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Finding a Place Called Home: A Guide to African-American Genealogy and Historical Identity [Hardcover]

Dee Parmer Woodtor Ph.D.
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Feb. 9 1999
"I teach the kings of their ancestors so that the lives of the ancients might serve them as an example, for the world is old but the future springs from the past."
Mamadou Kouyate "Sundiata", An Epic of Old Mali, a.d. 1217-1257

Two major questions of the ages are: Who am I? and Where am I going? From the moment the first African slaves were dragged onto these shores, these questions have become increasingly harder for African-Americans to answer. To find the answers, you first must discover where you have been, you must go back to your family tree--but you must dig through rocky layers of lost information, of slavery--to find your roots.

During the Great Migration in the 1940s, when African-Americans fled the strangling hands of Jim Crow for the relative freedoms of the North, many tossed away or buried the painful memories of their past. As we approach the new millennium, African-Americans are reaching back to uncover where we have been, to help us determine where we are going.

Finding a Place Called Home is a comprehensive guide to finding your African-American roots and tracing your family tree. Written in a clear, conversational, and accessible style, this book shows you, step-by-step, how to find out who your family was and where they came from.

Beginning with your immediate family, Dr. Dee Parmer Woodtor gives you all the necessary tools to dig up your past: how to interview family members; how to research your past using census reports, slave schedules, property deeds, and courthouse records; and how to find these records. Using the Internet for genealogical research is also discussed in this timely and necessary book.

Finding a Place Called Home helps you find your family tree, and helps place it in the context of the garden of African-American people. As you learn how to find your own history, you learn the history of all Africans in the Americas, including the Caribbean, and how to benefit from a new understanding of your family's history, and your people's.

Finding a Place Called Home also discusses the growing family reunion movement and other ways to clebrate newly discovered family history.

Tomorrow will always lie ahead of us if we don't forget yesterday. Finding a Place Called Home shows how to retrieve yesterday to free you for all of your tomorrows.

Finding a Place Called Home:  An African-American Guide to Genealogy and Historical Identity takes us back, step-by-step, including: Methods of searching and interpreting records, such as marriage, birth, and death certificates, census reports, slave schedules, church records, and Freedmen's Bureau information.

  Interviewing and taking inventory of family members
  Using the Internet for genealogical purposes
  Information on tracing Caribbean ancestry

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Product Description

From Library Journal

Woodtor (DePaul Univ.) has written a detailed and easily accessible guide for readers searching for their African roots. After a general introduction to African American genealogy and the importance of family history, she sets readers on the path of researching their own family history. "If you are of African American ancestry," she writes, "you should know that most of your ancestors had arrived in the United States by the year 1790. Your American ancestry runs deepAin fact, deeper than that of the majority of Americans." Much of the book focuses on finding information from the Reconstruction era, locating military records from the Civil War, and analyzing the schedules of slave owners, old newspaper notices, and county registers to trace ancestors who lived as slaves. Throughout, Woodtor clearly explains what to expect from various sources and gives many intriguing examples from the field. While the reader may need to check other guides for locating information about other eras (e.g., African Americans in World War I), this book is highly recommended for all genealogy and African American history collections.ALinda L. McEwan, Elgin Community Coll., IL
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From the Publisher

Praise for Finding a Place Called Home

"This handsome publication is a must for anyone who is serious about their research."
-- Blackfamilies.com

"A major work of encyclopedic scope. This book belongs on every African-ancestored family historian's bookshelf."
-- Afrigeneas.com

"A detailed and easily accessible guide. Highly recommended."
-- Library Journal

"Sprinkled with personal stories, historical information, and examples of documents and records used in roots-finding ventures. . . a valuable reference book."
-- Ebony

"One of the best. . . comprehensive guides to finding ancestral lines. Woodtor provides an invaluable guide through the tangled African-American historical lineage."
-- New Orleans Times-Picayune

