“Paying It Forward”: The Importance of Sharing the Slave History from your Family Trees Part Two



“Pay it forward is an expression for describing the beneficiary of a good deed repaying it to others instead of to the original benefactor.”

This term and idea has been around for a very long time. In the year 2000 it became a popular movement after the movie “Pay It Forward” premiered. Everyone began talking about how we can all do this in our lives so it may not only enrich others but also ourselves. Let’s take this one step farther and apply this concept to our Genealogy work.

A week ago I wrote a blog entitled “The Importance of Sharing the Slave History from your Family Trees”. I was absolutely blown away with the positive response I received. It all stemmed from a question I had asked on a Black Ancestry Facebook page. I just wanted to know how I could add the names of the slaves that I found in the Wills, Estate Records or the 1850 and 1860 U.S. Federal Census Slave Schedules so that others could find this vital information. After reading all the posts I decided that I needed to do something more.

So here is the CHALLENGE:  While you are searching and researching your Family History think about how you can also help others in their quest to find family. How can you “Pay It Forward”?

#1 As you find information in ANY document that lists the names of slaves or other information i.e. age, race, relationships etc, copy that document to your Ancestors tree.  In Ancestry.com I use the “fact” button and start a new category called “Slave Owner”. Here I add the year, how many slaves were listed, any names, ages and so forth. By attaching the document to this ‘fact’ it makes it easier when a person looks at your Ancestor  because they can just click on it to view the information without having to go looking for it.

#2 One suggestion was to start a new tree with just the slaves names. One of my Ancestors, Permelia Allen had two slaves, Ambrose and Caroline Collard. So I would start a whole new tree with just these two people in it. I would include all the information I can find concerning them then I would link it back to the slave owner so that whoever is looking for Ambrose and Caroline can find where they were and where they came from. You can also attach documents here also.

#3 Submit your information to some databases that can upload it to their site so others can view it.

                OBA Shared Legacies – Cifreo  www.ourblackancestry.com

                AfriGeneas ~ Slave Data Collection  www.afrigeneas.com

 #4 Write to your local Historical Society to encourage them to release the names of Slaves they may have in their Historical Records. Oftentimes they are not listed anywhere because they are overlooked. Stress the importance of doing this so others may find them.

#5 Contact Ancestry.com, FamilySearch and other Genealogy sites and encourage them to develop a way to add this information to our trees so that it can be searchable.

#6 SPREAD THE WORD. The more people we can get to do these 6 things, the better chances others may have in finding their Ancestors.

 You can be a blessing to others so please just “Pay It Forward!”


9 thoughts on ““Paying It Forward”: The Importance of Sharing the Slave History from your Family Trees Part Two

  1. Valerie, I am so moved by your post. As a descendant of slaves, I would love it if others followed your lead. You are truly a blessing, you made my heart smile. Your generous deed will bring so many answers to those descendants of slaves tied to your ancestors. Thank you. May you continue to be blessed.

  2. Valerie, I have posted a link to this blog article via Twitter and Facebook so that others can read it and also share! This article means a lot to those of us doing African American genealogy research. Thank you for writing this it means the world to us!

  3. What a wonderful idea. I’m so glad you’re including those details in your family tree. Someday there’s going to be someone who is thrilled to find the name of one of their ancestors on your page!

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