On a beautiful mid-September Saturday the Delaware Historical Society and the Delaware Genealogical Society sponsored an African American Genealogy Workshop. Even with the competitive pull of the fine late summer weather, a crowd of over 100 people packed the conference.
Beginning with an outstanding morning session, Shamele Jordon shared tips, strategies and research methods. After walking the audience through the process, she moved on to a segment of the talk that had lots of people energetically scribbling notes as she showed how to mine data in Reconstruction-era records. Those included the Slave Claims Commission, Freedman’s Bank, Slave Narratives, Freedman’s Bureau and much more.
Syl Woolford, who has spent countless hours piecing together the untold stories of Delaware African-American communities, followed this superb introduction. His detailed discussion on how to navigate the 1940 census in order to piece the story together used records from Wilmington’s East Side records to illustrate his points. A photographer, Henry Szymanski, Jr,. documented that thriving community just before World War II broke out and that collection was donated to the Society. Those images popping up the screen as Syl illustrated his points took us back to that time over 70 years ago in the City.
In the afternoon there were two applied workshops. Jim Jones, a professional photographer, talked about the restoration of photos and documents, while Dr. Constance Cooper, the Society’s chief curator, gave a tour of the research library and talked about research collections.
This large audience, eager to learn about family history methods and start digging up some roots, found this to be a valuable workshop. The speakers were great and the material was instructive. Thank you Delaware Historical Society, Delaware Genealogical Society, and speakers for this productive and helpful program. Hopefully the sponsors offer more of these applied learning opportunities for there is a strong interest.