Last weekend (October 12 and 13) I had the honor of attending the 39th annual Afro-American Historical and Genealogical conference in King Prussia, PA just outside of Philadelphia. After a long day of going to genealogy workshops, meeting fellow genealogists, and networking on Friday, I awoke Saturday morning from a good nights rest ready for another jammed packed day of genealogy. One of my major goals for that day was to find a member of the Arkansas chapter of AAHGS or at least get some contact information.
My husband accompanied me on this trip. He hadn’t planned on attending the conference, so he wasn’t registered. He had intentions of going into Philadelphia during the day while I was at classes and doing some tourism type stuff. But about a couple of weeks before the conference, AAHGS tweeted that they needed some volunteers to record some videos for their YouTube channel, so my husband volunteered to help. He was pretty busy most of the day on Friday and would be equally busy on Saturday, so we decided to have breakfast together on Saturday morning so we could actually talk about what all we both did the day before. So although I had good intentions of being at the general session on time, I didn’t make it there until around 930am. The general session presenter was Ric Murphy, and he spoke about the 400th Commemoration of the First Documented Africans in British North America. That was a common theme throughout the conference the discussion of the first documented African-Americans in British North America, now Virginia, in 1619. So next year, 2019 will be the 400th anniversary and there will be major celebrations that year, but especially in August 2019.
After the general session I attended Finding Enslaved Ancestors presented by the president of the Sons and Daughters of the US Middle Passage, Dr. Evelyn McDowell. She held a panel discussion with five members of the organizations. Each member told who their enslaved ancestor was and how they were able to research and connected to their enslaved ancestors. Next was the luncheon with presenter Michael Coard, Esq. The topic of his presentation was Avenging Our Enslaved Ancestors and Honoring Our Ancient Ancestors. It was during lunch that I met a lady that informed me that there were several people from the Arkansas chapter at the conference and that she would be happy to introduce me to them after the luncheon. It just so happened that they were sitting at the table next to us, so I went over and introduced myself and explained that I was a new member and had been trying to get in contact with them. I was telling everyone my name when one of the ladies looked at me and said “are you Pat’s daughter?”. She had worked with my mother when we lived in Little Rock. She was so excited to see me, and she told everyone at the table that she was at the hospital when I was born. We took pictures together and talked about the chapter, my mom, and my research. Needless to say that I again missed the 130pm workshop, but I was just happy to connect with someone not only from the Arkansas chapter, but also someone who knows my family personally.
The next session was a panel workshop moderated by Dr. Shelley Murphy on how to teach African-American history to our children. I think this is something that most genealogists/family historians struggle with. I know I do. How do I get my son and nephews, the younger generation, involved and interested in our family history? This was a great discussion and gave some good ideas on how to get younger people interested in history and genealogy. But I also learned that I am considered a part of the younger generations. I had many conversations with people telling me that they were so happy to see young people like me at the conference. Now I don’t consider myself young being 41. But to their point the majority of attendees were in my parents generation and older. The last session I attended was Fire in the Courthouse: Using Alternate Records presented by Alison Barnes.
That evening was the awards banquet, and the keynote speaker was Tony Burroughs. Tony Burroughs is a legend in the genealogy world. He is the founder and CEO of the Center for Black Genealogy in Chicago, Illinois. He has been on TV shows such as African American Lives, Oprah’s Roots, and Who Do You Think You Are. His book, Black Roots: A Beginners Guide to Tracing the African-American Family Tree, was one of the first books that I bought and read when I started my journey. For me Tony Burroughs is a superstar in the genealogy world. So I was super excited to be in the same space with him and get to hear him speak in person. I tried my best not to act like a totally obsessed fan. Believe me it was hard, but I was able to maintain my composure and act like an adult.
This conference was beyond amazing. I was able to meet some people who I feel like I know from listening to their podcasts, reading their blogs and books, and following on social media. I was able to talk with some very interesting people who have been researching for over 30 years. This conference gave me confidence that I’m headed in the right direction with the research that I have already done, and it showed me all the things that are possible within the genealogy world. I’m so glad that I’m a part of an organization that motivates and inspires me to continue to do better. And this is why my journey continues…
To read my day one recap of the 2018 AAHGS Conference click HERE
To read more about my membership in the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society click HERE
To read more about my membership in the Sons and Daughters of the US Middle Passage click HERE