Monday, February 20, 2012

Reflections from the St. Louis African American Genealogy Conference

Program Booklet from St.Louis Afr. American Genealogy Conference Booklet
Photo: Personal Collection

Sarah Cato Call the Conference to Order
Photo: Personal Collection

This past weekend the 3rd Annual St. Louis African American History and Genealogical Society took place at Harris Stowe State College and University campus, in midtown St. Louis. This was a wonderful experience to be a part of and the community of researchers left me with an invigorating experience.

Prior to the opening session a power point of previous events was shown as members poured into the auditorium of the William Clay Early Childhood Development Center. Sarah Cato launched the conference calling the attendees to order. She was an excellent moderator, keeping everyone, and everything on time and moving.

Greetings were also extended to the attendees, by St. Louis organization president, Mr. Charles Brown and Constance Gully of Harris Stowe State University.

Charles Brown, President Greets Attendees at Annual Conference

Constance Gully of Harris Stowe University, also greeted the guests.
Photo: Courtesy of Charles Brown

I had the honor of delivering the opening keynote address The conference theme was Piecing Together Your Heritage, A Journey of Discovery and my presentation to the group focused on how we as researchers have many pieces of our own ancestral quilt, and that we have the task to piece our own quilt and tell the story.

Delivering the keynote was a special honor for me. My hope was to set the tone for the event, and to encourage others to begin the journey of the discovery of the wonderful legacy left by the ancestors.

Delivering the Keynote Address on the morning of the conference
Photo: Courtesy of Charles Brown

There were a number of breakout sessions, which provided ideas for members in attendance.

Breakout session

Members Listening to Presentation
Photo: Courtesy of Charles Brown

I was truly excited to sit on in a session conducted by Janis Forte of Chicago. She offered a very detailed introduction to the powerful  Digital Library of American Slavery.  This database is provided by the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and in her session, she explained methods of using this massive database and how to find data by many categories. This workshop was extremely valuable to me, for I was able to find a useful abstract to a family line that I have been examining for over 20 years. The division of the estate of one of the slaveholding families affiliated with a maternal line was included on that site, so I was delighted that Ms. Forte's workshop opened a door for me!

Janis Minor Forte of Chicago Illinois

Wanda Williams of the National Archives in St. Louis presented a session providing an overview of the holdings at the National personnel record center in St. Louis.

Wanda Williams of the National Archives
Photo: Courtesy of Bernice Bennett

The luncheon was a good opportunity for presenters and attendees to mix and mingle with each other, and just share stories and fellowship. I was happy to have a chance to meet some new people, and to also meet some people who had previously been email contacts only.

Speaker Bernice Bennett & Lisa Landrum

There were a number of exhibitors, and it was a special pleasure to meet one of the exhibitors who was from the Dred Scott Foundation. Lynne Jackson from the foundation, is a direct descendant of Dred and  Harriet Scott.

Lynne Jackson and myself standing near a portrait of her ancestor Dred Scott
Ms. Jackson is the gr. gr. granddaughter of Dred & Harriet Scott

The afternoon, keynote was delivered by Bernice Bennett. She told the story of her success with a line from Edgefield South Carolina. Her delivery had everyone on the edge of their seats and she was a smashing success! It can easily be said that she set the tone and had people talking the rest of the day after she told  her own story of her South Carolina research experience.

Image from Bernice Bennett's Presentation

After the conference, many took time to take photos with new friends old and new. 
Angela McGhee, Bridget Stegall, Bernice Bennett, Charles Brown, 
Angela Walton-Raji, Harold Russell, Janis Minor Forte
Photo: Courtesy of Charles Brown

The day was truly an exciting one, and meeting so many people with such a strong interest in family history is always a special event. In addition, a few faces from the AfriGeneas family also had a chance to connect and meet in real time as well.

AfriGeneas Friends: Bernice Bennettt (bbenn), Lisa Landrum (bearnut2) 
and Angela Walton-Raji (AYWalton)

I truly had a great day in St. Louis and I found the questions asked from the various persons in attendance to be thoughtful, and thought provoking.  I found the atmosphere from the staff at Harris Stowe to be a very warm, and the site was a true state of the art facility. And most importantly, I found the members of the St. Louis African American History and Genealogical Society to be a wonderful group of people. They were delightful hosts, serious in their quest for knowledge and a group that was a true pleasure to meet and spend some time.  

I want to extend a special thank you to them for their kindness, their hospitality and for presenting a wonderful conference.

No comments: