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Black History Month good time to start genealogy work

If you’re African American and haven’t done any genealogy research, February — Black History Month — is a good time to start.

First, interview your older relatives to get some information to start with. Use the U.S. census to verify times and places in the stories that you’re told. That will help when your research takes you to courthouse records and other documents that require you to know where people lived. While the census is a national record, most genealogical resources are found at the county level.

For more recent records, the best place to start looking is at the county courthouse. But, for records from the early 20th century and before, many are now digitized online at FamilySearch.org (free) and Ancestry.com (fee based). Locally, we have some great resources, and a good place to begin would be with the reference staff at the Georgia Archives (GeorgiaArchives.org) in Morrow. The Metro Atlanta Chapter of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society (aahgsatl.org) can be helpful, too. That group has monthly meetings, as well as seminars. The Atlanta-Fulton Public Library’s Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History (afpls.org/aarl), 101 Auburn Ave. NE, Atlanta, is another great place to visit and ask for guidance in your research. Always check for days and hours open before you visit any facility.

Slavery in Colonial Georgia

“The Use of the Bible in Arguments for and Against Slavery in Colonial Georgia” will be the February 14 Lunch and Learn lecture topic at the Georgia Archives. Richard “Bo” Adams, from Emory’s Pitts Theology Library, will be the speaker. The free event starts at noon. Bring your own lunch. For more information and future topics, see GeorgiaArchives.org or call 678-364-3710.

DNA testing

All the major DNA companies offer ethnic origins results as part of their autosomal testing and will show any DNA matches with people who have also tested with that company. Anyone with African American ancestry can learn some general information from these tests, depending on the reference populations used. For example, someone who matches with me on part of her tree also shows, as part of her ethnic profile, Nigeria (20%), Congo and Cameroon (11 %), Mali (8%), and Benin/Togo (1%).

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Contact Kenneth H. Thomas, Jr., P. O. Box 901, Decatur, GA 30031 or gagensociety.org.