Saturday, March 13, 2010

Emmitt Smith traces his roots into the days of American slavery

On the U.S. version of the BBC TV show Who do you think you are?, episode one featured American football star Emmitt Smith reaching back to the past and breaching a few genealogical brick walls.

Being African American with several generations born in the U.S.A., Smith's research problems started with the fact that the records of vital events (births, deaths, marriages) for slaves were not kept before Emancipation.

That dry sentence hides the more emotional fact: slaves were property, not people.  They had no rights.

Smith came to the personal realization of how much things have changed for African Americans when he was given an old book of records to look at.  On the cover, the title included the word "Colored".  Even the records were segregated in the American South for a time.

I don't know anything about Emmitt Smith other than what I saw of him on this show, but his compassion for his enslaved ancestors was genuine. That's common in family history research.  Once you know your ancestors' names, you start to fill in the blanks, and they quickly become real people, not just names and dates on the page.

I'm looking forward to next week's show.

Here's a link to a little synopsis of the Emmitt Smith episode, from the BBC's website.

These books are all about tracing African American ancestry.  I haven't read them so can't tell you which would be the best.  Perhaps I'll get a chance later.

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