Black History Month Reminder for 2023

Family photo with great grandmother Clara (Marsh) Davis, Michigan

Black History Month is celebrated every February in the United States as a way to acknowledge and celebrate the contributions and achievements of African Americans throughout the nation’s history. As a genealogical researcher it is important to celebrate Black History Month as American history because:

  1. Recognition of the contributions: African Americans have made significant contributions to American society, including in the areas of science, technology, music, art, politics, and civil rights. Acknowledging and celebrating these contributions helps to give recognition to the people who helped shape America into what it is today.
  2. Fostering cultural awareness: Celebrating Black History Month provides an opportunity to learn about the rich culture and history of African Americans, including their struggles, triumphs, and traditions.
  3. Educating future generations: By teaching about African American history and culture, we can ensure that future generations have a deeper understanding and appreciation for the contributions of all people to American society.
  4. Promoting diversity and inclusion: Celebrating Black History Month helps to promote diversity and inclusion, by highlighting the experiences and perspectives of African Americans and the important role they have played in shaping the nation’s history and future.

Overall, Black History Month serves as an important reminder of the contributions of African Americans to American history and culture and the need to continue to work towards a more inclusive and equitable society. How will you celebrate this month? Here are some ways you can celebrate as a family historian or genealogist:

  1. Research your own family history: Trace your ancestry and discover the stories of your own African American ancestors. Learn about their experiences, challenges, and contributions to society.
  2. Preserve family history and traditions: Document your family’s stories and traditions and share them with future generations. This can help to ensure that the legacy of your ancestors lives on.
  3. Share your findings: Share your research with others, either through a family reunion, a community event, or by publishing your findings online. This can help to promote a better understanding of African American history and the role that genealogy can play in preserving it.
  4. Participate in local events: Attend Black History Month events in your community, such as lectures, exhibits, and cultural festivals, to learn more about African American history and culture.
  5. Collaborate with others: Connect with other genealogists, historians, and community organizations to work together on preserving and promoting African American history and culture.
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Thank you to George W. Hewitt, Franklin Co, PA Jan, 1828!

While reviewing a Virginia Chancery file that involved my 3rd great grandparents and their family I found the information very interesting and there is a story to be told. First, let me clarify that my 3rd great grandfather was Joseph Brand Jr, born about 1785 in Hanover County VA. He is a son of Joseph Sr and Frances (Whitlock) Brand. Joseph Brand Sr was born in Angus Scotland in 1740 and they also enslaved individuals. The house servant as noted in Joseph Jr’s 1826 will was Caroline b. about 1796. Joseph Jr. was her slave holder and the father of her four children. Caroline had five children but not sure if the child named Ferdinand was fathered by Joseph Jr. Caroline and the four children took on the Brand as a surname.

Joseph Brand Jr, died in 1826 assumably in Albemarle County, Virginia. His death is a mystery, but my family oral history says he was poisoned for having Caroline and children in the house like a white wife. He was a single man and never married. The research continues to locate where he is buried and any other circumstances about his death. In his will he freed Caroline and her five children in 1826. The note below was found in the chancery file. The executors of the will would not follow Jr’s wishes so the sheriff at the time stepped in and hired a driver to take Caroline and the five children to Middleburg, Franklin County, PA. Just simply getting them out of Virginia. The research continues as to why this location.

Over the years of conducting research I have been challenged in Franklin County, PA not able to locate where my 2nd great grandmother, daughter of Joseph Jr and Caroline, Mildred Ann was born in Virginia. All I know is she was born in Virginia. Well, Virginia has 95 counties and over the last 15 years I have not been able to locate information on her birth. Joseph Jr enslaved eight individuals (Fleming, Sukey, Henry < these three were rented to the University of Virginia as enslaved laborers), Ferdinand, James, Elizabeth, Mildred Ann, and Adelaine) I am not sure if all eight are related besides the four we know of, but I am claiming them all as family and being related to Caroline. Now, I just want to say thank you to George W. Hewitt and Charles Hewitt of Franklin County, PA for renting a house Caroline and the children, now free! There is more to this story, so stay tuned…

Caroline Brand and children arrived in Middleburg, Pennsylvania in Jan 1828.

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International African American Museum-Center for Family History

Wow, did you know about this museum being built in Charleston, South Carolina? It is being built on sacred ground…Gadsden’s Wharf. Why is it sacred ground you ask?? Well according to the website ( it is believed that 40% of the slaves that entered into British American came through this site. Yes! The first thing I want to know is where are the records…This is critical for individuals who are conducting research for African American ancestry. Here is the link to read more about Gadsden’s Wharf:

Here is a review of the museum site:

Within the museum is the Center for Family History! Check out the website to obtain a great idea of what’s going to be there. ( The Center is headed by a familiar and well know researcher Toni Carrier. We know her from the site she developed called LowCountry Africana. Check her site out: You can follow the Center for Family History on Twitter:

There is more to learn about the Center, tune in to this blog:

The Center will host numerous opportunity for the new or the experienced family historians and genealogists. I will be designing some educational programs for the Center! They are partners with the Midwest African American Genealogy Institute (MAAGI). I can’t wait to see what the offering come available when they open in the Fall of 2022. Stay tuned!

