I had the honor of attending the 40th annual AAHGS Conference in Hyattsville, Maryland on October 10-12, 2019. It’s hard to believe that today is the last day of the conference. I have had such a great time. Phillip and I are on the national social media committee, so we have been busy. I have been able to attend sessions and get footage of the conference for our social media pages. Being on this committee has helped me get out of my introvert bubble and actually talk and network with others. But today is going to be extra busy because Phillip is also presenting a session this morning – Hey Researchers, Google Is Your Friend.
This morning started with the General Session with speaker Ric Murphy, National AAHGS Vice President of History. He spoke about Moving Forward with Lessons from 1619. This year marks the 400th anniversary of the first documented Africans in English North America. He reminded us that the research we do must be continued not because it is easy, but because it is hard. He also announced that next year’s conference will be held in Hampton, Virginia.
There were 18 break out sessions for attendees to choose from today. Sessions topics included DNA, methodology, using Google for genealogy research, finding courthouse records, organization, using deed records, and publishing your research. Speakers included Robyn Smith, Melvin Collier, Dr. Khadijah Matin, Char McCargo Bah, and Dr. Pamela Foster.
Today’s luncheon speaker was Carroll Gibbs. He spoke about Jamestown: 1619 – Crucible, Crossroad and the Importance of African American History. He reminded attendees of the importance of ‘Our History’ and ‘Our Voice’ in this turbulent world we are now living in. He encouraged us to ‘Speak our truth as we never have before, to set a model for those that come after us’.
Following the last breakout session, the social media team did a Blogger’s Lounge video for the AAHGS YouTube page that featured bloggers Shannon Christmas and Melvin Collier. I introduced myself to Melvin and explained that I attended one of his presentations back in 2016 which helped inspire me to start this blog. He was really nice and congratulated me on my blog. It just so happened that Shannon sat at my table during the banquet later that evening, so I was able to talk with him about how he got started researching and how DNA became his focus. He is really knowledgeable on the subject of DNA. I don’t usually stop and talk to presenters at conferences because I figured that they are busy with their presentations and such, but I’m glad I got the opportunity to introduce myself and talk with these gentlemen.
The banquet speaker that evening was Dr. Mary Elliott. She spoke on Legacies: Slavery and Power. She is a museum specialist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. She reminded the attendees that the majority of the collection at the NMAAHC was donated by everyday people like us that had family heirlooms, family photos, family records, and family stories hidden away in attics, basements, closets, shoeboxes, and drawers in their homes. She reminded us that the work we do, this family history, isn’t just for us and our family. The information we are gathering is also for our community, our state, and this nation.
It is really wonderful to be around like-minded people that share the same joy and frustration of researching African American ancestry as I do. Hearing people tell their stories of research and their findings always makes me want to do better and do more in my own research, and it shows me all the possibilities in this type of research. Being a part of a community that shares my love of history and genealogy always makes me feel like I’m with family. I left the conference feeling more confident as a research and a blogger. If you love genealogy and/or history, then mark your calendars now because the 41st Annual AAHGS Conference will be in October 2020 in Hampton, Virginia. The theme will be a “National Family Reunion”, so make sure you let your friends and family know all about it.
Sessions I attended:
- Hey Researchers ‘Google is Your Friend’ presented by Phillip Cummings
- We Were Always in the Courthouse – What You Can Find on African Americans in Court Records presented by Char McCargo Bah
- Finding Our Fathers – Fraternalism & African American Genealogy presented by James Morgan III