Between 1937 and 1938, the Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Project Administration (WPA) conducted thousands of interviews with former African-American slaves. While historians have known about these oral histories for some time, few, if any researchers, have exploited the genealogical potential of these African-American sources–until now!
For the first time, the DVD series Generations presents these ex-slave narratives with critical genealogical evidence pertaining to each interviewee. While varying from one ex-slave to another, Generations’ genealogical content includes census record extracts, death certificates, probate records, plantation records, pictures of plantations, and biographical information on slave owners. When available, pictures of the ex-slaves–such as the two depicted on the cover of this DVD–are also included. By linking these sources with the recollections of hundreds of former slaves, Generations affords African-American genealogists the rare opportunity to surmount the brick wall of the 1870 U.S. census, the first federal census to identify all blacks by their full names.
This work discusses ex-slaves who were either born in Virginia, or who had parents or grandparents born in Virginia. While a minority of these freedmen continued to reside there, by 1937-38 most of the individuals found on this DVD had migrated to one of the following states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, or Texas. In each case Dr. Rose and his collaborators trace the former slave to his/her origins in the Cavalier State. The appendixes to Generations: Volume I, moreover, include an article by and video commentary with one of the ex-slave’s descendants. Finally, the appendixes to the DVD contain genealogical findings on former slaves living in Alabama and Georgia who did not have Virginia origins.