Ancestors Tree


Students will:

Review African American Historical Events.



Black, colored or Negro: words used to describe a person belonging to the African branch of the black race.

Civil rights: the rights guaranteed to all U.S. citizens by acts of Congress and the Thirteenth and Fourteenth amendments to the Constitution.

Kwanzaa: an African American festival held in late December.

Racism: a belief in racial superiority of one race over another race.

Slavery: the state of a person who is owned and considered the property of another.

Segregation: the separation or isolation of a race, class, or ethnic group from the rest of society.





Episode Overview

This episode focuses on the distinct challenge in researching African American records. Part one introduces Collette De Verge. She and members of the Southern California Genealogical Association share what family history and genealogy means to them. In part two, expert Tony Burroughs will dispel myths about African American records and will introduce new information to help begin a successful search.

Before Viewing the Episode

  • Duplicate the student handout on the next page.
  • Read aloud the EPISODE OVERVIEW and OBJECTIVE.
  • Write the VOCABULARY words (at left) on the board, and discuss with the class the meaning of the words racism, segregation, slavery, colored, black, Negro, and civil rights, all of which are important to understanding African American genealogy.

note: A suggested time for viewing Episode Seven would be during Black History Month in February or during Kwanzaa from December 26 to January 1.

After Viewing the Episode

African American Historical Events and Records

Events create records that are important in family history research. African American records are defined by their creation in the context of American history. The students will fill in the timeline with the appropriate events in African American history. They will then deduce which events created records that can be used in family history research.

  • Classroom discussion of the records created should include:

A. Slavery. Slaves were treated as property, therefore, Bills of Sale, probate records from plantations and inventories can be used to trace African American ancestors.

B. African Americans have served in all the U.S. wars including the Revolutionary and Civil War. Military records are a great source of information for the family historian.

C. Plessy vs. Furgeson created a legal framework for segregation. As African Americans were segregated in every aspect of their lives, so were their records. African Americans often need to search segregated records to find information about their ancestors. For example, as Tony Burroughs noted in the series, African Americans are often found in the back, or colored section of City Directories, a precursor of the telephone book.

  • Key to timeline:

A. 1870 The Fifteenth Amendment was passed. All citizens, regardless of race or gender were given equal protection of the law.

B. 1787 The United States Constitution was approved. Slaves had no rights as citizens, and were counted as three-fifths of a person.

C. 1954 Supreme Court declared that segregation of the races is unconstitutional in Brown vs. Topeka case.

D. 1963 250,000 people attended a civil rights rally in Washington D.C., where they heard Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s "I Have a Dream" speech.

E. 1861 (April 12) - The Civil War began. Slavery was a major cause of the fighting between the North and South.

F. 1619 The first black slaves in North America arrived in Virginia.

G. 1865 (March 3) - The Union Congress created the Freedmen’s Bureau to assist freed slaves.

H. 1909 The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded. Blacks and whites joined together to legally try to eliminate segregation.

I. 1964 The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed by Congress, and declared that discrimination on the basis or race, sex, religion, or national origin was unlawful.

J. 1896 "Separate but equal" facilities for blacks and whites were declared constitutional by the Supreme Court in the Plessy vs. Ferguson case.

K. 1700. Author Samuel Sewall wrote "The Selling of Joseph" as the first American protest against slavery.

L. 1778 An Act of Congress prohibited the import of slaves into the U.S.

M. 1865 (December 6) - The Thirteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was passed, abolishing slavery.

N. 1955 Rosa Parks, a black woman, sparked the civil rights movement in the South when she refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white man and was arrested.

O. 1989 L. Douglas Wilder was elected Governor of Virginia. He was the first African American to be elected a governor in the United States.

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