Friday, November 28, 2008

Three years, Two birds, One stone

I had the chance of a lifetime to combine two items on my Bucket List in one fell swoop: tracing my family tree, Number 75; and doing a PowerPoint Presentation, Number 18.

My extended family gets together every couple of years simply to honor the lives of those family members who have passed on before us, both my parents, all my grandparents, et al. It is a real celebration of life.

But this past year, I wanted to go beyond those that we knew in our lifetime and talk about ancestors from hundreds of years ago. Now, being African-American, one can only trace back so far because you hit a brick wall at the Civil War, as no records on slaves were kept prior to that.
However, in 1870, the first U.S. census after slavery ended, we were listed by full name, age, marital status, birthplace, occupation, and whether you had the ability to read and write.

With a lot of hard work and even more determination, I discovered my Great-Great-Grandmother Nancy was born a slave in 1844, and was owned by Cherokee Indians. Yes! Indians owned slaves. And because the government kept detailed records on the Indian Nations (with the intent of ultimately taking their land) I was able to find out not only who Nancy's parents were, but also her grandparents, and great-grandparents. They had all been passed down this same Cherokee family through various last wills and testaments.

After several years of wading through the U.S. Archives, I uncovered 234 of my ancestors. There were 4 civil War veterans (on both sides of the war), 3 ministers, 3 millionaires (on the white side, of course), 8 murders, 1 death on the Trail of Tears, 1 suicide, 1 death by fire (maybe a lynching?) 1 arrest for assault with a deadly weapon (a marital dispute) and several arrests for illegal possession of moonshine.

I rented a projector and screen, hooked it up to my laptop, and presented all this information to my entire family in the form of a PowerPoint Presentation.
Isn't God great?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The fruits of your labor -- that must have been inspirational, eye-opening, thrilling. Like they say, we must know our history to fully understand our place on this planet. Sounds like you have a great deal on information to pass on to your children and grandchildren. It would be nice if you could write a book. Imagine if you could develop the story lines on all family members then bring it current. Would be interesting and entertaining. Get writing! I want to read that book. msbelizeanc