Saturday, November 1, 2014

Using a Dry-Erase Board to Organize Your Family-Tree Thoughts

By William Durant
  • Sifted through stacks of census sheets and death certificates?
  •  Drawn countless timelines? Sketched family-tree lines for days?
  •  Used genealogical software - and still can’t figure out who’s who in your ancestral line?

Try noodling it out on a Dry-Erase Board, that ubiquitous visual aid used in meetings and presentations. You use a special marker that writes “wet” on a magnetic white surface, but wipes off “dryly” with a tissue, cloth or finger. Costs range from a dollar (at a dollar store) on up, in various sizes.

The idea came to me while running a branch of my family tree through my head. I thought about taking pencil to paper again, but didn't feel like erasing or scratching out errors. Then I thought about the ability to look at a diagram . . . larger, without much effort. Dry-Erase came to mind (my “V8” moment)!

I tried it with my mother’s family, where successive generations named children after the same original brothers and sisters. Some siblings had many children, while others had few or no children. The Dry-Erase Board made it easy to raise multiple-offspring siblings higher above the horizontal line than their other siblings and make changes as needed, with no messy erasures or scratch-outs. (One drawback: you can also inadvertently wipe off something if you’re not careful.)

Using a Dry-Erase Board is similar to those problem-solving boards on TV shows like TNT’s “Major Crimes.” The starkness of the black ink against the white background can let you see data more objectively in a new light, and perhaps help solve a mystery

Dry-Erase Board next to computer shows convenience of sketching family-tree diagrams while consulting digitized documents. When not in use, the board is propped on the floor facing a wall to protect the scribbling.

In this closeup, an arrow is drawn from Isaac (second from left) to his 10 children. This took several tries to figure out while leaving Isaac’s siblings intact. The board made it easy to draw and adjust.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Highlights of the Emancipation Proclamation Symposium and the March Genealogy Seminar

AAHGS Metro Atlanta chapter enjoyed another active Black History Month! On Saturday, February 9, in partnership with the National Archives, AAHGS-ATL hosted the Emancipation Proclamation Symposium at the National Archives - Atlanta. Over 200 attended and enjoyed a spectacular program that included a panel discussion and informative presentations by Hari Jones, Hermina Glass Avery Hill, Velma “Maia” Thomas, Anthony Baker, and Dr. Lisa Bratton. Exhibits showcasing African Americans in military service in the American Revolution, the Civil War, the Indian Wars, and the Spanish-American War adorned the room with table displays of the Tuskegee Airmen, African Americans in the American Revolution, and other military-related materials.  A videographer taped attendees discussing their genealogy searches and how the Emancipation Proclamation's legacy impacted their family after slavery. Genealogists also displayed the impact of the Emancipation Proclamation on the lives of their ancestors. The program also included re-enactors from the 44th Regiment of the United States Colored Troops, Indian War re-enactors from the 9th and 10th Cavalry (the Buffalo Soldiers).

Hari Jones, curator of the African American Civil War Museum in Washington, D.C., lectured on “Addition of a Powerful Ally,” which analyzed Abraham Lincoln’s policy and the little-known impact of African American soldiers on the Union war effort.

Maria Marable-Bunch (center), Director of Education and Public Programs, National Archives, Washington, D.C.; and author-historian Velma "Maia" Thomas enjoyed the program.

Marvin Greer re-enacted and recited the words of abolitionist Major Martin Delaney of the 52nd United States Colored Troops (USCT).

Young genealogists Justice Cadet, Aleeza Cadet, Namilla Cadet, and Sydney Floyd (at podium) re-enacted “Watch Night” on New Year’s Eve 1862, when enslaved African Americans awaited midnight for the Emancipation Proclamation to take effect.

Panel discussion with panelists Hari Jones (speaking), Velma “Maia” Thomas, Hermina Glass Avery Hill, and Anthony Baker.

9th and 10th Cavalry (Buffalo Soldiers), Atlanta, GA

Dr. Lisa Bratton, Tuskegee University professor and AAHGS Metro Atlanta chapter member, presented "The Place for Which Our Fathers Sighed: Black Americans from Reconstruction and Beyond."

Gwen Napier re-enacted abolitionist Harriet Tubman, accompanied by USCT re-enactor and soloist Dan Moffat.

Michael Adams, community activist, read the Emancipation Proclamation.

Re-enactors of the 44th United States Colored Troops of Chattanooga, TN showed a representative bivouac setup in one of the Archives' rooms.

Anthony Baker, Professor at the John Marshall Law School, Atlanta, GA, discussed "A Sad, Sad Victory of the Emancipation Proclamation."

More pictures of the Emancipation Proclamation Symposium can be seen here

On Saturday, March 1, many AAHGS Metro Atlanta chapter members participated in “Genealogical Methodology: The Basics and Beyond,” a March genealogy seminar that was hosted by the Georgia Genealogical Society. It was held at the Russell Special Collections Library on the University of Georgia campus in Athens.   This seminar was led by Deborah Abbott, Ph.D. and covered (1) Going Beyond the Basics: Vital Records & Related Sources, (2) Using and Analyzing the U.S. Federal Censuses, (3) Using Libraries and Archives, and (4) Voices from the Past: Using Manuscripts.

