SO WHAT Mr. Luke Goins-I have your Certificate of Freedom, now what?

It’s difficult if you don’t know the laws of the area you are researching when conducting genealogical research. At the Midwest African American Genealogy Institute (MAAGI) instructor Judy G. Russell (aka the Legal Genealogist) walks students through the public law and laws around slavery in Track 1. It doesn’t matter what race you are researching, you need to know the laws of the time you are researching. It would seem that each time a law went into place a document would be generated. The Commonwealth of Virginia has been interesting as I use the Black Laws of Virginia (June Purcell Guild) to follow one law linking to my own ancestry. Luke Goin is my 5th great grandfather and was living in Loudoun Co. Virginia.

First, let’s look at the law and figure out what we are dealing with.

The law taken from June Purcell Guild’s book the Black Laws of Virginia Chapter V “Free Persons of Color and Slaves, pg. 95 says:

 1793 Chapter 22. Free Negroes or mulattoes shall be registered and numbered in a book to be kept by the town clerk, which shall specify age, name, color, status and by whom, and in what court emancipated. Annually the Negro shall be delivered a copy for twenty-five cents. A penalty is fixed for employing a Negro without a certificate; the Negro may be committed to jail. Every free Negro shall once in every three years obtain a new certificate.

Breaking the law down so I can understand it. Here is what I see in the law and what I need to know about it:

  Questions, thoughts…
1793, Chapter 22 It’s after the revolutionary war, but need to know what was going on in Loudoun Co. Virginia during this time, what events where going on. Is there history as to why this law was put on the books? This certificate is dated 1795; two years after the law went into place, why two years later and not immediately. I will write the clerk or one of my genealogy buddies who does a lot of early Virginia research and ask if I can’t find online.
The law identified who it applied too Free Negroes and Mulattoes. Wonder if this also applied to Native Americans, did they have to register? Goins were believe to be mixed race people.
Explained specific directions Negroes and Mulattoes must be registered and numbered in a book-I need to understand “numbered” what does it mean? Were the individuals or households given a number for tracking or what?
Where the records will be located once they are completed Town Clerk, now I know where to locate the records. This is also telling me since this is a Virginia law when researching Negroes and Mulattoes in any county I will look for these documents.
What information the record should have on it Age, name, color, status, and by whom, who emancipated them. Need to find a certificate that the individual was a slave and then emancipated to compare the information and what leads I can get from them.
How often and costs. So we need to follow the money-the Negro will get a copy by paying .25 annually, so there should be a set of records for this money.
Penalty if Negroes and Mulattoes don’t have a certificate Fixed fee for the employer if their Negroes don’t have a certificate, the Negro will go to jail. Find the list of employers who got a fine, it might have more names. Locate any jail records in case any Goins didn’t have their certificate.
How often do the Negroes and Mulattoes have to have a certificate Every three years they need to get a new certificate. Need to check for a new certificate every three years, Clerk only gave me this one for 1795, is there one for 1798?
Is there anything else to add or what I might need to know? Is the law still on the books? When did it end, what is the total time span for this document to be required. What about the children, say under the age of 18 yrs. Do they have certificates of freedom too?

Now let’s look at the actual Certificate of Freedom for Luke Goin. It is critical to understand what you have when you are gathering documents. You need to analyze the information and understand why it was created. The goal is to question the information that is listed on the document and thinking “SO WHAT” – I have this information, what does it tell me and then ask yourself if it generates more questions and gaps and does it give you leads to more information? The responses will be your next steps in your research, like a “to do” list. Any of the questions or conflicts/gaps will need to be resolved.

This is part of your journey in conducting an “exhaustive search”. SO WHAT is a good tool to help you analyze, question, and break down information. Now this does not necessarily follow any order and yes I might jump around so just bare with me. You are now entering into familytreegirl’s madness of analyzing a record. You never know what you have until you “SO WHAT” a document.


Loudoun County, Virginia Certificate of Freedom for Luke Goin, 23 December 1795

SO WHAT! Questions, questions, etc. Research Plan-what I need to do to document and resolve the questions-
Luke and wife Margaret He is married, wife’s first name, and no maiden name; need to locate a marriage record. Was there a requirement for a bond to be put up for marriage? Also there is no indication as to how long they have been married? Use 30 yrs. to begin with. Also consider that they might not of married in Virginia, could of married in Maryland. Maryland had less requirements, etc. Also check PA, just in case.

Will look for Margaret’s family and more Goins in the area. Note the spelling of Goin, no S, but Jason has an S. Spelling does not count.

