Researching Your Georgia Ancestors

Ramble through the blogs: Legacy Family Tree News blogs about Georgia research and resources. Good list of resources.

Legacy News -Family Tree- February 24, 2016

Georgia Genealogy Resources

A well versed genealogist told me that when you lose an ancestor in south central Virginia in the 1830’s look in Georgia. Losing an ancestor took me from the basement of the Halifax County, Virginia court house to the genealogy records of Georgia.

Look in Georgia?

The discovery of Georgia gold in 1829 led to the Georgia Gold Rush and an influx of people seeking their fortunes. Almost every surname in Halifax County, Virginia in the 1830’s can be found in Georgia. As it turns out, I was following the ancestor who was following the gold. Without learning the history of the time and the area, looking for my ancestors in Georgia would not have occurred to me. (Tip: Know the historical and economic events that would have impacted your ancestors.)

Now I needed to learn about the Georgia Genealogy resources……


Listed Resources



Freedman’s Bureau Project- Get Involved

The Freedmen’s Bureau Project is helping African Americans reconnect with the Civil War-era ancestors. Join this project and help restore thousands of records.

Emancipation freed nearly 4 million slaves. The Freedmen’s Bureau was established to help transition them from slavery to citizenship, providing food, housing, education, and medical care. And for the first time in U.S. history, the names of those individuals were systematically recorded and preserved for future generations.

Discover Your Roots Using Freedmen’s Bureau Records

The Project:

To help bring thousands of records to light, the Freedmen’s Bureau Project was created as a set of partnerships between FamilySearch International and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Afro­-American Historical and Genealogical Society (AAHGS), and the California African American Museum.

Tens of thousands of volunteers are needed to make these records searchable online. No specific time commitment is required, and anyone may participate. Volunteers simply log on, pull up as many scanned documents as they like, and enter the names and dates into the fields provided. Once published, information for millions of African Americans will be accessible, allowing families to build their family trees and connect with their ancestors.

Every name brings us closer to completing this project. The progress meter shows what percentage of the records we’ve indexed so far. But there’s still more work to do. See how you can get involved today to help millions discover their roots.

Presently, the Project is 45% complete- Volunteer Now




Coweta Libraries- Dr. D.L. Henderson- 27 Feb.

Genealogy: Explore your roots at Coweta libraries

The Newnan Time- Herald

5 Feb. 2016

Coweta Public Library System’s Central Library branch is hosting three genealogically inspired programs this month in celebration of African-American History Month.

They focus on historical storytelling, slave genealogical research, and church histories.

The first will be held on Saturday at 11 a.m. Genealogist Janice Sikes-Rogers will present “Creative Expressions: African American Memories.” Sikes-Rogers, who is also an historian and poet, will share family history research, storytelling, and poetry from her book “Southern by Nature.”

The second program is “Explore Your Roots: Evaluating Genealogical Evidence of Enslaved Ancestors,” on Feb. 23 at 6:30 p.m. This seminar will be presented by Dr. D. L. Anderson, cemetery historian and genealogist, and past president of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society. She has been recognized by the Atlanta City Council for her contribution to the preservation and interpretation of African American history and culture, and is currently working on a book, “Dignity in Death: A Story of Atlanta’s South-View Cemetery.” Dr. D.L. Anderson will lead participants through a case study in order to introduce them to strategies for genealogical research on enslaved ancestors.

The third program will be held on Feb. 27 at 10 a.m. It is titled “Hallowed Grounds: Preserving Your Church History” and will teach participants basic principles of setting up and maintaining church archives.

Call the Central Library at 770-683-2052 to register for any of these programs.

CPLS programs are always free and open to the public.

Symposium: Reconstruction & The Promise of Freedom- 27 Feb

Register/Save the Date:  27 February – 9 am – 4:30 pm

The National Archives at Atlanta presents:

The Enduring Chronicle: Reconstruction and the Promise of Freedom


This program is presented in partnership with Metro Atlanta Chapter of AAHGS

Speakers include

Kahlil G. Chism – Jimmy Carter Presidential Library

Dr. Ehren Foley- South Carolina Department of Archives and History

Dr. Edna Greene Medford- Chair, Department of History- Howard University

Dr. Jelani Favors- History Professor- Clayton State University

Joel Walker- Education Specialist- National Archives at Atlanta

William Durant- Indexer Freedmen’s Bureau Indexing Project

In addition -performances by:

Lovejoy High School Choral Ensemble

Historical Characters protrayed by AAHGS youth

There will be displays of Family History Research by Genealogists


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Georgia Archives-Feb. 13-Free- All day workshop

Black History Month Program- Georgia Archives –

Saturday 13 February 2016 – 9:00 a.m. -5:00 p.m

Visit the Georgia Archives and enjoy the presentations of these exciting speakers:

Dr. D.L. Henderson -Dignity in Death: South-View Cemetery Association

Louis Childers- William & Mary the Untold Story Revealed in William Zeigler Estate Records

Dr. Curtis Grave- Person History in America’s Peculiar Institution: An Intimate Exploration of Enslavement in New Orleans’ Plantation Country- sponsored by FOGAH

Elyse Hill- African American Genealogical Research: Breaking Through the 1870’s Brick Wall

Kayla Barrett – Resources for African- American Research at the Georgia Archives

Pizza will be available at lunch for a donation.

