[Geder Genealogy has begun a series of 'Guest Posts' by African Ancestored genealogists, historians and cultural evangelists. Contact us at geder.genealogy(at)gmail.com if you would like to contribute.]
By Sharon Leslie Morgan
There is an African proverb that says “You are not dead as long as someone remembers your name.” I am reminded of that bit of wisdom almost every day.
I was the one person in my family who inherited a compulsive need to know: Who am I? Who are my people? What legacy did they leave behind?
My thirst has been quenched through genealogical research, guided by the unwavering influence of ancestral spirits. At every step along the way, I have felt the presence of long-dead people who yearn to be found so they can be remembered and live again. I experience their presence on the hallowed grounds of historical homesteads. I hear their whispers in courthouses, leading me to documents of their lives. They guide my footsteps on back roads and in unmapped cemeteries.
The longing to know is especially poignant for African Americans because so much of our history has been obscured or excluded. In the end, all we know for sure is that we are part of one big family, united by our history of enslavement. African familial bonds are evident in our enduring cultural heritage, along with the scientific reality of Africa as the birthplace of humanity. We are all part of a continuum, on one end represented by parents and grandparents who have passed on and, on the other, children and grandchildren whose lives have just begun.
Today, I can proudly say I remember Ailsie, Bettie, Rhody, Tom, Wash, Louie, Arthur, Delores…. and more than a thousand others, spanning centuries back to the slave markets of West and East Africa.
The desire for posterity to remember my name is what led me to create Our Black Ancestry as a portal for African American family history. Our ancestors are calling. Let them take your hand and lead you backward into the mists of time so you can walk forward with pride.
Sharon Leslie Morgan is the founder of OurBlackAncestry.com, a website devoted to African American genealogy. She is the co-author of Gather at the Table: The Healing Journey of a Daughter of Slavery and a Son of the Slave Trade, to be published by Beacon Press in October 2012.