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AfriGeneas News & Announcements
November 2007

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Roots Television
Dick Eastman Interviews Tony Burroughs on Roots Television

Tony Burroughs, author of Black Roots: A Beginner's Guide to Tracing the African American Family Tree, sits down with Dick Eastman aboard the 2007 Wholly Genes Cruise. Tony mentions AfriGeneas as a resource.

Watch the interview on Roots Television . . .

Source: Roots Television

Posted by Staff on 11/20/07 at 12:53 pm EST

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Slave Descendants Freedom Society Offers a Window to History

For black Americans, society offers a window to history

The Associated Press
November 11, 2007

While their white counterparts often easily reach into their families' pasts, many black Americans assume their history beyond their slave ancestors is lost.

The Slave Descendants Freedom Society wants to change that. The Carrollton nonprofit group is encouraging black Americans to trace their roots and seek out their heritage on the African continent.

'I think it's a real void in our community, not knowing your history, not knowing where you're from,' said Eric Sheppard, the organization's chairman and founder. Most black Americans are ancestors of former slaves, he said.

He and his wife, Lisa Sheppard, formed the society five years ago and are celebrating this weekend with a banquet at the Hampton Roads Convention Center.

Dodou Bammy Jagne, an ambassador to the United States from The Gambia in western Africa, will keynote the event, which also is expected to draw Cyrille Oguin, ambassador from the African Republic of Benin.

Benin was the first African country to apologize for its role in the Atlantic slave trade, according to organizers.

For black Americans, researching their family tree has been historically considered near impossible.

While Americans of European descent can identify a country they're originally from, black Americans are up against a history in which even their ancestor's names often were erased, Eric Sheppard said.

White slavemasters typically replaced enslaved African's names with more European-sounding ones. Slaves then took on the last name of their owner.

But genealogy searches and reunions have surged in light of modern research tools. The release of Alex Haley's book 'Roots' in 1976, also jump-started interest. Haley used records to trace his origin to a slave who arrived in Annapolis in 1767.

So far, Eric Sheppard has traced his roots to a former slave named Moses Grandy, who penned 'Narrative of the Life of Moses Grandy: Late a Slave in the United States of America.'

The Sheppards ultimately want to build a genealogy research and cultural history museum called the Restoration Center in The Gambia. It would bridge the gap between Africans and black Americans.

'It gave me a sense of pride, a sense of legacy to leave for my children,' Eric Sheppard said of tracing his history. 'It has given me a sense of purpose that I can make a difference helping others reconnect their families and their histories.'

Source: Topix

Posted by Staff on 11/19/07 at 6:30 am EST

Friday, November 16, 2007

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Joins Forces with Family Tree DNA to Launch

Innovative Partnership Offers African Americans Unprecedented Choices in Search for Roots

BOSTON--(BUSINESS WIRE), the first company dedicated to offering both genetic testing and genealogical tracing services for African Americans, is being launched this month by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University, in partnership with the Inkwell Foundation and Family Tree DNA, the world’s leader in genetic genealogy. The precedent-setting site is the only company in the field of genetic genealogy that will provide African Americans with family tree research in addition to DNA testing.

Gates, a celebrated author, educator and social critic, is a strong advocate of the value and benefits of genetic genealogy for African Americans. Noting that the process is still in its infancy, he says: “Most people don't realize it, but their roots are on the tips of their tongues. The available DNA data are not by any means complete, and these tests will not yield the names of any of the individuals on our distant family trees—just the general geographic areas in which our ancestors lived. Sometimes the tests yield multiple exact tribal matches, making it necessary for historians to interpret the most plausible result.” is the only company that offers the service of scholars interpreting multiple matches when compared to the database. A board of historical consultants will include Dr. Fatimah Jackson, Professor, Applied Biological Anthropology, University of Maryland; Dr. Linda Heywood and Dr. John Thornton, both African historians at Boston University; Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Professor of History and of African and African American Studies (Chair) at Harvard University; and Dr. David Eltis, director of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database at Emory University.

Gates comments that “sometimes African Americans will discover that their DNA can be traced to a white ancestor, especially on the father’s side, because of slavery. About 30 percent of the African American male population has a white male ancestor.” offers two premium tests. The Maternal Test (Female-mtDNA) is a high-resolution mtDNA test that looks at the mitochondria received by both men and women from their mothers. The Paternal Test, exclusively for males, is a Y-DNA test that details the inherited Y-chromosome. Both tests’ results will include placement in the ancestral tree of humankind. Tests will be processed at the Genomic Analysis and Technology Core laboratory at the University of Arizona, headed by Dr. Michael Hammer. The renowned geneticist has been associated with Family Tree DNA since the company’s inception. Both Family Tree DNA and the University of Arizona lab are respected for their commitment to stringent scientific standards and privacy guidelines.