Dr. Abbott is a past president of the African-American Genealogical Society, Cleveland, Ohio (AAGS) and is a retired professor of counseling from Cuyahoga Community College, Cleveland, Ohio.  She is an adjunct faculty member at the Institute of Genealogy & Historical Research at Samford University (Birmingham, AL). She has presented lectures at a variety of local genealogical societies, libraries, schools, and churches throughout northeast Ohio and the surrounding states.

This is a group photo with Dr. Abbott and AAHGS Metro Atlanta chapter members. Dr. Abbott is towards the right in the front row wearing eyeglasses. A few more members were there, but they left before this was taken at the end of the day.

All pictures by William Durant.

Friday, February 15, 2013

A Tribute to Sandra Taliaferro

Sept. 27, 1952 – Feb. 12, 2013

On Tuesday, February 12, 2013, God picked a beautiful flower to take home to heaven with Him. This beautiful flower was Sandra Jean Taliaferro. Waiting at the door were her ancestors – the ones she knew personally, the ones whose names she called during her years of genealogy research, and also the ones whom she longed to find. Sandra is with all of them now.  She is overjoyed.

Sandra was a member of AAHGS Metro Atlanta chapter for over five years.  She was born and raised in Atlanta and graduated from Booker T. Washington High School.  She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Urban Life, with a concentration in Criminal Justice, from Georgia State University in 1979.  She was employed as a Paralegal with the Office of the General Counsel for over 30 years.

Sandra began researching her family history in 2001. Her ancestral journey included a number of counties in Georgia, including Henry, DeKalb, Clayton, Greene, Morgan, Newton, Meriwether, Pike, Harris, and Putnam counties.   Her maternal surnames of interest were Gates, Middlebrooks, Thompson, Parks/Park and Guise.  Her paternal surnames were Taliaferro, Toliver, Dorsey, Jackson, Gilbert, Butler, Askew, Brewer, Lawrence, Reid/Reed, Turner, and Little.  Sandra researched feverishly and passionately for her ancestors. She was very active in the online genealogy community where she wrote about her family history research and other genealogy-related musings on her blog entitled “I Never Knew My Father” (

In 2003, Sandra began researching her paternal line; her desire to uncover her paternal roots was sparked by the fact that she never knew her father.  Equipped with only a few facts and clues provided by her mother, Sandra began her search, although the possibility of tracing her paternal ancestry was never an avenue she thought she'd pursue with much success.  Nonetheless, her research was very successful beyond her imagination. 

After finding her father, John Lawrence Taliaferro, with his parents and siblings in the 1930 census, Sandra was able to trace her paternal line back to her great-great-grandfather, Miles Taliaferro. She located him in the 1870 census, a genealogical feat.  Sandra also found Miles and his son John (her great-grandfather) on an 1856 slave inventory and appraisement for their former Taliaferro enslaver in Fulton County, Georgia. 

However, Sandra’s most significant and surprising research find was indeed a life-changing one. Through the message boards on, she discovered and connected with the family of the father she never knew.  She met four first cousins, an aunt (her father’s sister), and a brother.  She and her brother Bernard officially met in July 2005, and Sandra’s research story was featured in the February 19, 2007 issue of Jet magazine. See that magazine article here:

Upon meeting her brother Bernard, they instantly bonded; he moved back to Atlanta in 2006 and became her devoted care-giver.  He was right there by her side for the remainder of her beautiful life.  She will be dearly missed but never forgotten.  Rest in peace, Sandra. Enjoy this eternal time now with those ancestors you loved so dearly!

Sandra and her brother, Bernard

A Letter to Sandra from Emma Davis Hamilton, President of AAHGS Metro Atlanta Chapter:

Dear Sandra,

We all already miss you. Now who will I call to vent about my big brick wall? Who is going to keep me up to date with what is happening in the genealogy blog world?  Who will write that beautiful prose for the chapter?

You were very quiet much of the time at meetings and gatherings.  Besides being the corresponding secretary, few knew that behind the scenes your genius mind was at work and involved in all our planning for activities.    You were a key member of the team for all our major programs, like the very successful Ancestry Day and the Gullah Symposium.

You will be happy to know that the work you did was a major contributing factor that prompted AAHGS National to approve our request for financial support for the Emancipation Proclamation Symposium.  The symposium has been our most successful program to date with over 200 people attending.  Even though you were not there in body, I know you were there in spirit.

I imagine that you are dancing and singing with the ancestors and the angels.  Have you met with your great-aunt and asked her why they accused her of tying the children to the railroad tracks? Was she framed as we theorized? Tell my folks, the Carrs and the Colliers, that I am down here looking for them everywhere and they need to show themselves!

Well, my dear, you rest in peace now, and we will all be seeing you sometime in the future.

Until we meet again…



“While we are mourning the loss of our friend the ancestors and the angels are rejoicing to greet her.”

