I’ve got my genealogy groove back! I mentioned in a recent post that I had made a major life change, quitting my job to travel and focus on my genealogical research for 6 months to a year. Well, I spent 4 weeks traveling in Europe - to England, France and Italy (York Minster! Croissants! Mt. Vesuvius!) – and I just got back a few days ago from a week in New Orleans (Halloween! Voodoo Fest!).
Anyway, during the time I haven’t been on the road, it’s been difficult to get focused on genealogy. Frankly, I was probably exhausted and just trying to get used to being home again. I think I’ve also been feeling a bit overwhelmed, both by the research I already have but need to review, and also by the limitless possibilities (and thus the need to do something meaningful) for this year off.
But, for some reason, something clicked today. I feel energized again to dive in, and I know what my focus is: documenting all of my direct ancestors back to 1870. This is actually pretty funny to me, because this is a basic step in African American family history research, but not something I consciously think of - I've just been digging as much as a I can, working from one generation to the next. But 1870 is important, because it opens the door to learning about African American ancestors during slavery. The 1870 Census is the first census enumeration where the vast majority of African Americans were named as individuals, because it was the first census taken after the Civil War. Prior to this, most African Americans were enslaved – literally were property – and thus their names weren’t listed. (Of course, if your ancestor was a free person of color, there was a much better chance that they would be enumerated.) If you can find your family in 1870, you have a head start on finding out where your family was during slavery, and the door opens to the next phase of your genealogical research.
I’ve been so focused on pushing each line back as best I could that I wasn’t thinking about a common goal to organize all of my research. Getting each line back to 1870 is that common goal now. (My previous genealogy To Do list still applies, though, and will help me in this endeavor, I think.)
I have a ways to go, despite all the work I’ve already done. 1870 is 145 years ago, and the ancestors we’re speaking about would be my great-great and great-great-great-grandparents. I know who my grandparents are, thankfully! I know who 5 of my 8 great-grandparents are, and can document those pretty well, though I’d like stronger material for a few lines. Of my 16 great-great-grandparents, I’ve got names for 10 of them, but documentation gets weaker the further back I go. And my great-great-great-grandparents are almost a complete mystery – of 32 people, I have 2 names, possibly 4.
Like I said, work to do! But I’m glad for that sense of direction. So, time to get started! Watch me go to work, y'all.