The witnesses say they have known them for above 30 years in the neighborhood, does “above” last frost mean more than? This takes me back to 1760s, what other records could the Goin name be on? The record was created in Dec, end of the year, winter time, which also mean to look for any delayed records, need to ask the court house staff about any delayed records. We have a look at who was in the community and who all was related. What about Church, did they attend a church, was there Black churches in the area, or did they all go to one church?

  Based on the document is says “neighborhood”, so it is giving me names of the neighbors. Oh I can document a community, I need to know what else is there.

Make a list of “every” name listed in the document. Get an old map of Loudoun County, check census and vital records and pinpoint where each person lived to located Luke’s household, will have to go forward and research each of the names, also are any of them related to Luke, any working relationships or land transactions?

Jason Goin, brother We have the name of one of Luke’s brothers, so who is his wife and children, how close did they live near Luke’s?

Who are Luke and Jason’s parents? Need to locate other siblings of Luke and Jason. Does Jason have his own Certificate of Freedom, will have to contact the Court House, I only asked for Luke Goin, so now I have more names.

What records will show relationships? -Wills, deeds, vital statistics records, etc.

Need to pull other Certificates of Freedom with Goins surnames, it might show more relationships.

“Always to be free” as well as his brothers and sisters This man, John Littlejohn knows this family…so at least 30 yrs. and above, the Goins have been free. Did they own any land, check for deeds, etc.?

How close was land to Littlejohn’s. Were they next-door neighbors? Locate Littlejohn’s land on map. Also, there are more brothers and sisters, need to locate names, check marriage and death records, etc.

Luke’s son Jason Luke named one of his sons after his brother Jason, will need to establish birthdates in order to keep them straight. There are more than one Jason Goins in the area and one went to Ohio, was it Luke’s brother or his son, or another?

How many Jason Goins are there in Loudoun Co? The son Jason is living with him, will assume Littlejohn since he signed on the document. He was living with him as an apprentice, so what did John Littlejohn do to have apprentice? Did Jason now have a trade?

How many others might of lived with Littlejohn, how close did he live near Luke and Margaret? Was this apprentice a common practice, was a there records/documents labeled as “apprentice”?

Spelling It doesn’t count in genealogy, just keep track; Goin, Goen, Goens, Goins, Goings, Gowin, Gowins, etc.

The Luke Goin certificate is basically a paragraph. But look how much and how many questions rose out of this one document. There is much more to do regarding the information listed in the documents. It seems as though I am just getting started learning about a community in Loudoun County, Virginia.

Now what is really interesting is that you can hand the document to another researcher and they probably will add to your list with additional questions or leads for you to follow. I hope this helps you along your research path. Also, please read page 95 of the Black Laws of Virginia and note the information on page 95. There is more information as to who had to file these certificates and where they are, etc. Look for another blog on how to develop a research plan and deciding which steps to do first. Enjoy!

If you can add to the list, please share by leaving me a comment or email me at


Guild, Jane Purcell. (1996) Black Laws of Virginia. A summary of the Legislative Acts of Virginia concerning Negroes from earliest time to the present. Complied by Karen Hughes White & Joan Peters, Afro-American Historical Association of Fauquier County, Virginia, page 95.

Loudoun County Virginia (12 Dec. 1795) Misc. Papers, Free Blacks, Luke Goin Certificate of Freedom.

SO WHAT! -Developed by Dr. Shelley Murphy June 2013.

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2017 MAAGI Registration Opens Jan 13, 2017

MAAGI, what’s it all about? It is the Midwest African American Genealogy Institute (MAAGI pronounced “maggie”).

Is it just for African Americans to attend?

No, it is for anyone who wants to learn and engage in good sound genealogy research focusing on African Americans records and resources and more.


MAAGI offers court tracks with twelve fabulous classes over 3 days at the wonderful Allen County Public Library in Ft. Wayne, Indiana . The classes for the institute offers  nationally recognized instructors who are authors, bloggers and teachers. We believe that any researcher, scholar, family historian no matter who they are researching will benefit from MAAGI.

At MAAGI, we can promise an experience, not a typical lecture, but we provide some hands on assignments, even pre-assignments to get you prepared.

We want to turn on your thinking skills.

If you are not African American, you might think, “why attend an African American Genealogy Institute:? Remember, we are all researching individuals who were born, married, owned and worked land, worked jobs, went to church and lived in communities. There is no color to that aspect, all researchers have to follow the evidence. During the slavery era those researching ancestors who were enslaved, must learn other records that were created by slaveholders, due to the various laws and more to follow those ancestors. So, records like wills, probate records, estate inventories are to be used to find their ancestors.