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Bruce Beach

Sharing Taysway’s blog, sharing of information about the Bruce Family. There seems to be a pattern developing as I read the articles and hear of other family land stories.

My Roots My Blog

Yesterday I read an article in LA Times (link here) about the descendants of the owners of Bruce Beach hoping to get their property back then I went to to see what information I could find out about Bruce Beach and I came across a few articles one in particular I found interesting was from 1924 published in The California Eagle-an African American newspaper from 1879-1964. That speaks about the property attempting to be taken from the Bruce family.

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We Were Never the Problem!

Classify this as a rant. The world is in chaos and it shows the lack of leadership at every aspect. Folks like myself also have fear in our hearts that the past as we knew it, is now our present. I have begun to question: where is all this going, and how will all this end? I am an American with African ancestry. I am so proud of who I am and where I come from. I know I am a “mut” and I call that a true American. This is my country!

Today,  I realize things are not only changing, but things I have read about and studied I am seeing on the television and social media. I think we are in the mid 1800s. There are so many things I do not understand either. Why is it that some see something one way and it hits all the common sense things and others see it totally the opposite? I can appreciate others opinion, experiences and skills. But, there is simply a good and bad, yin and yang and a yes or no and of course what’s right and what’s wrong. How is it that folks accept the “wrong” and think it’s alright? All the hate is wrong. Carrying assault rifles to kill African Americans are wrong. I believe some children when they are born, the seed of hate is planted. The “treatment” of African Americans over my life time and more, is wrong. I can go on and on. Common sense, right? We shall see in Nov. 

Things about me: I have conducted genealogical research over the last 30 years…maybe that is why I am having this conversation with myself. I do support the Black Lives Matter movement. I do believe there should be lively discussion regarding reparations. I believe the root to some of the hate comes from religion. Someone told white people that they are superior and African Americanss are not human. There are still injustices to people of color in this country. What would this white America do if all the people of color band together? I understand that Africans did not ask to be in America. But we are here and have been here. The African American people have a right to be here, they built this country and built white wealth. The real credit should be given where it is due. As an African American, I am not going anywhere, it’s my country. Think about it, what would happen if the table was turned and African Americans became everything whites claim they are? Hmmm…Another thing, it’s exhausting to live in the USA. It’s exhausting to turn on the television visit social media when I do not support Trump and any of his racist views and actions. He is not fit for the job and has followers. Those that follow must believe what he believes, if not, they would not follow him.  Help me understand this.  And I have concluded for all that has been done and continues to be done to anyone that is not white: “We were never the problem”!  Historians repeatedly tell us what has happened and what is going to happen. People are just not listening. We are repeating what has happened in the past and I am so sorry for what is coming. Look at the list. There really wasn’t a “reconstruction” period after the Civil War, it started but never was finished. It has not been successful at all. We are still trying to reconstruct this country. 

black we were never the problem

Enough said. 

Shirts, etc, can be purchased at:

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Information available to help in African American Genealogy Research prior to 1870.

I am in a “not so good mood” because of something I read today on another blog. So I will make this a short response. It is not a good to tell people that there are “no records” if you are doing African American research prior to 1870. It is also not good to tell African Americans basically the only way you can research your ancestors before 1870 is to use DNA. This is not true. Now I enjoy dealing with DNA, but the genealogical research (paper trail) is the love. It’s the challenge and I do not have to take a test to prove I am related to someone else. We should know by now, if you chose to accept the history of slavery in this country. We understand how this all worked. I am not trying to prove anything to anyone. But as a teacher and one to share what I know…I could not let this go, regardless of your intent to “help” African Americans out in finding our ancestors. It is what you said prior too, which now just deletes everything else you might of said later in your blog. The point is now moot when you set the stage right out the gate. We, as researchers are not stupid. Please do not help African Americans at the same time you are putting us down.

