Saturday, March 10, 2007

Slave Owners and Records

My second session is "Slave Owners and Records." Concurrent sessions are "Your Family Tree and Its Lost Roots," "Indian Territory Freedman Research," and "Oral History: You Won't Find It in a Book."

The presenter of "Slave Records" is Denise Griggs, co-founder of the African-American Genealogical Society of Sacramento. She's here today with her twin sister. She's very thorough and has a sense of humor. At the start of he presentation, a woman raises her hand and says, "Ms. Griggs, I'm a member of an organization that is promoting the use of the term 'enslaved person' rather than 'slave.' There's a good argument for it." Denise says, "Yes, well, don't expect it to stick with me today," and continues her presentation as planned.

Denise talks about finding her ancestors' slaveowners in Amite County, Mississippi. She is clear-eyed about this issue, as she should be. After all, as she points out, the slaveowner was her great-grandfather, which to her means he was her great-grandfather. I appreciate this approach. She talks about using oral history, probate records, and church records to find the slaveowner family. About oral history, she says, "If it's gossip or even a flat-out lie, write it down." Her point is that family history research has to start somewhere and good research will eventually debunk or validate the oral lore." Talk to people, she's saying. "There's always somebody who knows [your family's] business, some of it, part of it."

She's very good and although her instructions were basic, her stories are re-invigorating me!

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