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.”