African American News and Genealogy

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Thursday, January 20, 2005

KU Ph.D. Student Researches Slavery's Legacy in African-American Families

University of Kansas doctoral candidate Thirkelle Harris Howard is researching a theory that most African-Americans are seventh or eighth cousins for her dissertation in American studies with an emphasis on family history and genealogy. Lawrence, Kansas - Howard estimates that about 85 percent to 90 percent of today's African-Americans are descendants of enslaved Africans brought to America between 140 and 385 years ago."About 400,000 to 600,000 Africans were brought to America as slaves, although I don't think anyone really knows for sure how many Africans were brought to America, because records were frequently not kept," Howard says. Using census guidelines, Howard estimates that about 200,000 to 300,000 of those slaves had children."Most people may have about 150,000 close or distant living relatives," Howard says. Yet because the names and births of slaves often were not recorded, proving relationships of ancestors living before 1865 can be hard to document today.Howard, who has traced her ancestry to the late 1700s, examines her own family history as an example of how closely related African-Americans are today. Using census records, archives, family Bibles and Internet connections, Howard has found relatives in her family tree with identical surnames living within the same region but is unable to document their relationships without DNA testing. Full Story:


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