So let’s think about what is available for you, as an African American seeking your ancestors prior to 1870. I will simply make a list and be happy about it. Murphy’s tips is to always follow the “money, land, water, the community and the faith of the people”. Folks that have been in my classes you know this and heard it 100+ times. You will find something. Here is just a few sources of information I can think of off the top of my head, it is by no way an exhausted list:

  1. Bureau of Refugees and Freedmen and Abandon lands. (RG 105) Federal records collected at Field offices throughout the south right after the Civil War. (1865-1872, (labor contracts, marriages, letters, rations and transportation information and more)
  2. Wills, yes, Wills cover a lot of things and have lots of information within them. If your ancestor was previously enslaved, they might of been sold to settle the estate of the deceased. Or maybe they were gifted to a relative after the death. If there were free, where were they and what were they doing.
  3. Look at the 1870 Census, the Federal Population and “other schedules”, if they make it to 1870, you already are aware they were alive prior to 1870. So to the site and see what other schedules are available during the time you are researching. Sometimes you will have to jump to 1880 census to find information to help resolve something that happened in 1870 and prior to 1870.
  4. View any vital statistic records-birth, death, and marriages (also the Bureau)
  5. Research everyone in the household in 1870, if free, don’t forgot the 1860 and prior census. Research all of the children, pull their death and marriage records and see if there is any information about their parents. Who were the neighbors…is family near?
  6. If your ancestor was enslaved, be mindful, you have to research the Slave Owner. Locate the property, the farm or plantation, they have files like inventories of their property, bill of sales, property taxes, personal property taxes, labor contracts, letters, bibles, oral history, and possible descendants. Property, yes, locate where the equipment and animals are at-you will find your people there if they were enslaved.
  7. Do not be afraid to seek out the Slave Owner family descendants. They might be willing to share information. If not, research them just as if they were your family and they might really be your family. Please do not be scared, we are not asking them for anything that will change who they are. We just want information about our family members. Is there any published articles or books about the Slave Owners? What is the community history? Check out the libraries, universities, and historical societies, etc. “Go local” to the community where they lived. Check out the communities around them as well.
  8. Do you know if you ancestor served in at the military? Where they free or enslaved? Where they a USCT, body servant, a cook, etc. Seek out military records.
  9. African Americans do have names prior to 1870. Look at the Slave owners records, see if there are any court cases involving the slave owner, land or chancery records?
  10. African Americans are listed on records prior to 1870. Follow the $$$$$$$
  11. There is context before emancipation in the 1860s and the first census in 1870. There is a myth about 1870, yes, we will see names of our formerly enslaved ancestors, but “Massa” has them listed in his records by names. Slave owners counted each baby born and each baby that died. Know the law! $$$$
  12. Researchers do have an idea where to look for records-there is so much teaching going on. Folks can attend MAAGI ( or tune in to BlackProGen Live on youtube (, read the blogs, join genealogy groups and historical societies.
  13. African Americans will have to see the White American records to assist in the research-why? The Whites 1. created the laws and 2. they created the records. If my ancestor was enslaved, I will go to where they were enslaved at. Find the enslaver and they records.
  14. Get a genealogy buddy to work with. Read, Listen to the webinars, join the Facebook genealogy groups, if your county or state is not listed, you should start one.
  15. Know that if you build it, they will come. Listen to the whispers. Your ancestors will guide you to them.

Know your roots, they are long and strong!

Thank you, familytreegirl!

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Looking at Nellie McCorkle-Murphy-Giles

As a genealogist we find new family lines quite often. But what do we do with them once they present themselves? Some we will research and add the information to our trees, others will sit and be ignored until something triggers the memory. I have the belief that the ancestors will contribute to some of this action. All of a sudden, we keep seeing the names of ancestors almost as a tapping on the shoulder is happening. That’s the time to take a peek at the line. We are hearing the whispers of our ancestors. I have now learned a good lesson – We need to stop and listen. I have dedicated some time for  research for over 20 years researching my great grandparents on my father’s side. Specifically, looking at the union of Nellie (McCorkle) Murphy-Giles and the mystery man, William Michael Murphy, Nellie’s first husband. His son, of course is William Columbus Murphy, my grandfather. Granddad, as he was called who I did not know died in 1956.  He has led me on a chase with different birth locations, etc. I have been in and out of rabbit holes. So, I will focus a little more on Nellie. Here is a short version of my tree following my great grandmother Nellie’s maternal line:

My Father: Calvin 1924 Ft. Wayne, IN- d. 1997, Leon County, FL (he has 2 sisters -Lillian and Evelyn and 4 brothers, William, Harold, Donnie, and Ralph)

My Grandfather: William Columbus. Murphy b. IL 1887 d. 1956, MI married two times, I do not know the first wife’s name but she died in 1911, 2nd wife is Viola (Cureton) b. Loudon TN in 1895 and died in 1952 in Grand Rapids, MI)

Great grandfather: William Michael Murphy b. supposedly born in Indian Territory- unknown d. unknown (total mystery, I am not sure of any dates of birth, is he white, mulatto or what?) His name and information was retrieved from my grandfather social security application. He apparently was married to Nellie, because she re-married and her name was Nellie Murphy marrying Henry Giles in Bell County, KY.

