07 February 2011

Browing the NGSQ Archives During Black History Month

by Toby Webb

I thought I’d take a look to see what there is in the digitized archives that is responsive to February’s focus on black history.

My first discovery was just how easy the search could be. At the NGSQ Index Search page, there is a unique box to check for “African-American Features.” Many articles in the NGSQ archives could help in a general way with family research, but this box on the search page pulls up the articles that have been specifically identified as focused on African-American forebears and records.

The first article I retrieved was a 1989 book review by Milton Rubicam, reviewing Tommie Morton Young’s Afro-American Genealogy Sourcebook. Rubicam was a tough critic and thought that sections of the book were out of date, but even in his criticism he suggested additional models for African-American research that any modern student would find helpful.

The Index has an intriguing citation to a 1978 article by Tom W. Schick on “Afro-American Immigration to Liberia: An International Perspective” NGSQ 66 (December 1978): 285-290. That volume of NGSQ isn’t digitized yet, but I’ll look for the paper copy. The online Index let me know it is there.

Most moving of the entries I found were original records preserved in the pages of NGSQ. In 1872, Denège Taylor became a naturalized U.S. citizen, renouncing in familiar language fidelity to all foreign princes and potentates, “in particular to King Wyambo, in Africa.” NGSQ 84 (March 1996): 27. And another heart-rending transcription is an emancipation document, signed by a mother who had traced her enslaved son through two owners, bought him back and, in this document, gave him his freedom. Descendants of Andrew Jackson Davis, a free man thanks to his mother’s persistence, will treasure this paper. NGSQ 87 (March 1999): 54. And we all benefit from knowing his story.

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