24 March 2017

The Beyond Kin Project

The Beyond Kin Project

We are all part of one big puzzle!  All families hold a piece or pieces to that puzzle.  The best way to successfully research family histories is to link up with others doing the same.

And, always think of the FAN Club, as coined by Elizabeth Shown Mills – Friends, Associates and Neighbors.

Additionally, recognize that there are always two sides to every transaction.  For example, the Freedmen’s Bureau was created to address the needs of freedmen, and, many many non-freedmen are documented.  If they are not getting rations alongside freedmen, they are on the other side of an employment contract, they are supervising the building of schools and short-term relief buildings, they are in court for assault & battery against freedmen or their neighbors, they are hospitalized ex-soldiers, and much more. 

Records viewed as traditionally important to African-American ancestral research are also important to the research of the plantation owners and vice versa. The records of one person and/or family always include the records of others in a community.  Think of all the business transacted in a community.  Think of store, physician, blacksmith and other business ledgers.  These ledgers often mention slaves doing business on behalf of their masters or being treated for an illness. Think of family bibles that document everyone on the farm – whether biological family members, in-laws or those enslaved.  Thinks of church records where mentions of slaves and free persons of color can often be found.

Essentially, many records created on a farm/plantation, mention those living on the farm/plantation, including those enslaved.

This is part of the impetus of The Beyond Kin Project.  How those descended from slaveholding families can facilitate the documenting of enslaved persons …

Genealogists who descend from slaveholders (SHs) are uniquely positioned to revolutionize genealogy for their African American colleagues. You undoubtedly feel sympathy for the genealogical challenges facing the descendants of the enslaved persons (EPs) who once gave your ancestors wealth, comfort, and social status. But what if you start seeing their challenge as your own?

Because it is.

The challenge of documenting an ancestors’ enslaved persons (EPs) logically falls to you for many reasons:

·         The answers for antebellum African American family trees lie predominantly in the records of the white families who claimed ownership of them.
(See “The records of slaveholders.”)
·         The puzzles of enslaved identities can best be solved by studying them as groups, working outward from the SH’s records.
(See “The group approach to slave identification.”)
·         You will neither know nor understand your ancestors until you fill in the fuller picture of those who were integral to their most intimate daily lives.
(See “The rest of the family picture.”)
·         If you’ve read this far, you might be ready for the genealogical challenge and enlightenment opportunity of a lifetime. This will be it.
(See “The challenge of a lifetime.”)

If your family were slaveholders, consider taking on the challenge of unraveling the puzzles of the identities of those enslaved.

Were your ancestors slaveholders?  Does paperwork survive from their farm/plantation?  Is that documentation readily available to researchers?

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