Program on June 11 Explores African-American Family History Research
Discover your own family history with expert techniques for tracing African-American ancestors! On Saturday, June 11, genealogist Char McCargo Bah will present “Paths to Freedom,” an illustrated lecture on how she tracked free African American families in Alexandria back to the communities where they had been held in slavery. The program runs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Alexandria Black History Museum, 902 Wythe Street. This event is $5 per person, and advance registration is recommended.
During the Civil War, thousands of people seeking freedom from slavery came into Alexandria where they would be protected behind the safety of Union lines. But where exactly did they come from? How important were their family connections? Ms. Bah traced the migration of several families associated with Freedmen’s Cemetery and found important links among families and places – in freedom and in slavery. Her techniques can help African-American family history researchers break through the “1870 brick wall.”
This event is part of “Their Voices Can Be Heard,” Ms. Bah’s Alexandria genealogy lecture series which began with her research into descendants of people buried at Freedmen’s Cemetery, the historic African-American burial ground reclaimed by the City in 2007. Since 2008, Ms. Bah, an Alexandria native, has located dozens of descendants of people buried at Freedmen’s Cemetery, most of whom are 5th and 6th generations removed. Many of the descendants still live in Alexandria or nearby, but were not familiar with their Civil War-era ancestors.
Ms. Bah has been doing genealogical research since 1981 and specializes in overcoming the unique challenges that African-American family research presents. She holds two undergraduate degrees and a certificate in legal research investigation, and her work has been featured in several magazines and newspapers. A regular columnist for the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society newsletter, she also hosts a monthly online chat on Afrigeneas.com called “A Chat with Char.” Ms. Bah is a contributing author to Everyday Grace, Everyday Miracle, and the forthcoming Eyewitness to America: Virginia WPA Slave Narratives. She has appeared on several television and radio programs, including BBC Radio and PBS’s History Detectives. Ms. Bah has lectured throughout the East Coast and is a popular speaker at the Alexandria Black History Museum.
The Alexandria Black History Museum is located in the heart of the Parker-Gray Historic District in Alexandria, and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information or to register, please call 703.746.4356 or visit www.alexblackhistory.org.