Singular in the world of genealogy and genetics is’s Genealogy Package. This unique product offers documented genealogical tracing of lineage as far back as records permit. Although former slaves, freed at the time of the Civil War, first appeared in the Federal census in 1870, many other records of African Americans under slavery still exist. Genealogists even discovered that Gates’ 4th great-grandfather—a Free Negro named John Redman—fought in the American Revolution, leading to Gates’ induction into the SAR (Sons of the American Revolution). DNA test takers who opt for the Genealogy Package will receive a customized family tree prepared by the genealogy services group.

Genetic results of AfricanDNA customers will be compared with the database of Family Tree DNA, the most extensive comparative database of DNA test results in the world, including African results provided by leading anthropologists worldwide. These comparisons will point many AfricanDNA clients toward their African origins. A percentage of all profits will be donated to the Inkwell Foundation, dedicated to reforming the teaching of science and history in inner city schools using genetic and genealogical ancestry tracing.

Long interested in genealogical research and DNA testing, Gates is the author of Finding Oprah’s Roots, Finding Your Own (Crown, 2007) and the forthcoming In Search of Our Roots: How 19 Extraordinary African Americans Reclaimed Their Past, to be published next spring (Crown, 2008). He is also the host and executive producer of the critically acclaimed 2006 PBS series “African American Lives” and its follow-up, “Oprah’s Roots.” “African American Lives 2” will be broadcast on PBS in February, 2008 in conjunction with Black History Month. Professor Gates is Editor-in-Chief of the Oxford African American Studies Center, the first comprehensive scholarly online resource in the field of African American and African Studies. Gates, an influential cultural critic, has written for Time Magazine, The New Yorker and the New York Times. The recipient of 48 honorary degrees and a 1981 MacArthur Foundation “Genius Award,” Henry Louis Gates, Jr. received a National Humanities Medal in 1998, and in 1999 was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Family Tree DNA, founded in April 2000, was the first company to develop the commercial application of DNA testing for genealogical purposes, which, until then, had only been available for academic and scientific research. Today, Family Tree DNA’s database exceeds 165,000 individual test records (roughly 110,000 Y-DNA and 55,000 mtDNA tests), making it the prime source for researching recent and distant family ties. Additionally, Family Tree DNA administers over 4400 surname projects, comprising some 65,000 unique surnames.


Posted by Staff on 11/16/07 at 10:11 pm EST

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

ICAPGen to Offer African American and Native American Accrediting Exams

The International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists (ICAPGen) has announced that it will offer new exams leading to the Accredited Genealogist (AG) certification for genealogists specializing in Afican American and Native American research.

The new tests are:

  • Gulf-South African American
  • Mid-South African American
  • Gulf-South American Indian
  • Mid-South American Indian

The Accredited Genealogist title is issued to individuals who pass a rigorous certification test to become professional genealogists. The title is abbreviated as AG when positioned as a post-nomial behind a person's name. To learn more about this title, how to qualify for it, or find those who have it to assist you in your genealogical research, visit the ICAPGen web site.

Source: ICAPGen

Posted by Staff on 11/13/07 at 12:35 pm EST

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Robert Weldon LawrenceRobert W. Lawrence, WWII Pilot Who Broke Color Barrier with Tuskegee Airmen, Dies

By Tom Sharpe The New Mexican

Robert Weldon "Bob" Lawrence, one of the original Tuskegee Airmen who broke the color barrier for military pilots, died at home Thursday night in Santa Fe, where he had lived for 17 years.

Lawrence, 85, was born and grew up in New Jersey. After the United States entered World War II, he enlisted in the Army, was commissioned as an officer and was accepted to a pilot-training program for African Americans in Tuskegee, Ala.

In an interview in The New Mexican a decade ago, Lawrence said the first 45 young black pilot trainees faced skepticism from whites who believed blacks lacked the skills to fly. A white instructor at Tuskegee was badly beaten in a bar by whites who were upset he was "teaching niggers how to fly," Lawrence said.

First lady Eleanor Roosevelt "came to Tuskegee to see for herself what was going on," Lawrence recalled. "Against the advice of staff, she wanted to fly with the chief (black) instructor. And she did fly with him. She later reported back to her husband that the black pilots were as capable as anyone else to fly airplanes."

While many of the Tuskegee Airmen never saw combat, Lawrence received his pilot's license in June 1944 and flew a P-51 Mustang fighter on 33 combat missions into Germany and other countries from bases in Italy.

After the war, he applied to fly for civilian airlines, but, like other black military pilots, he was told that "because they'd been trained for combat ... it wasn't appropriate to hire them for civilian flying," said his widow, Ernestine "Tina" Lawrence.

Read the rest of the story . . .

