African American News and Genealogy

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Friday, July 01, 2005

Tracking down ancestors can be addictive


MUNCIE - Tracing your family history might seem like a daunting task, especially if you're black, but it can be done. In fact, those who start tracking down ancestors say it's addictive. Arthur Thompson, Springfield, Ohio, estimates he spends at least three to four hours a day searching for members of his family. Thompson, a member of the African-American Genealogy Group, was an exhibitor at GenFest 2005 at Carnegie Library and the Local History and Genealogy Center. The group attended GenFest to inspire other blacks who want to learn more about their genealogy. "Our collection is an example of, 'Yes, it can be done,' because it's here," said Thompson, who has traced his roots all the way back to 1735. John Logan, co-founder and past president of the African-American Genealogy Group, lives in Philadelphia, Pa., and is a former Muncie resident. Many of Logan's family members still live locally, he said. In his research Logan unearthed an interesting fact: a great-grandfather was a member of the Sixth U.S. Colored Calvary during the Civil War. He became interested in genealogy research after his son was born in 1979. "I wanted to be able to have family history for my family," Logan said. "(We) wanted to show people how they can bring their families alive." During GenFest 2005, coordinator Shirley Pearson wanted to reach out to local blacks who might not know where or how to begin the search for their past, she said. Muncie Public Library had extra staff on hand to help amateur and seasoned genealogists, and the volunteer group Ancestor Hunters was also available. Pearson also wanted to showcase the different historical societies and agencies in the area. These agencies are always searching for new artifacts as well as new members, she said. Becky Monroe and her daughter Heidi represented the newly formed Yorktown/Mount Pleasant Township Historical Alliance at GenFest 2005. Monroe became interested in Yorktown's history after listening to the stories her grandmother told her. "She just liked to tell stories, and I listened," Monroe said. Yorktown actually began as a resort community, Heidi said. Monroe's grandfather came to the town to work in the glass factory, and there was a strawboard factory that made egg crates in Yorktown as well. Strawboard, Monroe said, was an early version of cardboard. With local history available through Ball State University's Archives and Special Collections Research Center, Minnetrista Cultural Center and the Local History and Genealogy Center, Muncie has a lot of places for people to get started, Pearson said. "There's a lot here that people don't know about unless someone's here to tell them," she said. 'Muncie has a lot of resources."

Contact news reporter Oseye T. Boyd at 213-5830.


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