I also consider all who use those records to be the idea candidates for MAAGI. You will learn things that are not typically involved in your research. Our classes reflect who our instructors are. So, we urge you to challenge yourself to learn more! MAAGI wants to educate and provide you with tools you might not see at a conference or referenced in a public talk.

Institutions are becoming more popular each year and I believe they are the wave of the future of genealogy vs. a conference. Researchers are looking for more hands on and strategies to help move their research along.

Are there other institutes? Sure there are. At this point MAAGI is not seen at the same level as GRIP or SLIG, in their eyes. I am saddened with this thought. But we are just as good if not better than any other institute.  MAAGI is going into her 5th consecutive year. We pride ourselves on maintaining the small classroom sizes to maximize the learning for individuals.

IMG_4903Part of the 2016 MAAGI Track 1 Class

When researching ancestors and they are people of color you will have to take a few more twists and turns to find them. They are not always in the typical places where others find records. In addition, there are some strategies needed to combat the challenges that follow all genealogy research.

Of course, this does not mean that  researching your Irish or Native American won’t have some of the same challenges, but at MAAGI you will learn and be able to use those tools with any of your research. MAAGI  wants you to have good sound practices and tools for success. We help you to develop a timeline and a research plan.

Learning new skills or enhancing your skills will help further your research and tell the stories. MAAGI  offers special topics within the 4 tracks, such as researching for civil war soldiers, USCTs, it’s not just looking at fold3, could be certain records sets, like Record Group 105, Freedmen Bureau, or Land Records, pension records, specific slave research topics, and much more. Military is highlighted in Track 3, so it how to attack the wealth of information. The access to records at the Allen County Library is another perk. Take a peak at the sessions for each track to obtain an idea of which one you want to attend. (


One tradition that I want to highlight at MAAGI is the Wednesday evening brick wall session. They are held in the lobby of the hotel. Everyone gets a chance to tell about their brick wall and everyone is involved helping to solve the brick wall and then it moves on to the next person. We have fun and it’s a great team effort seeing everyone contribute to helping others where they are stuck. You just never know what happens when a bunch of good minds come together focusing on an issue. We have great successes and discoveries. One of the most memorable ones can be heard via an interview Angela Walton-Raji on her African Roots Podcast. (

2017 MAAGI Registration opens Jan 13, 2017, you have time to join as a member (see member benefits on the webpage) and save some costs. There is a hotel block at the Marriott. Think about what you need in your research journey at this time. Figure out which track you want to experience and register.  The MAAGI Coordinators, Angela Walton-Raji, Bernice Alexander Bennett, Janis Minor Forte and of course me hope to see you in Ft. Wayne. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask.




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Combat the Common Genealogy Challenges in 2017!

Come on in 2017, we are ready for you!

It does not matter who or where in the U. S. you are researching, you need to know the fundamentals about genealogy research, records & resources. Most importantly you need to be able to ask questions, manage your files, documenting your resources and share your findings

 First, you need to be organized, if not you’ll become frustrated and quit, or duplicate research you’ve already doneYou will become successful in collecting pieces of paper and we don’t want that. Everyone has piles, stacks, bags and boxes in their house full of papers, photos and what ever.  It’s a good idea to have a system in place the helps you record, document, store and retrieve information. Some use file folders, binders or boxes. Select one and be consistent. An easy way is to just alphabetize your file folders with the surnames of heads of the family, then as you move along in your research you will hopefully develop a good method that not just you, but others can follow. 

Here are some things to think about and it doesn’t matter if you are new to research or experienced, the basics always count. The basics are your foundation. 

● Who, What, When, Where, and Why-things I need to know about my ancestors
● Has someone in your family already completed some research, have you checked the HOUSE REPOSITORY? Get with others and share information as pictured below. We are all researching Jefferson County, Virginia/West Virginia seeking free and enslaved ancestors. (Photo taken at Clarmont, Charles Town, WV, July 2016)
● Do you have the time? Have you considered the costs?
● $$$$-Costs-yes there is costs to doing genealogy research-not all can be done online.


One of my Murphy Rules is also to first:

  • Write down what I  know
  • Set your goal on what I don’t know
  • Make a list of who or what might know-what I don’t know (could be an individual or a record/resource)

We have to do our due diligence to obtain information. There are no magical tricks that makes information or records appear. We have to dig and keep digging for them. I came up with another “Murphy Rule” to follow when doing your genealogy research-Follow:

• the Money

• the Land

• the Water, and

• the Faith of the people (which includes doing research on the community)

Task for you: take each one listed above and ask yourself “why” I would suggest you follow that information in a community.

