While February is African American History Month, March will be the month some African Americans in Southern California focus on their own histories.
The 12th Annual African American Family History Conference, Discover Your Roots, will be held Saturday, March 22, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at 1209 South Manhattan Place in Los Angeles.
Both beginners and experts at tracing their family trees will find workshops geared to their individual abilities, according to Alma Bailey, organizer of the event.
“Author, lecturer and TV personality, Kenyatta Berry, will be our keynote speaker and there will be 21 other outstanding teachers for a wide variety of workshops,” she said.
Marcie Ambrose, Campus Facility Coordinator for Pasadena City College, has been tracing her ancestry for more than two decades.
“Some of our history is painful, but our ancestors survived and overcame tremendous obstacles. That's why we're here. We get our strength from their struggles and the choices they made to survive and protect and perpetuate family and family traditions,” she said.
“The African American genealogy conferences have helped to reinforce my desire to find my ancestors and have given me additional tools to use.”
Ambrose explained that her main motivation for pursuing her family history is building a legacy for her children and grandchildren.
“When you find an ancestor, it's like seeing the other end of an iceberg. You know your ancestors were strong, but their strength runs deep and is immovable,” she said.
“They set the bar high for us. We need to continue to raise the bar for our future generations.”
Bailey spoke of the heartbreaking challenges unique to African American genealogy research. She explained that frequently when people of African American descent attempt to research their family history, they hit roadblocks because many families were separated due to slavery or forced migration.
Also, accurate records were not always kept for slaves, although today, there are more extensive genealogical records available.
Ambrose said she was fortunate that her family talked about their history. They knew they came from the Georgia plantation of Confederate General, John Brown Gordon. In addition, the daughter of the general wrote a manuscript of the white Gordons and the black Gordons.
“My great uncle and the daughter of the general corresponded by letter in the late 1940s, both inquiring about each others’ family,” she said. “These letters are prized possessions.”
Ambrose said that even with this information, there were still roadblocks and the African American Family History conferences provided direction so she could continue her efforts. She emphasized that she expects the upcoming conference to follow that tradition.
The African American Historical Society of Long Beach, the California African American Genealogical Society, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are the co-sponsors of the event.
For information or to register, visit DiscoverYourRoots.org or call (310) 475-7018.