Maritimes." They populated towns such as Halifax, Annapolis, Birchtown, Shelburne and New Brunswich.

However, after the war many Black Loyalists were evacuated to London and were included in the population of the Black Poor. About 4,000 of these former Black Loyalists migrated to Sierra Leone in 1787 and about 1100 more migrated there directly from Canada and are known as the Nova Scotian settlers. Today, their descendants are known as the Sierra Leone Creole people of Freetown, Sierra Leone.

These Black Warriors had a very proud history. They demonstrated tremendous bravery in their quest for freedom although for many, it never came.