“African American Genealogy Challenges” Part 1

I am challenged everyday on how I conduct my genealogical research. It doesn’t matter if I am doing African American or European ancestry  -challenges are expected and welcomed. There are so many myths that cause more challenges, such as all enslaved individuals took the slaver owner’s name. This is not true. Per Family Search only about 15% took the slave holder’s name.  Here are some common challenges that I have faced over the last 25 yrs. This is not an exhaustive list.

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If you do not understand the “slavery system”, the system will fight you all the way and you will have more challenges than you need to have. This will require you to read, listen, read more, and attend as many talks/lectures as you can.

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This is where you begin. “Ask yourself questions”. Just because you find something in a book or online, doesn’t mean it is a fact or truth that is relevant today. Some resources that are found 10 years ago, might not be valid anymore because a year ago, another record became available. This is critical to your success. It does not matter who the author is or what institution who shares the information. There could always be another source that pops up.

I researched my Davis line for over 20 years and the first born son, Joseph Brand Davis turns out is not Davis, son of William Davis. I was able to locate a record of a lawsuit that specifically says, he was illegitimate, meaning he is not William Davis’s son. You have to make serious and committed attempts to “exhaust” the records and resources available.

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Set some goals, don’t make them big or too many when you are just getting started. Make them workable goals and view them as steps, meaning one step at a time.

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Remember the tips…they will get you further than anything else. There is no magic to conducting genealogical research.

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Genealogy research cannot be done all online! If you do all your research online, you will never be done and never know what is accurate or not. Do not take others research as being the end all. Researchers are human and we can make mistakes. Conduct the research yourself. Resolve your issues and challenges.

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Don’t believe everything you have been told, even if it was from your grandmother. Oral history is a valuable tool to have and to use. But over the years a story can vary and by the time it gets down to you, it could be a totally different story from the original. It might also mean that the full story wasn’t given to grandma and she just repeated what she heard. Pay attention to the “assumptions”. Work through the questions and stories and try to resolve any challenges that you are confronted with.


About familytreegirl

Shelley Murphy, aka “familytreegirl”, a native of Michigan residing in Central Virginia, Shelley has been an avid genealogist for over 25+ years researching the Davis, Marsh, Goens/Goins/Goings, Roper, Boyer, Worden, Cureton, and Murphy family lines. She is a Coordinator and faculty for the Midwest African American Genealogy Institute (MAAGI), presents Genealogy 101 workshops at the local community college, state and national genealogy conferences. She holds a Doctorate of Management in Organizational Leadership and works as an adjunct professor for Averett University. Murphy is known for her inspiring and interactive “Getting Started” Methods and Strategies for genealogy research, “Time and File management” along with interesting problem-solving methodology lectures. Shelley currently has 20+ publications with Charlottesville Genealogy Examiner and the Central Virginia Heritage, a publication of the Central Virginia Genealogical Association. She is an instructor for the Midwest African American Genealogy Institute (MAAGI). Doctor of Management in Organizational Leadership, Adjunct Professor, Professional Genealogist. Volunteers for American Red Cross as a Disaster Services Instructor, facilitates financial education workshops for the last 8 years, and former licensed Real Estate Broker
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