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars I heartily applaud Dee's efforts Jan. 11 2000
Format:Hardcover
The book itself is beautifully laid out with photos, tables, quotes and sample documents. But don't let the good looks fool you! This book has real meat to it! I heartily applaud Dee's efforts to:
describe the type of records available
suggest how to organize research
handle the delicacies of slave trading, and the consequential short history of many African Americans
discuss the usefulness of tracing European ancestry
assist you in finding your own voice during the process
guide readers to a thoughtful presentation of results.
Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you?
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful addition to a genealogist's library. Aug. 18 1999
Format:Hardcover
As a serious researcher for over twenty years of various ethnic origins, regions and time periods, I found this book to be packed with information and encouragement for anyone researching African Americans. She not only includes hundreds of resources but gives examples of what you may find. She continually encourages the reader to keep looking and finding slave ancestors is not impossible. She also dimisses many myths about the lives of slaves as well as slaveholders. The book is very readable, for the beginner or experienced researcher. It is particularly helpful for someone who believes they have hit a brick wall. The author has combined her book into a "book of sources" with a "how-to book" in a most successful manner. Other genealogy writers would profit by studying her methodology.
Was this review helpful to you?
5.0 out of 5 stars A must for a genealogy library Sept. 17 1999
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Best book on the market for a genealogical researcher. It is easy to read and reviews in detail, how to reseach your ancestor, who may have once been a slave. It reviews records that other guides do not explain or may not know exist. Finding this book, when I hit the brick wall was heaven sent. Not only did it help me decide what to do next, but it also help me to review the work I had did before and to see what steps I had missed. This book should be recommended reading for all genealogical researchers, beginners and advanced. Even though this book details African-American researching, it could be used for all types of genealogical researching.
Was this review helpful to you?
5.0 out of 5 stars a superb discussion of evidence and sources Aug. 28 2000
Format:Paperback
Dee Parmer Woodtor, Finding a Place Called Home: A Guide to African-American Genealogy and Historical Identity (New York: Random House, 1999) is a superb discussion of resources and methods, with a well-developed (and essential) emphasis on interpreting evidence from records. Includes examples and case studies throughout. The best book of its genre yet written.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  13 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a superb discussion of evidence and sources Aug. 28 2000
By David E. Paterson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Dee Parmer Woodtor, Finding a Place Called Home: A Guide to African-American Genealogy and Historical Identity (New York: Random House, 1999) is a superb discussion of resources and methods, with a well-developed (and essential) emphasis on interpreting evidence from records. Includes examples and case studies throughout. The best book of its genre yet written.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Probably the best thing published on this subject July 22 2002
By Michael K. Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
African-American genealogy is a field that few non-Black researchers know very much about, myself included. The essentials of family research are generally the same, of course, and this well-written book reflects that -- but there are also a great many special considerations, techniques, and applications of old ideas that Woodtor presents clearly and in detail. Several chapters lay out the basic principles for the novice: Working backward from the living generation, moving from the known to the unknown, developing good research habits, checking all the sources, and so on. But they also point out the importance of oral tradition among African-American families, the necessity of identifying the last slave owner, and the tendency among many families to "disremember" unpleasant periods or relationships in the past. The author also relies on anecdotes, mostly from her own family, to illustrate the research process and to warn of special problems the researcher may encounter. A number of important topics are discussed at length, most of which I had only the most superficial knowledge of. Among these were the several extended exoduses during the 19th and early 20th centuries, including the great out-migration from Edgefield County, South Carolina to Tennesse, Arkansas, and (via Charleston) to Liberia; the "exodusters" movement of 1878-1879 from most of the Od South to Kansas and the Midwest; and the effects of World War I on the formation of a Black artisan and middle-class. Even searching the censuses of 1870-1920 brings special problems for the African-American researcher, since race was often incorrectly reported and surnames often changed over time. Another important consideration is possible enlistment in the United States Colored Troops during the Civil War; this is especially true for Louisiana (my special research area), which supplied more enlistees than any other state, North or South. There are several rules to keep in mind in working your way back before 1865: The smaller the slave owner, the fewer the records created. Rather than analyzing nuclear families, one will be looking at lists of slaves in an effort to reconstruct kinship ties. The general principle of working slowly from the present to the past tends to break down in slave research, with very wide gaps between records. In order to understand the movement and selling of more than one million slaves in the South between 1790 and 1860, one must understand the principles and mechanics of the slave trade. And, perhaps most important, the genealogy of slaves is the genealogy of slave owners. The author also explains the reasons behind "protective" slavery and slave ownership by free Blacks, the place of free Blacks in the North before the Civil War, and the question of American Indian ancestry among African-Americans. Several closing chapters discuss special topics, including Caribbean ancestry, sources of African-American institutional records, genealogical research at family reunions, and what to do with your research. I highly recommend this volume to any and all genealogists, regardless of race or ethnicity.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I heartily applaud Dee's efforts Jan. 11 2000
