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.”


  1. This is a beautiful tribute to Sandra. I know she is dancing with the ancestors.

  2. Beautiful tribute & letter Emma. For sure Sandra has gathered all the answers now & can enjoy the love & apprciation of her Ancestors for being their griot. Funny, a few us online also thought of Minnie today. Surely, the full story has been revealed!:)

  3. Wow, this really is a beautiful tribute to Sandra, and quite befitting. The thoughts and prayers of the online genealogy community are with all of you who knew, and spent time with her, in person. God bless.

    Renate Sanders
    Newport News, VA

  4. My distant cousin match 5th cousin you will be missed.

  5. What a beautiful tribute to Sandra. Thanks for sharing her life and accomplishments here. As we release her with an open heart, her ancestors have met her with opened arms.

  6. How moving indeed! Something about her spirit, something about her kindness touched us all. From the Atlantic coast to the Pacific, everyone is touched, and miss her. We all felt her presence and her spirit, and we all know that someone truly blessed has gone and a hole is left in our hearts. Rest well oh friend, we are so blessed that you touched our lives.

  7. Sandra was an angel here on earth. Such a moving tribute to her. Even though I only met her once and primarily knew her online, I was honored to have known her.

  8. Simply Sandra indeed. This made me smile. As a matter of fact anyone who knew Sandra can indeed smile. Determined to locate loss and hidden kidfolk was her passion. I laugh about the great-aunt that was accused of trying to harm the children. We know it was a trumped-up charge but It was God's grace that got her off way back then.See God is and always will be God. So.....Sandra! " you never knew your father, but you sure got to know your brother." Your research yielded a great harvest when you met up with Bernard-your brother and friend. I will miss you.

  9. Sandra will be missed. Though I never met her in person, I met her online in 2009. I also wanted to mention her other blog: "Middlebrooks of Meriweather County" at I used this is an example of how good a blog can be in my writing course at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy in January.

  10. A beautiful tribute for such a beautiful spirit! I did not know Ms. Sandra, but I have so many wonderful things and I am happy to be able to read of her legacy knowing she touched many along her genealogical journey! God bless you all as you continue to keep her legacy going!