Cook (Atlanta, GA)
Magby (Chambers County, Alabama)
Owensby (Chambers County, Alabama)

Strickland  (Atlanta, GA)
Hall (Elberton, Georgia)
Fortson (Elberton, Georgia)
Upshaw (Elberton, Georgia)
Grimes (Elberton, Georgia)

Their-childWhen I was an undergraduate a sociology professor asked us to write an essay on the first day about what we believed in. She wanted to know about how those beliefs made us who we were. What did I believe in? As my Spelman sisters discussed their Christian faith I wrote about my family.

Perhaps, you could say I worship my family. I have pictures of my ancestors everywhere. I am constantly spreading the word about the importance of genealogical research, talking to our elderly family members and learning their stories before it’s too late. I take a copy of my family tree with me everywhere I go on my iPhone. I am always ready to pull it out and consult it when questions arise. Once or twice a year I make a hajj to my holy lands of Elberton, Roanoke, Randolph county, and Atlanta. The trip can be difficult as we often do it the "old way".

Back before the Civil Rights Movement and the end of segregation, black people were not allowed to spend the night in most hotels, use gas station bathrooms or eat at roadside restaurants. Both of my parents took their first roadtrips during segregation in the 1950's and 60's. Sometimes as we travel I imagine that integration never occured. Sometimes it almost feels that way. We drive overnight, stopping to nap beneath the bright lights at Race Track gas stations instead of checking into hotels. Sometimes we spend the night with relatives and family friends who live along the way. We pack plenty of food so that we do not have to stop every time we get hungry.  It is exhausting but, I love it! I know that’s partially because if we need to we can always stop and check into a hotel, or use public services even in the tiniest southern towns. It's an adventure and in a small way I feel connected to my parent's youth. Traveling this way also helps to reinvigorate our relationships with cousins living along the major highways.

Yes, you probably could say that I worship my family. I take pride in the number of people I have convinced to join me in this endeavor. We fellowship in cemeteries, at courthouses, dinner tables and, yes, even in churches. While some search for the meaning of life, I find meaning in the lives of my ancestors. We are here because our ancestors were here. I am the sum of the life experiences of the millions of people who came before me. In some ways that makes me feel nervous about my fate. Will I one day become like them, a nameless faceless ancestor? But on the other hand I feel a great sense of responsibility to those who came before me. I am a guardian of their memories, their photos, their stories and their objects. I search for the details of their lives, lace them together and tell and retell their biographies. I am a genealogy evangalist. I spread my ancestors' words to the masses via digital techonology. Their word and their lives bring our people back together; uniting our disparate factions through shared blood and shared histories.

I like the idea of my ancestors looking down on me. I like to fantasize about what they would think of this work. I hope I am honoring their memories with my actions. I come from a long line of very ordinary extraordinary people. I hope they are as proud of me as I am of them.

Read a story about my great great great aunt Augusta Magby Bates that is featured on's website "Aunt Gusty Was a Sly One". I was interviewed by back in December and the story is the result of the interview.

For a great listing of other African American Genealogy blogs please follow this link

Music for Genealogists

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