Saturday, March 12, 2016

African American Genealogical Research - White disinterest?

Today, I attended a one day seminar concerning genealogical research, at the Family History Center in Sacramento California.  Before I get started on this little rant, let me just say the History Center in Sacramento (2745 Eastern Ave., Sacramento CA 95821) is a wonderful resource; and a good topic for later.  Today's seminar was the 11th Annual African Family History seminar, and was put together by the Greater Sacramento African American Family History Society.  And this was not the first time I've attended this particular event.  From memory, this was the third time having the pleasure.  Every seminar or conference a genealogist attends adds to his or her 'bag of tools' going forward in their research.  Typically, I pick-up several new ideas or resources that will help me now, and into the future.  Today was no exception.

So why would I be interested in African American research?  I'm white.  All my people (thus far) are white.  What good could come from knowing anything at all about research methods applied to Americans of African decent?  For the same reason I am interested in every other group...its all genealogy!  The race, or ethnicity, or nationality, of a person we are researching only maters to the extent that some methods or record groups may vary.  It's all still, at its core, research, and the telling the story of a person or a family.

Moreover, everyone knows the sad history of Slavery in this county.  While not all African Americans will find familial roots in slavery, many will.  And who owned slaves here?  For the most part whites did, although most anyone who had the wherewithal may have.  That said, your white ancestors may be on the other side of this equation, and that should be enough reason for white researchers to be versed in where and how to look for records.  

Okay, so how many non-African Americans did I see at today's seminar?  I counted about a dozen and I'm guessing there were over two hundred attendees.  Compare this to a similar one day seminar the Family History Center puts on once a year concerning genealogy generally.  I attend those also and they are mostly white.

So I'm left with the original question, and really no answer.

I made an additional interesting observation today.  I spoke with several attendees generally about their interest in family history and the extent of their research.  I found each very interested, yet at the same time most were wholly inexperienced.   That was surprising at first, but I see it as a good thing.   Better to have interest and be inexperienced, than not be interested at all.  We can always train methodologies.  And today's seminar was surely a step in the right direction for many.