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29 Ways in 29 Days

Like so many others with southern roots, The Legal Genealogist has a family history that is intimately bound up with that “peculiar institution” — slavery.

It’s not something I expected to have to deal with when I first began looking at the past through a genealogical lens.

On my father’s side, I am first generation American. My father and his parents were all born in Germany and didn’t emigrate to the United States until 1925. No issue of slavery on that side.

On my mother’s side, I had seen my mother’s careful entries of her parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents in my older sister’s baby book. Those entries suggested that our most recent immigrants would have been born in Ireland and Wales and would have come to America at a time that I figured would be after the Civil War.

It turns out, of course, that Ireland and Wales must be small towns in Mississippi, since that in fact is where those ancestors were born — and the family in all its varied lines has been in America since the 1600s, with only a few latecomers in the 1700s.

And every last one of them — until my generation — lived in the south.

With that history, it wasn’t at all surprising to find enslavers lurking in the branches of my family tree. Nor is it truly surprising to find that I am now closing in on what I believe may turn out to be a fifth great grandfather who was himself a free man of color.

This is my history.

This is our history.

Black history is the history of all our people.

So we all need to know more — more about the history, and particularly more about how to find and integrate records of African-Americans into our genealogical research plans.

Black History Month

And today — the first of February 2020 and the first day of Black History Month — the Center for Family History of the International African American Museum in partnership with FamilySearch launches its first major collaboration in a way that will help every one of us.

This new project is called Finding Your Black Roots: 29 Ways in 29 Days. And what a terrific project this is…

Each day during February, FamilySearch will launch or feature a searchable collection especially helpful for African-American genealogical research. And the IAAM Center for Family History will then teach us how best to use the records in a series of blog posts focusing on those featured collections.

The Center explains: “In each post, we’ll introduce that day’s featured collection, show you what’s in the collection and suggest next steps if you find an ancestor there. Then, we’ll take a deep dive into researching from a specific example document from that collection.”1

We can get more background on what FamilySearch is doing in the FamilySearch blog post, “All about Black History Month.”2 Or we can get more background on what the IAAM Center for Family History is doing on its page for Black History Month — and that’s where we can all follow along with the collections and their explanations. so we all want to bookmark that page and come back to it every day during Black History Month.

Or we can just dive in to any one of the seven collections that are already featured and highlighted by the Center:

US, Texas, Harrison County–Delayed Birth Records, 1860-1933

US, Georgia — County Delayed Birth and Death Records, 1870-1960

Virginia Slave Birth Index, 1853-1866

Alabama State Census, 1866

United States 1860 Census Slave Schedules

United States General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934

Descriptive Recruitment Lists of Volunteers for the United States Colored Troops for the State of Missouri,1863-1865.

To give you a better idea of how this is going to work, let’s look at those Harrison County, Texas, delayed birth records. The collection itself is on FamilySearch, with the title Texas, Harrison County Delayed Birth Records, 1860-1933. And how we might use what it holds is in the Center’s blog post.

The post begins by giving us an overview of the collection itself and what’s in it. It explains what value a researcher might get from researching in the collection. And then it gives a very specific example — researching George Jones, born 23 April 1911 in Harrison County, who applied in November 1968 for a delayed birth certificate.

The blog post explains the kinds of information recorded in the document, and the kinds of evidence that Jones had to produce to support his application.

It then goes on to talk about the different ways that information might be used in family history: to find more in places like marriage records, World War II draft registrations, census records, and even on Find a Grave. It’s like a mini-lesson on following up on the clues from that delayed birth record.

And if that wasn’t enough, the post then goes on to suggest related resources and FamilySearch Wiki resources for African American genealogy.

So here in Black History Month, we have the chance to begin Finding Your Black Roots: 29 Ways in 29 Days.

I’m all in for this.

This is my history.

This is our history.

These are all our people.

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “All our people…,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 1 Feb 2020).


  1. Black History Month, Center for Family History, International African American Museum ( : accessed 1 Feb 2020).
  2. Thom Reed, “All about Black History Month,” FamilySearch Blog, posted 17 Jan 2020.
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