This page is dedicated to Bill, a man who lived much of his life enslaved by one of my ancestors.

I’ll share the results of my quest to learn about Bill’s life, and the records of his journey through this world.

Operating as usual


I’m so proud of one of my besties, Pamela Fields !

I'm excited to announce that I'll serve as 1 of 40 Independent Sector 2022 Bridging Fellows! During my fellowship, I'll strengthen my individual and collective leadership capacity to support building healthy and equitable communities


St. John Colony outside Lockhart began in the early 1870s, when a group of Black families, led by the Rev. John Henry Winn, relocated here from Webberville.

The original 14 families purchased about 2,000 acres of land to establish a town and family farms. Originally named Winn’s Colony in honor of the reverend, the community’s name was changed after Winn organized St. John Missionary Baptist Church in 1873.

The community grew steadily and at its peak included homes of about 100 families, farms, stores, a school, cotton gin, and grist mill. The boundaries of the colony extended into Bastrop County. A post office, under the name Mackiesville, opened in 1890 with Lewis Mackey as postmaster. In addition to St. John Missionary Baptist, churches included Zion Union Missionary Baptist and Landmark Missionary Baptist.

The post office was closed in the 1920s, and the school was consolidated with Lockhart schools in 1966. The community graveyard, known as St. John Cemetery or Zion Cemetery, contains the graves of many of the area’s pioneers. Descendants of some of the founding families still reside in St. John Colony.

Learn more about post-Emancipation Black communities from the The Texas Freedom Colonies Project :

📷: Headstone of Jane Roland in the St. John Colony cemetery

Alternative Methods for Researching African-American Genealogy 03/12/2022

Alternative Methods for Researching African-American Genealogy

Great article outlining various ways to search for your African-American ancestors. Thank you, Remembering Black Dallas, INC., George Keaton, Jr., and Dallas Genealogical Society for providing this.

Alternative Methods for Researching African-American Genealogy By Shreeya Madhavanur, StaffRemembering Black Dallas, Inc. The advent of databases like 23andMe and has produced a revolution in genealogical tracing, allowing people to look into thei…

Utah DNA forensics lab chosen to analyze remains of possible Tulsa Race Massacre victims 03/09/2022

Utah DNA forensics lab chosen to analyze remains of possible Tulsa Race Massacre victims

Utah DNA forensics lab chosen to analyze remains of possible Tulsa Race Massacre victims Intermountain Forensics, a non-profit DNA forensics lab in Utah, was chosen to identify the remains of 14 possible victims of the Tulsa Massacre of 1921, which destroyed lives and the Black community known as “Black Wall Street. ” “We need to find out who these people are and bring...

Timeline photos 02/17/2022

Do any of our followers have ancestors from the Baltimore area?

If noise accompanied this photograph you would be able to hear the songs, cries, and hollers of Baltimore’s arabbers informing the public that fresh produce is for sale from their colorful horse-drawn carts. The term “arabber” (meaning horse-cart vendor) is unique to Baltimore and these sellers have been operating in the city for over 150 years. Recognized as an African American folk tradition by the Arabber Preservation Society, arabbers continue to serve a practical purpose by bringing fruits and vegetables to neighborhoods that are underserved by grocery stores.

Look for more spotlights on our collections related to Black history this month as we recognize .

Image: Old Lexington St. looking west near Caroline St. [arabber], photograph by Robert Kniesche, 1950. Maryland Center for History and Culture, H. Furlong Baldwin Library, Robert Kniesche Photograph Collection, PP79, PP79.553

Jordan Peele Reacts to Family History in Finding Your Roots | Ancestry 08/22/2021

Jordan Peele Reacts to Family History in Finding Your Roots | Ancestry

Quick tutorial with Finding Your Roots creator Henry Louis Gates, Jr. showing techniques for finding enslaved ancestors. Jordan Peele expresses the importance of learning this part of U.S. history.

Jordan Peele Reacts to Family History in Finding Your Roots | Ancestry Henry Louis Gates, Jr. from PBS' Finding Your Roots takes us through how genealogists and family historians dig deeper to uncover hard-to-find records of ens...