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The book itself is beautifully laid out with photos, tables, quotes and sample documents. But don't let the good looks fool you! This book has real meat to it! I heartily applaud Dee's efforts to:
describe the type of records available
suggest how to organize research
handle the delicacies of slave trading, and the consequential short history of many African Americans
discuss the usefulness of tracing European ancestry
assist you in finding your own voice during the process
guide readers to a thoughtful presentation of results.
Chapter headings include:
Regaining Our Collective Memory, Reclaiming a Lost Family Tradition
Beginning Your Genealogical Pursuit
Techniques & Tools
Your Ancestors on Record: The importance of documenting the life cycle
A Place Called Down Home
Unraveling the ties that Bound 1870-1920
Finding Freedom's Generation 1860-1865
Close to Kin, but Still Waiting for Forty Acres and a Mule - Searching for your ancestors during the reconstruction
A Long Way to Freedom - The genealogy of your slave ancestors
The Last Slave and the Last Slave Owner
The Records of Slavery
Reconstructing Families and Kinship in the Slave Community
The Records Freedom Generated
The Last African & the First American
Conclusion - Family Reunions & Regaining a Collective Memory
Special topics include:
Sources for Advanced Research in Slave Genealogy
African American Institutional Records
Caribbean Ancestry
American Indian Ancestry
World Wars I & II
What to Do with Your Research - Writing family memoirs or the family story, and 101 genealogy research projects waiting to be done
Further Note on County Courthouse Records
Personal Recordkeeping with exercises for Beginners
African American and Genealogy Web Sites
African American Genealogy Societies in the United States and Canada.
Dee's bibliography, referenced by chapter, is found on 24 pages of closely spaced lettering -- a literal MUST READ set of resources to augment her offerings.
Notable comments, which ring true to my understanding include:
"...Once you find the last slave owner, you are using his family history and genealogy as a guide to identify his recorded transactions that named slaves he and his extended family owned over time using primarily the family's personal records, if you can find them, and any public transactions that they recorded at the courthouse. " p 275.
"Dotted throughout the South are thousands of small African American Churches of every known Protestant denomination. If there are now approximately 65,000 African American Churches in the United States, over half of them must be in the south.
A recent survey reported that 70 percent of African Americans attend church. In each and every county of the historical Black Belt and in every small place where Black folks lived during slavery, you will find that they established independent churches within a few decades of emancipation. Many were extensions of churches established during slavery or through a bequest by a former slave owner." p 107.
Regarding African Americans serving in the military during the US Civil War from page 148: "Anoder ting is, suppose you had kept your freedom without enlisting in dis army; your chillen might have grown up free and been well cultivated as to be equal to any business, but it would have been always thrown in dere faces --"Your fater never fought for his own freedom." Private Thomas Long, 1st Carolina South Colunteers Cited in Benjamin Quarles, The Negro in the Civil War.
The author, Dee Woodtor, is a member of the Genealogy Forum staff
copyright 2000
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must for a genealogy library Sept. 17 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Best book on the market for a genealogical researcher. It is easy to read and reviews in detail, how to reseach your ancestor, who may have once been a slave. It reviews records that other guides do not explain or may not know exist. Finding this book, when I hit the brick wall was heaven sent. Not only did it help me decide what to do next, but it also help me to review the work I had did before and to see what steps I had missed. This book should be recommended reading for all genealogical researchers, beginners and advanced. Even though this book details African-American researching, it could be used for all types of genealogical researching.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful addition to a genealogist's library. Aug. 18 1999
By mwilcox@ismi.net - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
As a serious researcher for over twenty years of various ethnic origins, regions and time periods, I found this book to be packed with information and encouragement for anyone researching African Americans. She not only includes hundreds of resources but gives examples of what you may find. She continually encourages the reader to keep looking and finding slave ancestors is not impossible. She also dimisses many myths about the lives of slaves as well as slaveholders. The book is very readable, for the beginner or experienced researcher. It is particularly helpful for someone who believes they have hit a brick wall. The author has combined her book into a "book of sources" with a "how-to book" in a most successful manner. Other genealogy writers would profit by studying her methodology.
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