Forgotten Patriots wins the Jacobus Award

At its meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah, on 10 October 2009, the American Society of Genealogists voted to give their annual Donald Lines Jacobus Award to FORGOTTEN PATRIOITS, AFRICAN AMERICAN AND AMERICAN INDIAN PATRIOTS IN THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR: A GUIDE TO SERVICE, SOURCES, AND STUDIES, edited by Eric Grundset, Director of the DAR Library in Washington, D.C., and published by the DAR in 2008. wins the Jacobus Award

Researched by Briana L. Diaz, Hollis L. Gentry, and Jean D. Strahan, as well as by the editor, this substantial reference work has a general introduction, state-by-state introductions, sources, and bibliography, an alphabetical list of names with source codes, maps, photographs, and a glossary of obscure words found in the original records. Many appendices deal with topics such as documenting the color of soldiers and using names as clues to finding them. It is not a collection of biographies but a compilation of source references for individual soldiers that will greatly improve the breadth and accuracy of research.

Since Revolutionary War service is often the starting point for research on families of color, this book opens new doors in an increasingly compelling field of genealogy.

The Donald Lines Jacobus Award was established in 1972 to encourage sound scholarship in genealogical writing. It is presented to a model genealogical work published within the previous five years. A list of the books receiving the award in previous years appears on the American Society of Genealogists website ( Anyone planning to publish their own research, especially as a compiled genealogy or family history, would do well to study the format and style of these books.

Pullman Porters

AARP’s magazine had an interesting article this month on Pullman Porters.  Within the magazine, they had profiled three gentlemen who worked as porters, including Lee Gibson who is 99 years old.

Unfortunately the article is mostly photographs and brief encapsulated histories of the three men, but there is a short five-minute film on the website at that is worth watching.

At the Federation of Genealogical Societies conference in Arkansas in September, I picked up a book Rising from the Rails:  Pullman Porters and the Making of the Black Middle Class by Larry Tye, Henry Holt & Co, LLC, New York:  2004.  It looks promising.

Latest Issue of the AAHGS Journal Now Available to Members

At long last, the Journal of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society has come back!  Articles featured in Volume 26, Issue 1 are:

Narrative of a Former Slave’s Recollection, by Patricia Carter Slubly

Register of Colored Persons of Smyth County, State of Virginia Cohabitating Together as Husband and Wife on 27th February 1866, by Jeff Weaver

George William Warfield (1837-1919) Ex-Slave and Civil War Veteran, by Carolyn Warfield

Fugitives from Enslavement as Abstracted from Price George’s County Commissioner of Slave Statistics, by Patsy Fletcher

“Sketch of the Life and Labors of Rev. Henry Highland Garnet” A Second Look, by Kathleen Vlesor, Ed.D

Finding Emma Pullen, by Debora Pullen Plunkett

Guilford Hervey and Descendants, by Jacqueline E. A. Lawson and Cynthia A. W. Wilson

Along with the above, a call for historical and genealogical papers to submit to the journal on the theme of “African American Lives in Context” as well as book reviews on The Segregated scholars:  Black Social Scientists and the Creation of Black Labor Studies, 1890-1950, Francille Rusan Wilson (2006); and Clinging to Mammy:  The Faithful Slave in Twentieth-Century America, Micki McElya (2007) are included.

It’s great to see the Journal back up and running again!

Forgotten Patriots

July Fourth is Independence Day in the United States.  A celebration of the freedom fought for and won by those escaping religious persecution in another country.  If you are like most people, July 4th brings forth images of Paul Revere, Minutemen, fifes, drums, and British in red uniforms.  It also brings forth thoughts of fireworks, barbecues, and family celebrations.  But what about those freedom fighters who were forcibly brought to this country and enslaved by the very people who professed freedom for all mankind?  What about those who fought for freedom in their own land alongside those who took it and slaughtered them in the name of colonization? 

This Fourth of July, I challenge you to remember these forgotten patriots.  If you think that they were few and far between, you would be wrong.  The National Society Daughters of the American Revolution has produced a prodigious work, 854 pages to be exact, listing names of those African Americans and Native Americans that fought in the War for Independence.  Entitled Forgotten Patriots African American and American Indian Patriots in the Revolutionary War, A Guide to Service, Sources and Studies, (ISBN 978-1-892237-10-1) this book is a wealth of information about those forgotten patriots who fought for freedom in this country. 

Who were the forgotten patriots in your communities?  If you do not know, maybe it is about time you found out.  This Fourth of July, I will remember Cato Wood, a black man from what is now Arlington, Massachusetts, a man remembered by barely a one sentence notation in the history of that town.  I will also remember Cuff Dole.  I came across his name while researching colonial records in Essex County.  Again, one sentence mentioning a sluice he dug for an area mill and no mention of his service to this country.  And of course, I will remember Prince Estabrook.  Commemorated in a speech by AAHGS-NE member Charles Price a re-enactor who has portrayed Estabrook in the Lexington, Massachusetts Battle on Lexington Green for over 30 years, his dignified portrayal resulted in a monument being erected this year in memory of Estabrook’s service to this country – over 230 years after the fact. 

Regardless of their own situations, these men fought for the freedoms that we hold dear.  They fought for something bigger than themselves, for a dream that they had for the future – an American dream.  They had a dream that “…one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed:  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.””  One hundred and eighty-seven years before Martin Luther King, Jr. gave that famous speech in Washington, D.C. in front of the Lincoln Memorial; these men were working towards a dream.  I think they deserve to be remembered, don’t you?


Finding a Place Called Home

In the November/December 2007 issue of AAHGS News former AAHGS President, Carolyn Corpening Rowe submitted an article about a course in African American genealogy that was being team-taught at the University of the District of Columbia by herself, Nathania Branch Miles, and Jane Taylor Thomas.  The course utilized the text Finding a Place Called Home — A Guide to African-American Genealogy and Historical Identity, by Dee Parmer Woodtor, PhD.  Curious about the text, I ordered it from my local library.

This 499-page text is a fantastic research tool whether you are just beginning your genealogical quest or are a seasoned researcher.  Unlike many genealogical how-to manuals, one of this book’s strengths is its ability to tell the history of the African American experience and point you to resources to find your family.  Where many other texts will tell you about available resources, many do not give you the history behind why the records are in a certain place or why your ancestors may have migrated to that place. 

There are all the basics in this text:  how to start, what to think about, creating an ancestral chart, family group sheet, collecting oral histories, etc. that you would find in any text.  However, what makes this book different from others I have read is that it addresses such things as defining your research goals, what to bring on a research trip, how to organize yourself, learning to control your costs, and how to take notes with source citations!  There are numerous other ideas that outline things that the seasoned genealogist might take for granted:  deciding which repository to visit, how to evaluate sources, and evaluating genealogical proof. 

Past the basics that give the reader a strong foundation to build on are more specific methodology chapters that discuss many topics including but not limited to Union contraband camps and Confederate and Union impressed labor; finding documentation of slaves and slave-owning families; and finding insurance policies that insured a plantation owner’s slaves.  Each of these topics comes with further reading.  Of particular interest to me was the topic of Exodusters since I am researching an article for the next issue of the News on the history of the black town of Nicodemus, Kansas.  I will address that in another post. 

I had originally thought that I would be able to read this book, take notes, and send it back to the library.  I’ve read it twice cover to cover in the six weeks I have had it out.  This one is going to have to become part of my personal library — there is so much information within that I find myself referencing it over and over. 

Woodtor, Dee Palmer, Finding A Place Called Home:  A Guide to African-American Genealogy and Historical Identity, New York:  Random House, 1999.  ISBN:  037570843X, about $32.00, book is only available used at,,