Source: Santa Fe New Mexican

Posted by Staff on 11/11/07 at 8:17 am EST

Monday, November 05, 2007

Carl Stokes' Slave Ancestor Found in 1845 Will

Sunday, November 04, 2007
Margaret Bernstein
Plain Dealer Reporter

An 1845 document filed away at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Georgia attests to the magnitude of what Carl B. Stokes accomplished in Cleveland just a century later.

It is a two-page will bequeathing more than 85 slaves — including Stokes’ great-grandfather, Seaborn Brinson — from a white Georgia landowner to his daughter.

A records search conducted by, a genealogy Web site, has shed new light on the history of a man who made history himself, as the first black mayor of a major U.S. city.

The clumsily typed will reveals that Seaborn, his four siblings and his mother were among the “negro slaves” that Samuel Tarver directed to be given away to his heirs after he passed away, along with mules, hogs, sheep and more than 2,000 acres of land.

Seaborn was the father of Fannie Brinson, Stokes’ grandmother, who was born in Georgia during slavery, in 1860, and eventually migrated north. She died in Cleveland in 1942 and is buried here.

Read the rest of the story . . .

Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer

Posted by Staff on 11/05/07 at 7:05 pm EST

Thursday, November 01, 2007

DNAAfrican Ancestry Comments on 60 Minutes Report

African Ancestry Featured on 60 Minutes

We felt it important that 60 Minutes' viewers receive a more complete perspective on the value of genetic ancestry tracing. African Ancestry has spent the past four years using genetic technology to transform the way people view themselves and the way they view Africa. (Click here for the story & video).

First, no other company has a resource comparable to our African Lineage DatabaseTM. Dr. Kittles spent over 10 years working with anthropologists, geneticists, archaeologists and historians to construct the most comprehensive database of African lineages in the world. Our database has over 25,000 samples affording us the ability to deliver a level of specificity in our results unmatched by our competition. Specifically, and unlike most other companies in this arena, our analysis accounts for frequency and likelihood of matches - allowing us to determine a present day country of ancestry. African Ancestry does not just give people a result based on a single data point.

Secondly, It is important to note that in some cases, African Ancestry is unable to trace genetic lineage to one particular ethnic group in a community in Africa but instead the result may be found among to several ethnic groups within a particular region. This is often dependent upon both the commonality of some lineages as well as the migrational histories of certain groups. We do not promise or claim otherwise.

Thirdly, having a personal connection to the continent has motivated thousands of African American families to travel to, build school and hospitals in, invest in, lobby on behalf of, study about, and feel an extremely strong sense of being from Africa.

Finally, over 50,000 people -- including celebrities and leaders such as Oprah Winfrey, Isaiah Washington, and Spike Lee - have reclaimed their roots, thanks to the groundbreaking research that African Ancestry tests provide.

Source: African Ancestry

Posted by Staff on 11/01/07 at 4:55 pm EST

Reconstructing the Family Tree: 60 Minutes Reports On The Hopes And Limitations Of Genetic Genealogy

(CBS) Genealogy -- researching family history -- is one of the most popular hobbies in this country, right up there with gardening. A nation of immigrants, we almost all come from somewhere else we wish we knew more about, so searching for our roots holds tremendous appeal. And today there is an exciting new addition to the genealogists' tool kit: genetic genealogy.

As correspondent Lesley Stahl explains, it turns out that inside each one of us, within every cell of our bodies, is information about who our ancestors were, where they lived, and who we're related to today. Our DNA contains hidden stories about our pasts, and scientists, together with businessmen, are now offering ways to help us read them.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Vy Higginsen is the founder and director of the Mama Foundation for the Arts in Harlem. She believes it's crucial for African-Americans to know and celebrate their heritage. But for most of her life, she knew virtually nothing about her own.

"It happened when my grandmother died. When I saw her laying in the casket, and I realized I didn't know who she was," she explains.

She started researching her family tree, but could only get as far back as her grandmother's father, Robert West. Then she heard about a company that could explore her great grandfather's ancestry, using DNA from a direct male descendent. So she called her cousin James West and asked if she could come swab his cheek.

"So we go down to Washington D.C. We take the test and he's all excited. And we send it back. And, bam, there's a hit," Vy Higgensen remembers.

There was a match between cousin James' DNA and that of several other men whose last name was also West. That means that James, and therefore Vy, are related to all these men, who sent their DNA to the same company, also looking for matches.

Vy was reeling from that information, when she received a phone call from halfway across the country. "And he said, 'Hello. My name is Marion West. And I'm a cattle rancher from Poplar Bluff, Missouri. And I understand we're cousins," Vy, who is African-American, remembers.

Read the rest of the story . . .

Source: 60 Minutes

Posted by Staff on 11/01/07 at 4:51 pm EST

6 Jul 2003 :: 05 Nov 2007
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