Great grandmother: Nellie McCorkle b. abt. 1868 TN d. 1910-15 Iowa (questionable)

  • 2X great grandmother: Nellie’s mother is Rose (Henry) b. 1840 d. unknown (married to John McCorkle, the McCorkle surname was just taken, as there was an abolitionist in the Greenville, TN named Francis McCorkle)
  • 3X great grandparents: Rose’s parents: John B Henry/Hendry and Esther (unknown). Both were born about 1811 in Virginia, which should be Frederick County, Virginia. I continue to work on finding the deaths of both of them. They lived in Greene County, TN and that should be where they died.
  • 4X great grandparents: John B’s parents are Rose (unknown/could be Henry), a slave of William Hendry/Henry b. 1764 Frederick, Virginia d. 1838 Tn. Also seeking to find when his father William Henry freed him. I do find him in 1840 census in Greene TN, free.  (John B. has a sister with the same parents named Delphie, she because free…read about her and her path to freedom:
  • 5X great grandparents: William Hendry’s parents: Thomas (George) Hendry 1725. MA D 1782 Frederick, Virginia & Deborah (Borden) b. 1728NJ d. 1799 Frederick, Virginia.
  • 6X Deborah’s parents: Benjamin F. Borden and Zeruiah (White)

Now looking at the Borden line, thinking the name was familiar. (oh geez-it was Lizzie Borden, Borden’s Milk and Elsie the Cow). The Borden’s were Quakers coming from Kent, England and settling in Rhode Island and New Jersey. I do not know much about the Quakers, so there is lots to learn in order to understand the culture and life they lived during the 18th century. My line is from New Jersey group to Virginia group. Benjamin Borden was a land gangster as I call him. The Borden’s basically landed in the Shenandoah Valley (Virginia’s counties: Frederick, Rockbridge, Augusta and Bedford, etc.) obtaining land all over the place. Here is the link to read about the 92,100 acres granted from Lord Fairfax. (

This all is a shock! New information which brings its own set of research challenges and more family. I am having to face some challenges of researching a slave to freedom. I had no idea any line of my father’s had Virginia roots. I only knew of Tennessee roots from Nellie and nothing from William Michael-maybe he didn’t exist, which is an often thought. He is lurking around, so I am sure at some point I will find him. Maybe the Murphy’s are from Virginia? Who knows. Selma Stewart, a genealogist from the Hampton Roads area continues to remind us that “all roads lead to Virginia”.  I have tracked Nellie through a second marriage and having two children besides having my grandfather by William Michael Murphy. I am still researching the Hendry’s who lived two hours from me in the Winchester area before William moved the family, including John B and Delphie to Greene County, Tennessee. John B and Delphie are now free. We have Delphie’s information but so far, I have yet to find when in Virginia John B was freed.

On the old Ancestry’s app (We’re Related) the Hendry/Henry line kept showing itself as a possible connection and I ignored them. I didn’t connect that it was Nellie’s folks, she was a mulatto. I ignored the fact mainly because I didn’t know the white Hendry’s connected to mine and this line had enslaved ancestors. I just didn’t make the connection and a new lesson has been learned. Check out everything. Also, my research on the Henry/Hendry line takes me back to Aberdeenshire, Scotland, the same place Patrick Henry’s line comes from. Well who knew! That will be another blog…responding to the question: do we connect to Patrick Henry who was born in 1736 in Virginia.

For more information: I did another article on the Henry’s and Borden’s.

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10 Best Genealogy and History YouTube Channels

My Roots My Blog

BlackProGen LIVE! Is on Family Tree Magazine’s 10 Best Genealogy and History YouTube Channels.

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Shall Yerger (25 May 1853-22 Jan. 1884)

Learning about the students who attended the University of Virginia (UVA). Author, Jean L. Cooper, gives insight to their life and the life on the grounds of Thomas Jefferson’s university.

Students of the University of Virginia, 1825-1874

Shall Yerger was the son of William Yerger (1816–1872), a lawyer and a judge in Jackson, MS, and his wife, Malvina Hogan (Rucks) Yerger (1819–1914). He grew up in Jackson, and attended the University of Virginia in session 47 (1870-1871). There he studied Mathematics, History and Literature, and Modern Languages. In the later years of his life, Shall Yerger was appointed Deputy Sheriff of Bolivar County, Mississippi. He never married.

Yerger had suffered from “chronic gastritis” throughout his life, and that is what caused his death in Bolivar County in 1884. After his death, his remains were buried beside those of his father in Greenwood Cemetery, Jackson, MS.


  • “The Death of Shall Yerger.” The weekly Copiahan. [volume] (Hazlehurst, Copiah County, Miss.), 02 Feb. 1884. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
  • “Personals.” Memphis daily appeal. (Memphis, Tenn.), 29 Jan. 1884. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers…

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“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.


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