As an experienced researchers and family historian we will face challenges when researching, everyone will, no matter what level. It is not just African or Native Americans or people of color that presents unique challenges. There are some common genealogy research challenges that you should be aware of and make sure you are not the one creating them. Listed below are some of the most common genealogy challenges I have faced. I am sure you probably could add a few more, but this is what I have faced so far.  

● Records destroyed
● Denial-don’t want to know, it’s the past
● Don’t want to share the information
● Received information that is not the truth or reliable-questionable Oral History
● Do you really have a brick wall/challenge?
● If doing slave research and they were sent/sold to the deep south
● You don’t know what you have-no analysis was done on the records (SO WHAT! basics, ask some questions, question the documents, see the gaps and conflicts)

 ● Records not recorded/written, not recorded into public record

The NOT’s are sometimes the challenges or brick walls we create such as: 

● Not understanding the Genealogy Proof Standard (GPS)
● Not aware of Friends, Associates and Neighbors (FAN) principle by Elizabeth Shown Mills. 
● Not using Cluster Research methods
● Not having a Goal or Timeline to build a Research Plan 
● Not using Google as your friend to access tips and leads finding others researching the same area or ancestors 
● Not tuning in to the FREE resources like social media (Facebook, Twitter) and weekly blogtalkradioshows and podcasts, etc. (Research at the National Archives and Beyond (–angela-walton-raji), Legacy Family Tree Webinars ( and, etc.)

If you are focusing on a specific state and county and you know the time period please “GET A MAP”. Do it for me, it is really critical to have a map or photos of the counties of the areas you are researching. It’s a good tool when dealing with some brick walls. There is nothing better than putting a map on the wall, sticking pins on locations and tracking the movement of your ancestors. You now have a visual and sometimes it will make you question what you are looking at and you will have to seek some more information and records to resolve the conflict. Everytime I walk by this chart, I try to write down another source to research.

research plan william michael murphy 2015

Also, you need to know what Records are available and what Law is on the books at the time. Having some knowledge of the law will help you. The Legal Genealogist ( does a good job emphasizing how critical the law is when doing genealogy research.

It is important to understand when researching African Americans that you understand how they were identified in the records. Some records will have codes, C or Colored, B for Black, I for Indian, etc. These identifiers will show themselves in public or private records, family bibles, legal documents and so forth. I have listed some of the most common identifiers I have seen in my research when researching African Americans. Can you add more for your ancestors? 



Free Mixtures

Yellow, high Yellow

Free Negroes





Free Negroes chargeable with tax


Free Blacks chargeable with tax

Free persons of color (FPC or FPOC)

Person(s) of Color



Very Black

To sum all this up get a few good books that are your “go to” for keeping you grounded and focused on good genealogy research techniques. There is no magic, there are no popping out of the box for genealogy research. It takes hard consistent work, setting a goal, planning your research, asking questions and using some of the things I noted to be successful. You also have to realize that there will be some ancestors you will not find anything on them, that you have to accept.

Attend the Institutes like the Midwest African American Genealogy Institute (MAAGI, pronounced Maggie) ( (MAAGI Coordinators are pictured above, Left to Right: Shelley Murphy, Janis Minor Forte, Bernice Bennett and Angela Walton-Raji) I believe Institutes are the wave of the future for genealogy researchers. You will learn the methods and strategies to get some movement on your genealogy research. It’s not just for African American researchers, it’s for all. Join us, hear, learn, share and tell the stories.

Some of my favorite things regardless if I am looking for people of color or not, I follow the basics and use the basic standards and stay focused.


  • Black Roots by Tony Burroughs
  • Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy by Val D. Greenwood
  • Finding a Place Called Home by Dee Parmer Woodtor

Joining a genealogy groups, societies, etc. (several groups)

Tune in to the “free webinars”, read the Blogs, you never know where your new tip might come from.

Read the society newsletters, books, quarterlies, visit websites, etc.

Social Media-a gold mine-Facebook and Twitter, get on it! Associate with those that are doing research. If there is not a county genealogy page on Facebook, start one! People interested in the same county will come…watch it grow.

Thank you for reading, I hope this helps you. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them. If you need more information on MAAGI, email me or simply just register to attend.



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Seeking Descendants of Nathanial Worden b. 1728

Genealogy friends connected to Worden’s. I am looking for any “male descendants” of any of the Worden males on this line. If you are or know who is please have them contact me at I have an AncestryDNA kit for them. Thanks

Parents: Nathaniel Worden 1728–1813 and Anna Palmeter 1726–1788.