Event sponsored by Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society- Atlanta Chapter, Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History, Friends of the Georgia Archives & History (FOGAH), The Georgia Archives

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New book- Melvin Collier documents legacy

On January 31st, former Atlanta resident and AAHGS member, Melvin Collier, announced the release of his new book, “Ealy Family Heritage, Documenting Our Legacy.” The book is now available for purchase.GIG_Collier_THUMBNAIL_IMAGE

In addition to documenting the Ealy family’s history back to the 1700’s, the book combines the process of genealogy research with story-telling. Collier discloses how he researched the enslaved ancestors, while still telling the stories of their lives and their descendants’ lives during slavery and afterwards. This book can serve as a template on how to research, organize and write a family history book.

Available at


Students find long-lost grave of Georgia man killed for voting in 1948

Student uses records from the University of Georgia and the Georgia Archives to find grave

…Lucy Baker, a sophomore from San Francisco, spent her own time outside of class to make trips to the archives of the University of Georgia in Athens and the Georgia Archives in Morrow in search of clues….

Students find long-lost grave of Georgia man killed for voting in 1948

Laura Douglas-Brown for Emory Report – 26 January 2016

Arms linked, five Emory University students stood silently in the muddy cemetery, their cheeks damp with rain and tears. It was a moment none could have imagined when they signed up for a class focused on the Georgia Civil Rights Cold Cases Project — a moment set in motion by an act of bravery almost 70 years ago, brought full circle now through research, determination and what more than one person called a “miracle.”

With the students bearing witness under the gray Georgia sky, Dorothy Nixon Williams rested her hand on a rough concrete headstone etched with the word “Father,” bent to touch the concrete slab beneath it, then wept in the arms of her son.

“Father.” Her father, Isaiah Nixon, an African American man who had dared to vote in the 1948 Democratic Primary in Montgomery County, Georgia, only the second held since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled all-white primaries unconstitutional. Her father, who was gunned down by two white men that evening on the front porch of her home, when she was just six years old.

Her father, whose grave had been lost in the rural cemetery after Williams, her mother and five siblings fled to Jacksonville, Florida, shortly after his death.

Her father, whose grave had been found by those Emory students.

The gathering wasn’t a funeral, but their professor, Hank Klibanoff, offered a eulogy of sorts as Williams, her husband and son, the students and a few local residents — mostly relatives of others who had voted on that fateful day — stood together in the neatly kept graveyard ringed with pines.

“I don’t know anyone who is not moved by the story of Isaiah Nixon, and it is because Isaiah Nixon matters,” Klibanoff said. “His life matters, his death matters, his disappearance from history matters. And what matters more is that he has now reappeared, and I just think that is miraculous in so many ways.”

He read a passage from the biblical book of Isaiah — “By oppression and judgment he was taken away, yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living, for the transgression of my people he was punished …” — as some in the group murmured along.

“At that time in our history, an act of voting was an act of protest,” Klibanoff said. “It was a right that was deprived him, and he paid the price for voting, and that is something I think we are all resolved to never let happen again.”

Williams’ son spoke briefly before his mother, now 73, addressed the students: “Your faces will always be in my mind,” she said.

“When you first called me I still had a lot of anger, and I think I told you all I did, but after talking to your group, some of that was released,” Williams continued. “And I want to let you know now, the anger is completely released, and thank you all for that. I can just resolve this. It’s been settled. …

“I can’t say any more, except all that is coming in my mind is thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Long road to discovery, closure

The road to the grave’s discovery and Williams’ closure began long before Klibanoff and the students boarded a rented van on Jan. 22 and left Atlanta before dawn for the approximately 180-mile trek to Old Salem Cemetery.

The Georgia Civil Rights Cold Cases Project launched at Emory in the fall of 2011, directed and taught by Klibanoff, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and James M. Cox Professor of Journalism at Emory, and Brett Gadsden, associate professor of African American studies. The undergraduate class is cross-listed in history, journalism, African-American studies and American studies, and will soon be listed through creative writing, illustrating the interdisciplinary approaches both professors and students bring to the cases they examine.

