Blacks find genealogy increasingly accessible | Local
Perhaps this is the best time for African Americans to research their family history.
Today’s family researchers stand on the shoulders of giants, said Timothy Pinnick, an African-American genealogical research expert.
He spoke on Saturday at a virtual conference hosted by the Allen County Public Library’s Genealogy Center. The session was titled “Using Researchers to Benefit from Your African-American Research”.
Unlike decades ago, Pinnick said, black history is a recognized discipline today, and more and more academics are contributing to research that amateur family detectives can use.
At the same time, he said, the research is more accessible because much of it is published online.
“Much of the heavy lifting has already been done by your learned ancestors,” Pinnick said. “It’s time for you to develop your (research) skills. “
Pinnick described several research strategies, such as using academic libraries, large public libraries, online sources and websites and members of professional genealogy associations.
Each of these resources can direct a researcher to bibliographies, scholarly journals, books, theses and dissertations, and journals owned by Blacks, which can convey a wealth of information.
He used as an example someone who had found ancestors in Georgia’s black belt listed as farmers in a late 19th-century census.
But the family first seemed to disappear, then to appear in the census of a northern town in 1920.
Looking through the agricultural stories of the South compiled by researchers, a researcher can find the entry of the cotton boll weevil in Georgia several years earlier and a cotton crop that has plunged in just half a dozen years.
That doesn’t prove the parents are gone because of poor harvests, Pinnick said. “But that comes close to the likelihood that the ancestor is gone due to the boll weevil infestation.”
About 70 people, who virtually attended the conference, were provided with many resources to help them continue their research.
Fort Wayne resident Carrie Tucker attended the conference with her sister Elizabeth Nelson of Detroit. Using a library computer, they said, they obtained good information to continue their search for the Nelson and Barnfield families.
Nelson was the name of their father’s parents and Barnfield was the name of their mother’s lineage, said Tucker, 74.
The driving force behind their research, Tucker said, was “to have a legacy” for their family, which includes 10 children – and now, many members of the following generations.
All 10 siblings have studied beyond high school, Tucker said, adding that the research has helped her see her parents’ lives in a different light.
“It made me realize,” she said, “how hard they’ve worked to get this far.”