Wednesday, October 16, 2019

AAHGS 40th Annual Conference! Day 1

Thursday, Oct. 10 was the first day of the 40th Annual AAHGS Conference in Hyattsville, Maryland.  This year’s theme is 400 years of Black History: The Struggles, Challenges, and Perseverance.  The day began with a panel discussion about the importance of the organization that is both genealogical and historical in 2019 and the significance of the 400th anniversary of the first documented Africans to America in 1619.  The panelists included Founder of AAHGS, Dr. Elizbeth Clark Lewis; AAHGS National President, Gene Stephenson; and AAHGS Vice President of History, Ric Murphy; and Zann Nelson, moderated by Toni Byrd-Vann. 

Later in the afternoon, I began to see more and more people with their red AAHGS conference bags, and I knew that the registration table was open for business.  There was a steady flow of people getting their badges, bags, and general information about the conference throughout the afternoon.  Attendees were also able to attend sessions today including:

·       New Members/First Time Attendees Orientation presented by Dr. Shelly Murphy
·       Getting the Most of Family Search presented by Carol Kostakos Petranek
·       Sharing of Research Findings on and Offline presented by Erica Tinsley
·       Overcoming the Hurdle of the 1890 Census presented by Natonne Kemp

This evening was the State of the Society Meeting.  During this meeting Gene Stephenson discussed the hard work of the national executive board, the chapter presidents, and the conference host chapter that not only makes the conference possible, but also the everyday work of the organization.  Next was the 2019 International AAHGS Book Awards Ceremony.  

Book winners included:

·       Forced American Heroes: Coloring and Activity Books Volume II by Janelle McDowell
·       Simone Visits the Museum by Keisi Bramort
·       Fate & Freedom:  Book III – The Middle Passage by K.I. Knight
·       Baltimore Civil Rights Leader Victorine Q. Adams by Ida E. Jones
·       Chance or Circumstance?  A Memoir and Journey Through the Struggle for Civil Rights by James Mapp
·       If I survive: Fredrick Douglas and Family in the Walter O. Evans Collection by Celset-Marie Bernier and Andrew Taylor
·       In Search of Purity: Popular Eugenics & Racial Uplift Among New Negroes 1915-1935 by Shantella Y. Sherman
·       The Thompson Family: Untold Stories from the Past (1830-1960) by Walter Curry
·       Dred Scott: The Inside Story by David Hardy
·       Rear Admiral Larry Chambers, USN: First African American to Command an Aircraft Carrier by Ric Murphy
·       Finding Otho: The Search for our Williams Ancestors by Kathy Lynne Marshall
·       From Carefree to Caregiver: A 31 Day Devotional to Balance, Encourage, and Support You in Your New Role by Teraleen W. Campbell
·       Gendered Resistance: Women, Slavery and the Leagacy of Margaret Garner by Mary E. Frederickson and Delores M. Walters
·       Southern Roads and Selected Poems by Karl W. Carter

Today was a busy day.  Attendees were able to learn, support each other’s research, put faces with names that are followed on social media, get to know strangers, and just enjoy being around other family historians. 

To see photos and videos from today follow us at and

We have two more genealogy fun filled days ahead of us! Be sure to subscribe to our blog to receive updates on days two and three of the conference!

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Honoring Grandparents

One of my favorite songs is "Grandma's Hands" by Bill Withers.  The song is a tribute to a nurturing grandmother that shows love to her family and her community with just her hands. Grandparents have always played an important role in the African-American family.  Many of us grew up multi-generational homes with grandparents or maybe your grandparent lived down the street. Grandparents often introduce their grandchildren to family rituals such as family dinners, cultural rituals, history, spirituality and God. Grandparents have the ability to tie generations together with their past and present.

Grandparent's Day would be a great opportunity to sit down and honor a grandparent, great aunt/uncle, or other elders in the family by recording or writing down their life stories.  You can ask questions about their involvement with the Civil Rights movement, the family’s migration, and military service. Ask if your family has a family Bible.  Ask to see pictures of family members and help document who is in the pictures.  Ask about family traditions, favorite recipes or past family reunions.  Angela Walton-Raji ( once said, if you just drop a few key words you might jar their memory and get an amazing narrative to come out.

Happy Grandparent's Day!

"Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do. Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children." Alex Haley

Written by
AAHGS Member and Blogger
Trisha Mays-Cummings

Thursday, August 29, 2019

1619: 400 Years Later All Roads Still Lead to Virginia

The first Africans who arrived in present day Virginia in 1619, were kidnapped from their villages in what is present-day Angola, and forced onto a Portuguese slave ship, the San Juan Bautista.  Towards the end of this voyage, the slave ship was attacked by two English privateers, The White Lion and The Treasurer, in the Gulf of Mexico and robbed of 50-60 Africans. The two privateers then sailed to Virginia where The White Lion arrived at Point Comfort (present-day Hampton, Virginia) in August 1619. John Rolfe, a prominent planter and the colony's secretary recorded and documented the arrival of some 20 negros to Point Comfort.

This year marks the 400th anniversary of their arrival.  While there are still some that question the details of this part of American history, the fact still remains that there were 20 negros accounted for and documented as arriving in Virginia during the summer of 1619, and that alone is worth celebrating.  There have been celebrations across the United States in observance of this significant part of our country's history, including AAHGS 40th Annual National Conference – 1619: 400 Years of African American Passage - October 10-12, 2019 in Hyattsville, Maryland at the College Park Hotel and Convention Center.

Ric Murphy, AAHGS Vice President - History, says it best when he tells people that 'All roads lead to Virginia'.  I remember the first time I heard him talking about it in 2015 at my first genealogy conference.  He was sitting a few chairs down from me with six or seven people around him.  He told someone that they probably have ancestors from Virginia because all roads lead back to Virginia 1619.  I didn't know what he meant by that at the time.  I remember I had to look up Virginia 1619 because as far as I knew my ancestors weren't from Virginia.  A couple of years later as I continued my research, I discovered that my ancestors whom I had thought were from Alabama, were indeed from Virginia; they had migrated south with their slaveholder family in 1810 and settled in Alabama.

One of the things I love about AAHGS is the organization is equal parts history and genealogy.  Family history is not just about learning about your ancestors.  To get an honest and clear picture of them, you have to know about their community and the history of the times they were living in.  What's your 1619 story?  How are you celebrating 400 years? Share your story with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram with #AAHGS1619story Visit our website to read more about 1619.

Written by
AAHGS Member and Blogger
Trisha Mays-Cummings

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Summertime Equals Family Time!

Summer is here, and that can mean our schedules are less busy, more time with family, and longer days.  Summer can also include family vacations, family reunions, or even genealogy road trips.  Whether you have a big multi-generation vacation planned or a staycation, family history can always be incorporated in your plans.

If you are attending a family reunion, make sure to make time to talk with the elders in your family.  Family reunions are a great opportunity to ask questions and get your family's oral history.  With today's technology most of us have a voice recorder, video camera, and digital camera at our fingertips with a smart phone.  And these family memories that you capture this summer can easily be shared with other family member through iCloud, Google drive, and social media.  Family reunions are also a great time to get multi-generational photos.

If your family is going on a vacation, see how you can incorporate some family history into your trip.  Start a family tradition of taking a photo in front of a tourist attraction or have the kids keep a vacation journal.  Vacations can also be a great time to get some research completed if you are going to a city with a national or regional archive.  You may be visiting a city that has a repository or a library with genealogy resources that aren't available in your hometown that you can take advantage of.

If you don't have any vacations planned, then the summer is a good time to review your research plan and start working on a brick wall that you may have.  If you live close to a college or university, summer is a great time to visit their library to see what genealogy collections they have available and talk with a librarian or archivist.  Many colleges and university libraries have books, manuscripts, microfilms, and other collections from different parts of the country.  If you live within driving distance of your ancestral home, you could take a day trip there and visit the local library, court house, or cemetery. 

For me summer has always been about food, family, and fun.  Summer was a time when aunts, uncles, and cousins came to town for visits.  Longer days meant more time spent with cousins visiting from out of town.  Summer meant BBQs and fish fries any day of the week not just on weekends.  That's part of the reason that summer is my favorite season. 

Genealogy and family history are more than just collecting names and dates.  It is also about spending time with family, making memories, and sharing those memories.  Let us know what some of your favorite summer memories are, and how you will be making summer memories this year.  Share your summertime photos with us on Facebook and Twitter using #AAHGSsummerphotos

Written by
AAHGS Member and Blogger
Trisha Mays-Cummings

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Happy Juneteenth!!!!