Although this is not related to genealogy, this program is great! Summer is slowing down and it’s time to get back to meaningful conversations.

We're back! And ready to share, listen & learn. Pick a date and join us. Civilized discourse on our racial climate is a priority.
Send email to join (details in graphic): [email protected]
In the meantime, visit us to learn more:

A Simple Cotton Sack Tells an Intergenerational Story of Separation Under Slavery 07/02/2021

A Simple Cotton Sack Tells an Intergenerational Story of Separation Under Slavery

A story of preservation and research that allows us to see how an enslaved mother prepared her daughter, who was sold and taken away from her.

A Simple Cotton Sack Tells an Intergenerational Story of Separation Under Slavery Historian Tiya Miles' new book traces the lives of three Black women through an embroidered family heirloom known as "Ashley's sack"


CBS News producer discovers ancestor in slavery archive

Here is the second part of the story. Powerful stuff.


This is about a community in East Texas that was established after the Civil War.

The history of Zion Hill Historic District in Nacogdoches is typical of many African American communities in East Texas and throughout the South after the Civil War.

The approximately 10 acres upon which the Zion Hill community was established was originally part of the large land holdings of the Haden Edwards family. Sometime after the Civil War, freedman Frank Walton, born enslaved around 1835, settled on the property and farmed on the west bank of Lanana Creek.

Zion Hill was home primarily to service workers, including shop porters, servants, maids, cooks, and groundskeepers for affluent white families living on nearby Mound Street.

One-story framed shotgun houses dominate the area. The Gothic Revival-style 1914 Zion Hill Baptist Church (pictured) anchors the neighborhood from land that Walton and his wife, Ella, donated. The congregation, which dates from 1879 under Reverend Lawson Reed, is Nacogdoches’ oldest Black church.

More about Texas’ African American heritage:

Thread by @DanRather on Thread Reader App 09/05/2020

Thread by @DanRather on Thread Reader App

Thread by @DanRather on Thread Reader App Thread by : Thinking today of how presidents in the past have spoken about those who gave their lives in service to country. And the pinnacle of that sentiment comes to mind: Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg ...…

The fight to save America’s historic Black cemeteries 08/23/2020

The fight to save America’s historic Black cemeteries

This brings to mind Freedman’s Cemetery in Dallas and Bull Cemetery in Falls County, both here in Texas. Everyone deserves to have their ancestor’s resting places respected, preserved and documented.

The fight to save America’s historic Black cemeteries Proposed legislation could create a national park network of overlooked gravesites. But for now, it’s up to communities to preserve them.

New Free Historical Records on FamilySearch: Week of 10 August 2020 - Genealogy Bargains 08/12/2020

New Free Historical Records on FamilySearch: Week of 10 August 2020 - Genealogy Bargains

New Free Records! Yay! ❤️💙🤍

New Free Historical Records on FamilySearch: Week of 10 August 2020 - Genealogy Bargains View almost 7 MILLION new, free, indexed records added to FamilySearch this week including Michigan Obituaries, 1820-2006, Oregon Passenger and Crew Lists, 1888-1956, and Compiled Military Service Records for US Colored Troops, 1861-1866


Every day at 9am, Susie King Taylor and her brother would walk the half a mile to the small schoolhouse, their books wrapped in paper to prevent the police from seeing them. Her grandmother made sure of it - she wanted Susie to be able to read and write.

Susie was barely in her early teens when her family fled to St. Simons Island, a Union controlled area in Georgia, during the Civil War. With her inquisitive eyes and kind demeanor and her education, she impressed the army officers. They asked that she become a teacher for children and even some adults. “I would gladly do so, if I could have some books,” she replied. And so she became the first black teacher of freed black students to work in a freely operating freedmen’s school in Georgia.

Not long after, Susie married, and joined her husband and his regiment as they traveled. She became their teacher, teaching the illiterate men to read and write. It was also during this time that she became a nurse to the men, thus making her the first black army nurse in the Civil War.

