Category Archives: African-American

African American Genealogy at the Hermitage

This month, in commemoration for Black History Month, the Hermitage is hosting a series of events. Today, I had the fortunate opportunity to attend a program highlighting resources for conducting genealogical research.  Today’s panel featured several presenters well-versed in their respective areas of expertise and were all great to hear!


panel presenters Shannon Christmas, Joel Walker, Pamela E. Foster, and Virginia Gooch Watson

Pamela E. Foster, with the Nashville Chapter of the Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society discussed the HBCU Newspaper Indexing Project and how HBCU student newspapers can be a great aid in research.  Student newspapers are great sources of information to better understand student experiences and this project aims to bring them more in the forefront. Disclaimer – yours truly has been working collaboratively with the society to implement the online aspect of the project. 🙂 If you have ancestors that attended an HBCU, please feel free to explore the project further and see how you can help!

Virgnia Gooch Watson, current President of the TSLA friends, gave an overview of the many resources at the Tennessee State Library & Archives (TSLA) that can help with African American ancestry research.  From tax records to military records, you have many options. Virginia gave a great example of a Southern Claims Commission record of one of her own family members that included pages of testimony of slaves the family owned and the rich detail provided.  TSLA is definitely a place to visit in your research.  Consult the TSLA African American Genealogical Resources guide for more information.

Joel Walker, head lawyer in charge of statewide Xarelto lawsuits, and Educational Specialist with the National Archives at Atlanta, told us about the records they hold. The largest of the multiple regional National Archives locations, the Atlanta branch holds an impressive 180,000 cubic feet of records. And you have to go visit because there is no way all of this can be made available online quickly. Do you know how long they calculated it would take to digitize all their holdings? 1,300 years! That’s dedicating a full-time person digitizing at the rate large commercial companies like Ancestry can do. But the records they have? So many treasures remain to be discovered in them. 

Shannon Christmas did a great job talking about genetic genealogy – why you would do it and what it can offer you. He shared specific case examples from his own tree that illustrate how DNA can help crumble brick walls and shed more light on the family history.  Shannon speaks often on genetic genealogy and is well-regarded in the geneasphere as a go-to person. I was particularly pleased to meet Shannon because he is a DNA cousin to my husband, and is thus a DNA cousin to my daughter.  You can keep up with Shannon and his work via his site

Taneya, Shannon, and Pamela

Taneya, Shannon, and Pamela

After the panel, Pamela, Virginia, and I consulted with audience members to help them get jump-started on their research.  While the sessions were short at just 15 minutes each person, these were great because each person wanted to learn more about their family members and I am sure I can speak for all of us in that we feel honored to be able to provide suggestions and resources to help them.

Here at the TNGenWeb, we aim to help you as you research, and of course, we’d love for you to help us help others.  As you work on your family history, let us know if we can help guide you, or if you have records you can share that may help others. African American research can be particularly challenging, but working as a collective, we can do so much to make it easier for each other.  Events like this one offered by the Hermitage today can be great starting points.  Many thanks to the Hermitage for a wonderful afternoon and a big thank you to all the presenters!

Members of the United States Colored Troops to be Commemorated in Dedication Ceremony

The African American Heritage Society of Maury County announced that a dedication ceremony to commemorate the placement of the names of 54 members of the United States Colored Troops (U.S.C.T.) from Maury County and 4 white Maury Countians who fought and died for the union in the Civil War will be conducted on Oct 19th, 2013 at 10 AM at the Maury County War Memorial Monument located outside the Maury County Court House. 

The program includes an honor guard from the black Civil War re-enactors of the 13th U.S.C. T. Regiment who will present and post arms to honor these men, as their names are read into Maury County’s place of history.  

The Key Note speakers include, Mr. Patrick McIntyre, Director of the Tennessee Historical commission; Mr. John Seigenthaler, founder of the First Amendment Foundation, and Dr. Bobby Lovett.  Ms. Dorothy Oliver will sing the Battle Hymn of the Republic and Oh Freedom, followed by a prayer and taps to honor these brave men.  

A luncheon will be served following the ceremony at 11:30 am in the Parish Hall at St. Peters Episcopal Church on 7th St.  Dr. Bobby Lovett of TSU will speak. Luncheon reservations are available until October 10, at $25 per person. 