On June 19, 1865 Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation - which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. But the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance. In 1980 Juneteenth became an official state holiday in Texas through the efforts of Al Edwards, an African American state legislator. The successful passage of this bill marked Juneteenth as the first emancipation celebration granted official state recognition.  Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. 

Over the years Juneteenth has been celebrated with a wide range of activities such as rodeos, fishing, barbecuing, family reunions, special church services, and baseball games just to name a few. Juneteenth also focuses on education and self-improvement. Guest speakers are brought to celebrations and the elders are called upon to recount the events of the past. Prayer services were also a major part of these celebrations. Juneteenth today, celebrates African American freedom and achievement, while encouraging continuous self-development and respect for all cultures.

When I think of Juneteenth, I always wonder where were my ancestors when they heard the news?  How did they hear the news? Were they overjoyed or confused?  Did they plan on staying where they were or did they plan on leaving to find family lost during slavery or make a new life for themselves?  Juneteenth is celebrated all over the country throughout the month of June.  I usually spend June 19 researching my family history and reflecting on my ancestor's stories.  My community has a Juneteenth celebration on the fourth Saturday of every June that I attend.  

How do you celebrate Juneteenth?  Let us know about your community Juneteenth celebrations.  We would love for you to share your  Juneteenth pictures and stories with us.

Written by
AAHGS Member and Blogger
Trisha Mays-Cummings

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Did Grandpa Work for the Railroad?

In honor of Father's Day, I wanted to dedicate this blog to all the African American men that worked for the railroad system. The U.S. railroad system is second only to the United States government in the employment of African American men.  America’s first steam locomotive made its debut in 1830, and over the next two decades railroad tracks linked many cities on the East Coast. By 1850, some 9,000 miles of track had been laid east of the Missouri River. Hundreds of thousands of enslaved men were used for the labor of these railroad tracks.  The Pacific Railroad Act of 1862 chartered the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific Railroad Companies.  Following the end of the Civil War many African American men continued to work on this project connecting the east and west.

In the early 20th century there were many railroad companies such as Northern Pacific Railway Company, Kansas City Southern Railroad Company, Missouri Union Pacific Railroad Company, Norfolk Southern, and the Pullman Car Company.  All of these companies continued to employee African American men for various jobs including carpenter, painter, car oiler, baggage handler, porter, and blacksmith.  Because of these small and larger railroads across the U.S. there are some very valuable employee records that can assist with genealogy and family history research.  While some records may have been lost or destroyed, many records were archived and are available to the public.  

Employee records can provide the employees' full name, birth date, address, name of a close relative (for emergencies), tenure of employment, and job title.  Also included would be pension applications, pension appeals, and accident or incident reports.

Do you have a relative that worked for the railroad?  Have you been able to find some interesting documents about the railroad in your research?  Please let us know how you found your information.  We would love to hear about who worked for the railroad in your family!  

Railroad Retirement Board 

A name index to the pension files

Railway and Locomotive Historical Society 

Newberry Library large collection of Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad, Illinois Central, Pullman Company, etc.  

National Archives and Records Administration 

Slavery and Southern Railroads 

Written by:
Trisha Mays-Cummings, AAHGS Member and Blogger

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

AAHGS at RootsTech 2019

RootsTech is the largest genealogy conference in the world. This conference is held annually in February in Salt Lake City, Utah. The 2019 conference was held February 27 - March 2. RootsTech offers over 300 sessions on topics such as methodology, DNA, writing, and technology - just to name a few.  The conference also has an expo hall full of vendors with everything from DNA kits to t-shirts and pedigree charts to books and everything in between for sale. Also, in the expo hall, genealogy societies are there to be a resource for family historians of all levels of expertise. We're excited that AAHGS was able to be a RootsTech sponsor for 2019!

AAHGS started the conference off with a welcome luncheon on that Wednesday. The mayor of Salt Lake City, state representatives, and the local Utah chapter of AAHGS were present.  The general session was held on Wednesday, and one of the presenters was Michael B. Moore, CEO of the International African American Museum. There he told his story of learning about his family history and his trip to Africa. Also, during the general session, the Church of Latter-Day Saints presented a donation for 2 million dollars to Michael B. Moore and the International African American Museum, with the AAHGS national leadership on stage with him as he accepted the donation.

