Descendants of slaveholders, do we still hold a key?

Genealogists who descend from slaveholders (SHs) are uniquely positioned to revolutionize genealogy for their African American colleagues. You undoubtedly feel sympathy for the genealogical challenges facing the descendants of the enslaved persons (EPs) whose involuntary labor once gave your ancestors wealth, comfort, and social status. But what if you start seeing their challenge as your own?

Because it is.

For all who are already convinced and want to skip straight to the "how to," see "How to document your Beyond Kin," in the menu to the right.

The challenge of documenting an ancestors’ enslaved persons (EPs) logically falls to you for many reasons:

  • The answers for antebellum African American family trees lie predominantly in the records of the white families who claimed ownership of them.
    (See “The records of slaveholders.”)
  • The puzzles of enslaved identities can best be solved by studying them as groups, working outward from the SH’s records.
    (See “The group approach to slave identification.”)
  • You will neither know nor understand your ancestors until you fill in the fuller picture of those who were integral to their most intimate daily lives.
    (See “The rest of the family picture.”)
  • If you’ve read this far, you might be ready for the genealogical challenge and enlightenment opportunity of a lifetime. This will be it.
    (See “The challenge of a lifetime.”)

Welcome, descendants of SHs, to the challenge, the opportunity, the method. Finally there is a way to document EPs, linking them to the families of their SHs, using existing genealogy software. It will be a fulfilling and enlightening journey.

What about the rest of us?

What about the actual descendants of EPs? What about genealogists who do not descend from SHs?  Can you join the challenge?

You bet. See “If you don’t have slaveholding ancestors.”

Let’s ALL get started

There’s a long road ahead, friends–the toughest and most rewarding genealogy you’ve ever done. Master it, teach it, and watch genealogy change.

The reasons-you-should menu

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For every soul a story, a family, a name