Monday, October 29, 2012

Atlanta Chapter and Members Honored at AAHGS National Conference

 Rhonda Barrow and Melvin Collier, award recipients

Congratulations to Atlanta!  At the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society’s 33rd Annual National Conference in Greensboro, NC on October 6, 2012, Atlanta was honored in three ways!  First, our Atlanta chapter received the 2012 Chapter of the Year Award.  Organized on March 26, 2000, the AAHGS Metro Atlanta Chapter was officially chartered as an AAHGS chapter on September 15, 2000. The organization started with 12 committed members and has grown to nearly 100 members.  The Atlanta chapter has hosted a number of major events in the community, including Ancestry Day at the National Archives in partnership with in 2010.  This was an all-day workshop with key note presenters from the National Archives in Washington, D.C.  Over 250 people attended.  More recently, in February 2012, the chapter presented an “African American Heritage Program on the Gullah Geechee Culture,” in partnership with the National Archives at Atlanta and the Historical Jonesboro Clayton County, Inc. African American Historic Committee. Over 350 attended.  The AAHGS Metro Atlanta Chapter has not only become the “go to” organization for African-American historical and genealogical information, but the organization and its members have been sought out to partner in programs with the Georgia Genealogical Society, the Cobb County Genealogical Society, and the National Archives.

Secondly, two Atlanta chapter members were honored in Greensboro. Our publicity chairperson, Rhonda Barrow, received the AAHGS Certificate of Appreciation Award.  This award is presented to an individual or team who has made a contribution to the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society or its principles and who deserves a token of thanks.  Barrow, who has been a very active member for 10 years, has been one of the key agents that have contributed to the Atlanta chapter’s tremendous growth, an increase in membership by three folds, and the chapter’s ever increasing high quality programming.  She is a “Friend of” and long-time volunteer with the prestigious Auburn Avenue Research Library in Atlanta, which maintains the holdings of many African-American historical resources.  One of Barrow’s most significant services to the community and to African-American history has been her work with the Girl Scouts.  A Girl Scouts leader for 17 years, Barrow singularly commenced on a mission to search out and document the African-American Girl Scout history in the Greater Atlanta area.  She went on a relentless search, and among her amazing discoveries, Barrow found original photos and artifacts that pertained to the original 1944 Atlanta area African American Girl Scout Troop. She also found three members of the original Atlanta troop.   Barrow then put together an exhibit at the Regional Headquarters called “The Untold Story of Atlanta’s First African American Girl Scout Troop”.  This exhibit received rave reviews from the community and from Girl Scout officials.  Without her efforts, this significant African-American history would have gone unheralded during the 100th year celebration of the Girl Scouts of the USA.

Thirdly, our vice president, Melvin J. Collier, received the Marsha M. Greenlee AAHGS History Award. This award is presented to a person or group for outstanding and measurable achievements in the field of African-American history (e.g., history, anthropology, etc.) based on the publication of a book, dissertation, or other manuscript produced by the recipient.  Collier has a Master of Arts degree in African-American Studies, and he currently works at the Archives Research Center of the Robert W. Woodruff Library – Atlanta University Center, where he has worked with other archivists on the notable and extensive Morehouse College Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Collection.  He is the author of two books, Mississippi to Africa: A Journey of Discovery and 150 Years Later: Broken Ties Mended.  His books serve as great models to assist those who want to trace their African-American family histories.  Collier’s books have also been used by genealogical and historical scholars as great reference sources for genealogical methodologies.  Collier is nationally recognized for his expertise in African-American genealogy and has conducted numerous workshops and presentations around the nation on genealogical and historical subjects.  He also appeared as one of the expert genealogists on the NBC program, Who Do You Think You Are. 

Congratulations to the Atlanta Chapter and to Rhonda Barrow and Melvin J. Collier!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Researcher Forum at the National Archives at Atlanta

 Researcher Forum at the National Archives at Atlanta
Friday, October 26, 2012
10:30 AM – 12:00 PM

National Archives at Atlanta
5780 Jonesboro Road
Morrow, GA 30260
770 968-2100

Effective October 1, 2012, the National Archives at Atlanta changed their hours of operation.  Instead of opening each Saturday, NARA-Atlanta is only open on the 3rd Saturday of each month.  The new hours are Monday – Friday, 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM and the 3rd Saturday of each month, 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM. They are closed on holidays.  This change was made without any input from the patrons/researchers.  This change in Saturday hours will have a critical impact on our meetings, as well as public programs and research needs.

You are invited to attend a Research Forum at the National Archives to voice your concerns and learn of updates to services for researchers.  This forum will be hosted by Robert Richards, Director of Archival Operations, Atlanta and Bill Mayer, Executive for Research Services, NARA - Washington, D.C., and other staff.

The forum highlights include:

(1)  Meeting Bill Mayer and other NARA staff,
(2)  Finding out news and updates about services for researchers,
(3)  Q & A session where patrons/researchers can tell NARA-ATL what their needs are.

Please attend this important forum if you are concerned about the change of hours, research services, and public programs. Your voice counts!