Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Southern Studies Showcase-Overcoming the Roadblocks in African-American Genealogy

10483116_365909383557707_7393336667736540925_nCopyright © 2014 Elvin Thompson, used with permission

Here I am hanging out in Elvin Thompson’s class.  Nice shot of Elvin’s bottle of Sprite.  I have heard Elvin Thompson speak several times and I always learn something.  The class is actually a lot bigger than you see.  Most of the people are to the out of view over to the right.  The cool people are up front Smile  Elvin is a funny guy and if you ever meet him in person make sure you ask him about the name “Blake.”  I’ve heard that story three times and it still cracks me up.

Brick walls are brick walls whether you are doing black research, white research or any other type of research so the techniques Elvin talked about work for everyone.  Black researchers know the value of oral histories but I think white researchers don’t put as much emphasis on this.  You need to interview every person you can in your family (the older the better).  Elvin makes it clear that these oral histories will probably not be 100% accurate but they give you the clues you need to go out and find the documents.

Elvin also warns that everything is not online.  He uses church records as an example and talks about spending time in the basements of churches looking though documents that have never seen the light of day let alone been digitized and indexed.  He found some real jewels in these documents.  One thing that black researchers need to know is that slaves often attended church alongside their white owners and these white churches kept records of the slaves that attended.  It wasn’t until after the emancipation that the black churches were established.  Elvin showed that paying attention to how the slaves were listed in the attendance rolls can help you figure out the family relationships. 


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis


  1. Hi Michele, I wanted you to know that I have nominated you and your blog for the One Lovely Bog Award. http://carolinafamilyroots.blogspot.com/2014/10/one-lovely-blog-award.html