Every time I walked by the booth in the expo hall there were always people around and at the booth looking for information on how to research their family history, asking questions about 1619, and just generally curious about the organization. The Utah chapter members along with some of the national officers were always present to help answer questions. AAHGS' Vice President of History, Ric Murphy, also taught a session on the 400th commemoration of the First Africans in British North America.

As RootsTech continues to grow, so will AAHGS’ presence there. The next conference will be held February 26-29, 2020. So, mark your calendars and while there don’t forget to stop by the AAHGS booth and say hello! Be sure to let us know that you read about the conference on our blog! 

Written by AAHGS member and blogger
Trisha Mays-Cummings

Monday, January 21, 2019


We honor Martin Luther King, Jr. today and always. How will you impact the world today? #AAHGS #MLK #livewithpurpose#makeadifference

Check out this link from the Corporation for National & Community Service on ways you can give back today.

Friday, January 18, 2019

International AAHGS Book Awards: FAQ's

As you're preparing your entries for the 2019 International AAHGS Book Awards, we thought it would be helpful to outline some frequently asked questions to help you prepare. Don't forget that entries must received by May 1, 2019! You can find the list of frequently asked questions below and can also find more information on our website. 

Why should I enter the International AAHGS Book Awards?
Our contest is an opportunity to:
  • Receive appropriate recognition and acclaim for your hard work
  • Increase your book’s visibility on a global platform
  • Receive free promotion of your work to targeted audiences
  • Receive broader promotion of yourself as an author
What specific benefits will Winners and Finalists receive?
  • Obtain listing in the Book Awards Catalog that is distributed to thousands of educators, librarians, historians, book buyers, media, and others!
  • Enjoy exposure as a Winner or Finalist on AAHGS website.
  • Gain right to display Finalist or Winner Gold Award Stickers on your book.
Who is eligible to apply?
  • Anyone, regardless of race or national origin, who has authored a book covering African American history, family history and genealogy.  Books may be submitted by the author or by an authorized agent.
  • All books must have an ISBN, published between 2013 and 2017, and be written in English.
  • All submissions must be sent electronically.
How many different book titles may I enter?
There is no limit to the number of titles you can enter. Each title will be judged individually and separately.
How many categories may I enter per title?
You may enter as many categories as you like per title. We recommend selecting the categories you wish to enter based on those that most apply to your book or to your marketing strategies.
When will I be notified if my book has been selected as a Finalist or Winner?
Winners and Finalists will be announced and notified by the end of June, enabling awardees the opportunity to make arrangements to attend the Award Gala in the fall.
Will I be notified even if I don't win or do not place as a Finalist?
No.   Only Winners and Finalists will be notified of their Winner or Finalist status, however, a complete list of Winners and Finalists will be available to view online by the end of July.
If my book is not chosen, may I get feedback from the judges on my book?
We are sorry but our judges are all volunteers with heavy schedules that will not allow them time to provide that service to you.
Will I/we know who the judges are/were?
Judges names will not be posted due to confidentially and to ensure the integrity of the competition. Judges decisions are final.
Is there a time frame for date of book publication ...or can I enter my book from 1962?
The time frame for the 2018 award cycle is books with a publication date of 2012 - 2017.  Your work must be an active publication on Amazon.
May I enter a self-published book?
Yes, if your book is an active publication on Amazon, you may still apply. 
Who were some of your previous winners?
Please go to the following site: ...more info
How will books be judged?
Books will be judged in five areas: book cover, book content/readability, book organization, book presentation and the overall message conveyed in the book.

Monday, January 14, 2019

The International AAHGS Book Awards

The International AAHGS Book Awards is a competitive contest established to recognize,promote and honor authors of high quality publications that accurately examine and portray African-ancestored family history and genealogy in a wide variety of genres both fiction and non-fiction, for adults and young readers.    

The Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society (AAHGS) takes great pride in sponsoring this book Awards program as part of its mission to document and disseminate research to all sectors of the American population on the history, struggles, and contributions of African Americans from Jamestown to the present. While film and video are vastly popular, books remain the primary and definitive locus and resource for the recording and teaching of history and genealogy especially in educational settings.

Click here to learn more!

AAHGS 40th Annual Conference! Day 1

Thursday, Oct. 10 was the first day of the 40 th Annual AAHGS Conference in Hyattsville, Maryland.   This year’s theme is 400 years o...