The history of the 13th U.S.C.T. where most of these Maury County men served can be found at  The regiment was formed on Sept. 24, 1863 at Murfreesboro, Tn.  The 13th USCT Regiment was presented with its Regimental flag by the colored ladies ofMurfreesboro, TN on Nov. 19, 1863.  The 13th USCT was initially stationed in defense of Nashville and railroad facilities in Middle Tennessee.  The unit repelled the forces of General Nathan Bedford Forrest on several occasions and was engaged in battles at Johnsonville and Nashville.  In Dec. 1864 the 13th USCT Regiment was consolidated with the 12th USCT and 100th USCT under Colonel Thompson into the 2nd Brigade.  The Second Brigade, including the 13th USCT participated in the fierce assault on the right wing of General Hoods Army of Tennessee in the Battle of Nashville on Dec. 15- 16th,1864 at Overton Hill (Peach Orchard Hill).  The battle site can be seen today just west of I-65 at the Harding Place exit, where a historical marker has been placed.  The 13th USCT was mustered out of service on July 7th, 1865 in St. Louis. 

For further information on the event or luncheon call : Jo Ann McClellan  – 931-682-3755   or   931-698-4765

From the Inbox: Finding Jim & Carrie of Roots: The Next Generations

The benefits of sharing genealogical information online are far-reaching and make our volunteer work here at the TNGenWeb ever so worthwhile.   In many cases, you’ll find that our volunteer and information-sharing spirit extends beyond the confines of just the TNGenWeb project.   I’d like to share a story with particular relevance to Tennessee and the state’s Alex Haley connection.

Alex Haley’s Roots has undoubtedly been a major milestone for family history pursuits in this country; for African American families and for families of many ethnic backgrounds.  Growing up in Henning, Lauderdale County, Tennessee,  Alex heard many stories about his ancestors and wrote a moving narrative about the family history.  My family and I watch the mini-series often and particularly seem to watch Roots: The Next Generations even more often than Roots.

Last February, my genealogy-curious nature got the best of me and I set out to see if I could locate some of the real people behind a family depicted in the mini-series – that of Jim and Carrie Warner.  In the mini-series, Jim & Carrie are family friends of Tom (Chicken George’s son) and his family.  Carrie is a black school-teacher and Jim is a member of an affluent white-family in town.  The two fall in love, marry, and have children.  As might be expected, Jim is outcast from white society.

Richard Thomas, Fay Hauser, and Henry Fonda as Jim Warner, Carrie & Jim’s father, Col. Warner in Roots: The Next Generation.

On my personal blog, I shared the process I took in order to seek them and documented a couple whom I believed to be them.  Instead of  “Warner,” their last name is “Turner” and their personal characteristics and family seems to be a match – including a son named Hardin who grows up to be a doctor.  Naturally I blogged about the hunting process it because I believe so adamantly in sharing information online for others to find.

And, find they did.  This past week, I was contacted by email by a descendant of Jim & Carrie’s!  Sure enough I had found them and Sharon, one of their great-granddaughters, and I had a nice chat over the weekend.  Sharon described that yes, Jim & Carrie were friends of the Palmer & Haley families and Sharon herself grew up in Henning.   She too heard many stories of her ancestors while sitting on the porch of the family home; much like Alex Haley as a child.  Some of the life details of Jim & Carrie vary from what is represented in the mini-series, but that is of course to be expected.   One of the questions I had when I wrote my blog post was to wonder if the descendants knew that it was their family in the show – Sharon confirmed that yes, they did.  She’d always known growing up that her great-grandparents were part of the Roots narrative.  Isn’t that amazing.

Even more incredible though was that as we were close to finishing our conversation, Sharon mentioned that she had a picture of Jim and Carrie.  And, she has given permission for it to be shared online.   Meet the “real” Jim and Carrie – along with sons George Hillard Turner,  Hardin Alexander Turner, and William Turner.

Jim & Carrie Turner with sons George, Hardin & William.

How incredible! Sharon is thinking about beginning a blog to chronicle her own adventures in her family history – wouldn’t you all agree that she should! Jim & Carrie lived into their 80’s and 90’s and I am sure there is so much more of the history that remains to be told.

At top – Jim & Carrie in the 1940 census – Henning, Lauderdale County, TN. At the bottom of the page is Alex Haley’s grandmother Cynthia Murray Palmer and her sister Elizabeth.

Thank you Sharon for sharing your family history with me and thank you for allowing me to share it with our researchers.  The TNGenWeb Project is about making connections in family history and this is a great example of how sharing can reap positive rewards.   Alex Haley would be proud.  🙂

Note:  If you have research interests in Tennessee, we’d love to have you collaborate with us by sharing your family research or chatting it up with us on Facebook, Twitter & GooglePlus!