Get creative to research family history

Nichelle M. Hayes

by Nichelle M. Hayes

October is National Family History month. The observance of Family History Month has grown greatly in popularity since it was first observed in 2001. According to an article from Genealogy in Time Magazine (2013) there are 7.93 million people in the United States who are actively conducting family research. This number grows every year.

One of my passions is the study of my Family History and Genealogy. I first caught the bug when I did a project in grade school where my Middle School Teacher asked me to complete a Family Tree Chart. I was off and running from there.

We live in an amazing age where research from all over the world can be accessed from the comfort of our homes. With that being said, everything isn’t isn’t online. A lot of resources (primary and secondary) remain in archives and county courthouses. Don’t miss out on amazing information because you are only searching online. Take a trip to a county courthouse or mail a letter to request a document or index.

While working on this piece I encountered some sad news. Ms. Valencia Nelson one of the founders of  Afrigeneas made her final transition on October 13, 2019. Ms. Valencia Nelson was a giant in research for African Americans. Her website and list serv have been used by untold people. May she rest in power with the ancestors. Click on the link to learn more about her extraordinary life. She will be missed.

Afrigeneas is a site devoted to African Ancestored genealogy, to researching African Ancestry in the Americas in particular and to genealogical research and resources in general. There is also a listserv and message board. The word  Afrigeneas is derived from African American Genealogy Buddies. It’s pronounced: A-fri-GEE-nee-as. A good place to start is with the Beginner’s Guide under the Records tab, then search marriage, death, surname and slave data databases under the same tab.

Our Black Ancestry has a website and Facebook page, both of which are free. The site was founded by Sharon Leslie Morgan a genealogist and writer. The site has a tutorial, blog (not recently updated due to using the Facebook platform), Black History timeline and marketplace. Additional information can be accessed for a modest $25 yearly fee. This site is unique in that it is specifically focused on Blacks and their unique search challenges. is a great site to access family trees, records and resources, all for free. This site is managed by the Church of Latter Day Saints. This site does require the establishment of a free account to save your information and access the information contained in the site. is a great website that assists in locating vital records (birth certificates, death records, marriage licenses and divorce decrees) for the United States and its territories. Once you visit the site you can search for a state, county or parish and look up the contact information, cost and information regarding how long records have been kept for that state. Some counties and parishes maintained records before the state mandated it. It’s always a good idea to check on the county or parish level to see if records have been maintained before the state made it law. Don’t miss out on information because of making an assumption.

I encourage everyone to conduct their own family research. Learn about your family, preserve your findings and share what you know. If someone in your family serves as the family griot (storyteller and/or genealogist) support their work by sending them money or offering to pay for materials or their next family reunion registration. Write down what you know and fill in the blanks from there.

Visit my blog and read my post on  “How to Start Your Research” for details on how to begin. Happy hunting!


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