Each semester, students take an in-depth look at one case, exploring primary evidence ranging from FBI records and court transcripts to personal archives and contemporaneous media accounts. Unlike some similar projects, their goal is not necessarily to “solve” the cases — in many, the killers are well-known — but to better understand the context in which racially motivated murders went unpunished in the Jim Crow South.

Isaiah Nixon was shot on Sept. 8, 1948 and died two days later in a hospital in neighboring Laurens County. The white brothers who killed him, Jim A. Johnson and Johnnie Johnson, were arrested and charged with murder and accessory to murder, respectively, according to the Cold Cases Project.

The duo claimed they had gone to Nixon’s house to hire him for work, then shot him in self-defense, although the white sheriff said they killed him for voting. The case drew attention from the NAACP, the FBI and the national press, but Jim Johnson was easily acquitted by the all-white jury, and charges against his brother were dropped.

Klibanoff said he and Gadsden chose Nixon’s case as the focus of the Fall 2015 course based on its importance and the many themes it invoked, including the history of all-white primaries and all-white juries in Georgia, the struggle for voting rights, and the involvement of the NAACP, among many others.

“It had enough angles that a class full of students could take it on,” he said.

Klibanoff secured access to 235 pages of previously unreleased FBI files and Nixon’s death certificate, and students dug in. They constructed an intricate timeline of events and strove to understand the relationships among key players in the case.

Lucy Baker, a sophomore from San Francisco, spent her own time outside of class to make trips to the archives of the University of Georgia in Athens and the Georgia Archives in Morrow in search of clues. Her research led to the discovery that Nixon’s killers and the sheriff-elect at the time of his death were first cousins.

Then came the biggest discovery of all.

An unexpected find

Baker and classmates Ellie Studdard, a junior from Atlanta, and Emily Gaines, a senior from New York City, felt drawn to actually see the places they were studying in such detail. In November, they decided to take a road trip to the area where Isaiah Nixon lived and died.

One day after class, they mentioned their idea to Klibanoff. “Can I go with you?” they recalled him asking. “I’ll drive.”

The sun was shining on that first trip. The students visited the tiny public library in Mt. Vernon, then the Montgomery County Courthouse. There they met James Harris, whose father had also voted in the 1948 primary — despite being told by the sheriff-elect to stay home, a message his family has never known whether to interpret as a warning or a threat.

Harris takes care of Old Salem Cemetery, just south of Mt. Vernon near Uvalda, Georgia, where Nixon was believed to be buried, but where his grave could not be found. Another group that examined the case, the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project at Northeastern University School of Law, had helped place a concrete bench there in his honor, although it did not bear his name. Harris offered to show the students the cemetery and his own father’s resting place.

But as Klibanoff and the other students walked with Harris through the cemetery, Studdard drifted away from the group. She had grown up visiting cemeteries with her father, making rubbings of the headstones of family graves, and she began walking up and down each row.

She reached the end of a line, where the grass gives way to fallen leaves, pine needles, bushes and trees. Then she noticed a bit of concrete showing through, similar to the slabs that marked other graves from the 1930s and 1940s, with names written with a finger or stick before the cement dried so long ago.

Looking closely, she could see part of a word, starting with “I.” Quickly she brushed more dirt and leaves away. The beginnings of “September,” the month of Isaiah Nixon’s death, appeared. Heart racing, she scraped away more leaves, more dirt, wanting to be sure.

She hurried back to the group with muddied hands, bringing a part of the story they had never expected to, quite literally, uncover.

“I found it.”

“It was like a miracle”

The group rushed back to the concrete slab at the edge of the cemetery and did their best to clean the grave. Though cracked, its inscription was now clear: Isaiah Nixon, with the dates of his birth and death, April 3, 1920, and Sept. 10, 1948. The once-hidden slab adjoined a headstone bearing that single word: “Father.”

They grabbed a smartphone and contacted Dorothy Williams, who still lived in Jacksonville, but had flown up to Emory earlier in the fall to visit their class. They showed her the grave via video. Later, she invited them to come to Old Salem Cemetery in January, to be with her when she saw it for the first time since she attended his funeral 67 years ago.

So on Jan. 22, as most Emory students either slept or anxiously awaited word on whether the university would close early due to expected snow, Studdard, Baker, Gaines and two other classmates — Emily Li, a junior from Charleston, and Sarah Husain, a senior from Chicago — met Klibanoff in the dark morning rain for the more than three-hour drive back to cemetery.

Their goal was to get to the cemetery early, to be there when Williams and her family arrived from Florida. But with the dirt road to the cemetery washed out, their first reunion occurred on the roadside by the old Uvalda Police Department, as they waited to learn if there was another route.

