Follow John W. Davis' Research

Do You Know Your Family Tree?

By John W. Davis

March 13, 2011 Updated Mar 13, 2011 at 7:01 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) - Join Indiana's NewsCenter's own John W. Davis on his journey to discover his family history.

I'm doing all of my research at the second largest genealogy center in the world, located at the Allen County Public Library in Downtown Fort Wayne.

"The exciting thing is that it's never been easier. There's so many resources that are right at your fingertips," said National Black Genealogy Summit Executive Committee Member Dr. Ruby Cain.

Dr. Cain and I are working on my family tree in collaboration with the National Black Genealogy Summit.

The theme of the summit is African Diaspora: Awakening Our Legacy.

The summit will take place at the Allen County Public Library and the Grand Wayne Convention Center from October 20 - 22, 2011.


Let's face it: we've all thought about researching our family history.

The most popular ways is ancestry.com.

However, before you begin searching online, "talk to your family members and find out what all they know," recommended Cain.

Therefore, my first assignment is to learn everything I can about my family, from older members of my family.

I'm hoping to learn about great-great-great grandparents, and other tidbits like date of birth, occupations and where they lived.

All of that information is needed for my second assignment, which is to take all of that data, and use the free resources at the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center to verify and learn new information about my family.


Currently, through information provided in the family history section of a family reunion book on my mother's side, I've learned the names of my great-great-great grandfather and grandmother.

Both lived near Hernando, Mississippi in the early to mid 1800's.

According to my family's oral history, my great-great-great grandmother Eliza Love (Jones) was born somewhere in Africa in or around 1818.

She was brought to North Carolina on a slave ship.

In 1827, she was transferred to Hernando, Mississippi and sold on a slave box at the County Courthouse for $50 dollars to a Dr. Love.

She was a slave on the Love Plantation and served as a Nurse Maid for Dr. Love's children.

Eliza Love married another slave named David Jones.


Meanwhile, I'm still in the process of creating my own initial ancestry chart.

If you choose to create one, it does not have to be 100% complete.

However, your ancestry chart will serve as your starting point if you decide to take this journey will me.

For African-Americans, slavery can stir up emotions of shame and notions that African-American history does not exist before Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves with his 1863 Emancipation Proclamation.

But experts like Dr. Cain say that is simply not true.

"One of the things that is probably not well known is that there were African-Americans who were recorded on the census records prior to 1870," explain Cain.

However, government census records and online ancestry databases will only connect so many dots.

Make sure you don't forget to used non-traditional genealogy resources.

"It could be land records it could be wills. It could be obituaries. There are other types of resources that you can access in order to go back further," said Cain.

Experts say if you get stuck during your research, ask your family members or someone from the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center for help.

My next step is to purchase family history software from familytreemaker.com.

I will also interview my oldest living family member's on my mother and father's sides.

Hopefully after interviewing my grandmother and my great-aunt, I will be able to start putting branches on my family tree.

Look an updated story on my progress this spring.

If you are interested in researching your family history, call Allen County Public Library Genealogy Manager Curt Witcher at (260) 421-1226 or email him at CWitcher@ACPL.Info.

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