Possible Children: 
Waite Worden 1746–
Wealthy Worden or Werden 1747–1800
Silas Worden or Werden 1749–1750
Sarah Worden or Werden 1749–1750
Eunice Worden 1749–1800
Nathaniel Worden, II 1752–1840
Lois (Lots) Worden 1753–1800
Moses Worden 1755–1813
Walter Worden Capt 1757–1814
Anne Worden 1758–1800
Silas Worden 1759–1760
Jesse Worden 1761–1843
Sarah Worden 1762–1800
Arnold Worden 1765–1840
Dudley Worden 1767–
Lucretia Worden 1769–1838
Warren Worden 1770–1848

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The Importance of Sharing the Slave History from your Family Trees.

Thank you Valerie for blogging on this topic. First it is important for European American genealogy researchers to not be afraid or feel the they can’t relate. The reason they might feel they don’t relate is because they don’t think they have African or any other ancestry but European. I say it really shouldn’t matter. It really is about learning the methods and strategies that are used to conduct genealogy research, any genealogy research. And when we do people of color research, I have the belief that “the research does not have a color/race or ethnicity, but the records have different locations where they live or are housed. There is a point when individuals researching their African American ancestry and get to the 1870 census, that is critical. If you do not know the significance of the 1870 federal population census for African American research, please email me at If they want to go back further than 1870 and they think their ancestors might have been enslaved, the researcher will have to look for the white people via the surname and research the whole community/county, not necessarily looking for people of color. We all have things to learn on a daily basis. There is no magic in genealogy research, it’s work, its digging and it’s asking questions. It’s sticking to the basics and having the evidence to back it up.

Here are 10 tips to keep in mind when doing genealogy research-they are the Murphy’s Law of Genealogy: 1) set a goal of what you want to find out about an ancestor. 2) begin a timeline on this ancestor with “what you know” about the ancestor, 3) locate the community they lived in, learn the community/county, 4) find out what resources are available at the local level, 5) check out what might be available online via or, etc. 6) continue building the timeline with birth, deaths, marriage, wills, and land ownership information and records such as federal and state census, anything that happen to and around this ancestor, every year 7) realize what you are missing or what information is conflicting or has a gap, question it using familytreegirl’s “So What” technique 8) find out who else might be researching this same family 9) join a genealogy group, use social media , read blogs, listen to podcasts and blogtalk radio shows, attend a hangout, and 10) remember to cite your resources.

Here are some of my favorites places to visit:
Research at the National Archives and Beyond-Bernice Bennett, blogtalk radio show
BlackProGen Live
Dear Myrtle Monday’s with Myrtle or her Wacky Wednesday’s-hangouts
Libraries like the Library of Virginia
Military research like
Google…is your friend-ask it a question
Midwest African American Genealogy Institute (MAAGI)
Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center, Ft. Wayne, IN


Genealogy With Valerie



About a month ago I joined a Black Ancestry Group on Facebook. You may think this is an odd thing to do considering I am not Black. I did it for a specific reason, to ask a question that had been plaguing me for a long time.  The following is the question that I finally asked about 5 days ago.

“I have had this question rolling around in my head for several years but didn’t know who I could ask about it. I have been afraid it may offend people but I have read some posts on here so I feel comfortable asking. Let me preference it with this: Unfortunately I have several slave owners in my family tree, some dating back into the late 1600’s. I have some wills that give names and locations. Would it help others if we were able to list those names and locations…

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Timid – Giving the Message

With all the turmoil going on it was good to hear a young man speak his opinion on the election. Timid from also put out a plea, “a public call to action for all politicians, elected officials, and community leaders to denounce the hateful assaults and attacks that have been happening in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s win and to let people know, in no uncertain terms, that this type of behavior will not be tolerated. If the people perpetrating this type of harassment and violence know there will be consequences, perhaps we can mitigate some of these incidents going forward”. The Random Hour radio show in Fairfax, Virginia, tune in:

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The Ancestry We’re Related APP

This is a great overview of the new application called We’re Related. I believe I will build the same type of spreadsheet as Russ Worthington shows on his blog. I question a couple of the connections as well. But most of them are right on point and well researched. It is fun and great entertainment, but also more research has to be done if it is a line you have not researched. Enjoy Russ’s tips.

A Worthington Weblog

Facebook is on fire about this new APP, We’re Related. Lots of Genealogist and Bloggers are “talking” about it on that social media platform.

Since I have seen another website, with similar features, I had to jump in and see what it was all about. I would put is in the category of “cousin bait” or a very “Bright Shiny Object” (BSO).

My GeneaBlogger friend, Randy Seaver, has a number of blog posts on this topic:

In watching his blog posts, I found a number of common people showing up on my list as well.

From my experience with the other BSO, I thought I would check into some of the folks…

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