Climbing out of the van, Studdard approached Williams as she sat in the backseat of her car, and was quickly embraced.

“Oh, Ellie, you did something else that no one else could,” Williams told her. “That name, ‘Ellie,’ just rings in my mind, and all I hear is, ‘I found it.'”

Shortly before Harris returned to lead the caravan down another dirt road to the cemetery, Williams explained in an interview how she felt when she got that first call.

“I was just stunned. I was in awe. It was disbelief, although in reality, I knew they had to be telling the truth,” she said. “That was amazing. It was like a miracle.

“For Ellie to just walk in there and find that grave and holler out, ‘I found it’ — it just chokes me up right now. It’s just unbelievable.”

“The quintessential college course”

Friday’s trip was a mixture of sorrow and joy, as Isaiah Nixon’s family and the students who found his grave talked about the case and simply enjoyed visiting over catfish, fried chicken and barbecue at a diner across the street from the county courthouse. Before parting, the group shared hugs and posed for photos, the sun finally having broken through.

On the way back to Atlanta, the students reflected on both the day and their experiences in the Cold Cases class.

They recounted the practical skills they had honed — persistence, research using primary sources, the importance of keeping records, how to rewrite and intensely edit to produce their final papers — and considered how the course would impact their futures.

“This has been the quintessential college course. I’ve never taken anything like it,” said Gaines, who is majoring in history with a minor in sociology. “This skill set I think we have all gained through this course, both the collaboration in class and the research outside of class — I’d never left the library to do research, and I didn’t really know how to do that. For me, that is really a valuable asset as I get ready to leave college.”

Studdard, an American studies and biology double major, spoke of how she had been too excited to sleep the night before, and how she cried hugging Williams at the cemetery.

“She was so thankful and it is not really something I did; it is something we all did,” she said. “I think it has really been good for her to see someone else take an interest in it, and I’m really glad she let us take on so much of it and personalize it.”

Li said the class helped solidify her desire for a career in journalism after she completes her majors in creative writing and environmental science.

“This course definitely cemented my interest in learning, writing about and bringing life to people’s stories, especially stories that haven’t been shared enough, especially if they are so important,” she said.

For Baker, who is majoring in biology with a minor in history, meeting Williams made it “even more important that we get to the truth and be accurate, because this is someone’s life we are dealing with. It’s not just a history textbook.

“It made a difference to somebody, and that is always nice to feel at the end of the day — to feel like you helped someone heal, and I don’t think I have ever been able to say that before,” she said. “I want to be a doctor, so to be doing it in a different way, doing it spiritually instead of physically — that feels nice.”

Husain, a political science major with a minor in French, placed the case in its larger historical context.

“Isaiah Nixon represented so many people, so raising awareness about his story is so important,” she said. “But there is also this much broader issue of all of these murders that happened in the 1940s and since then, and that are continuing today, so contributing to that bigger picture was just incredible.”

“Of course, what the students discovered is important,” Klibanoff explained. “But just as important is what they learned.”


For complete articles and photograph – click HERE

Georgia Archives Lunch & Learn Jan. 8th

For immediate release- December 18 2015

Georgia Archives Lunch & Learn January 8 2016

Jonathan M. Bryant to speak at GEORGIA ARCHIVES

Jonathan M. Bryant, author of the book Dark Places of the Earth: The Voyage of the Slave Ship Antelope, will speak at the Georgia Archives on Friday January 8, 2016. Dr. Bryant is Professor of History at Georgia Southern University.  Holding both J.D. and Ph.D. degrees, he specializes in the history of American law, slavery, and emancipation.

Dark Places of the Earth (W.W. Norton, a Liveright book, 2015) plunges us into a world where slavery was normal, and where slaves had no rights as human beings.  The Revenue Cutter Dallas escorted the slave ship Antelope to anchor off the town of St. Marys, Georgia in June 1820, carrying over two hundred and fifty African captives.  Many of those captives were starving and dying of thirst, and two had already died. Dr. Bryant will share the Antelope’s story, along with some of the research and archival resources that made telling the story possible.

Please make plans to join us on January 8 at the Archives for a journey with the Antelope; from Havana ports to the West African coast, from Georgia plantations to a Liberian settlement, Dark Places of the Earth creates a multidimensional portrait of the global slave trade.

The Georgia Archives is a unit of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia and identifies, collects, manages, preserves, and publicizes records and information of Georgia and its people and assists state and local government agencies with their records management. This work is done within the framework of the USG’s mission to create a more highly educated Georgia

Form more information, please contact Jill Sweetapple at 678-364-3731 or email Jill at Jill.Sweetapple (AT)

Georgia Archives- 5800 Jonesboro Road, Morrow, Georgia 30260 678-364-3710