All this she accomplished before the age of 18.

Looking back on her time as a nurse, she said that “I gave my service willingly for four years and three months without receiving a dollar. I was glad…to care for the sick and afflicted comrades.”

Source:, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division


Check out William Henry, born about 1809! (See Comment for Citation)

And here are the possible candidates for our Bill, as a free man. Which one do you think might be him? What stands out to you about this group, or any of the others listed in the last post? What other questions might you have about them?

William Barber in Greene County – is 40 years old in 1850, so his birth year is around 1810. His occupation is Teamster and he is living with a white couple; Thomas Davis, a farmer, and his likely wife, Margaret Davis.

William Hines in Hawkins County – Is 50 years old in 1850 (born about 1800). He is a farmer and lives with Nancy Hines, Lewis Hines, and 7 children ranging in age from 17 down to 4.

Wm. Bailey in Washington Co. – 43 years old (born 1807), living with Julia, and 2 children. He owns Real Estate valued at $300 and can read and write. Side note – on the same page is a black woman living alone, 40 years old, born in Tennessee with an occupation as a wash woman. Very few women in 1850 of any race have an occupation listed. This woman was an entrepreneur. Her name - Julia Stuart.

Last African American listed on the search results page is:

Wm Henry in Washington Co. – He is 41 years old, so he was born about 1809, birthplace Tennessee, lived in Subdivision 4, Washington, Tennessee. His last name is the same as my ancestor’s! He is a farmer, living with a woman named Ann Henry, age 42, born about 1808, birthplace Virginia.


Of the 18 persons named William showing up in my search:

3 have the last name of Black, and are white.

7 are too young to have been born when my ancestor’s will was written, in 1837.

William McFarland, born in 1842
William Conway, born in 1840
William Baly, born in 1849
Wm Nicholds, born in 1841
William Hines, born in 1838
William Hale, born in 1847
William Volentine, born in 1840

4 would have been very young in 1837, possible candidates, but not likely.

William Brice, born in 1828
Wm. Johnson, born in 1835
Wm Nichols, born in 1835
William Kershawn, born in 1834

That leaves 4...


In searching for Bill in 1850, I have decided to lean toward the side of optimism and begin my search for him as a free man, within the U.S. Census. I want to approach it with an assumption that he won’t be too far from where he lived as an enslaved person in 1836. I can always broaden my search, if needed. So, I enter in the First Name of Bill. I choose to not enter a last name. Although many enslaved people took the name of their enslaver after they became free, it limits my search, and I don’t have any knowledge of what name he might have taken. To narrow the search, I fill in the “lived in:” section with Greene County Tennessee. I am also checking the box “Exact to…” with the selection of “County and adjacent counties”, to broaden somewhat beyond the county of Greene. I put in the keyword of Black and check the exact box. Alas, the search comes up empty.

However, there is another option. In my ancestor’s will, he also refers to Bill as William. I switch to William for the first name and there are 18 results!

On the next post we will go through the names...


Navigating the 1850 Census in Ancestry while searching for free African Americans – There are a couple of things to keep in mind when searching for African Americans within the 1850 U.S. Census. This census did have a place for entering the race of the person, but since most all free people in the U.S. were white, the census takers did not fill in this space on each record for those white inhabitants. There was generally only a race designated, if the person was not white. Because of this, Ancestry has chosen to not provide a place in the search form for filtering for race. This is disappointing, but they do provide a way to search for those with a race designation of Black or Mulatto. You can use the keyword section of the Ancestry search form, entering either Black or Mulatto, and checking the exact box. When you click search, the results will have those words, including the word designated for those letters in the Race column on the census page. You should note that using the keyword Black will also bring up any records that fit your other criteria, but also include the last name of Black, so there may be a few to disregard in your search results. It is a good idea to do separate searches for each (Black, Mulatto) for any search of African American ancestors in the 1850 census. I will apply this method in a later post to search for Bill...

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Check out William Henry, born about 1809! (See Comment for Citation)





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