American Black Journal looks at new techniques
for unraveling the mysteries of African American genealogy

Now in its ninth season, “Finding Your Roots” stands as one of PBS and America’s most enduring and popular favorite programs. It’s enjoyed by people from all backgrounds and ways of life. We celebrate each other’s stories because every family’s history has much to tell us about the history of our country.

On Wednesday, March 22, Detroit Public TV, American Black Journal and PBS Books present a virtual livestream event, inspired by the work of “Finding Your Roots” host and creator, Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., who has made genealogy a national pastime.

We will present a dynamic discussion of the issues and opportunities that African Americans face as they trace their histories. There is never a straight path in genealogy, always twists and turns, but we will consider the unique challenges of these families, as they hunt through the wreckage of slavery for records that are lost or incomplete, searching for ancestors whose names and locations often have been changed or falsified.

Thankfully, there are new tools, historical and scientific, to unlock family histories. We will present a panel of avid and talented genealogists, who have mastered tricks and tips that will help others explore their family’s origins. At the same time, they relate the surprising facts and inspiring stories they discovered about their own histories. We even learn something about Dr. Gates himself!

It will be an evening of tears and triumph, DNA and dogged research perseverance, as we do our best to let the genealogy out of the bottle. Join this virtual livestream event on Wednesday, March 22, at 8 p.m. ET right here or on American Black Journal’s Facebook.

About the Panelists: 

Leslie, C. Strong Williams

Leslie C. Strong WilliamsLeslie C. Strong Williams is the immediate past president of the Fred Hart Williams Genealogical Society in Detroit, Michigan. She’s currently a member of the Detroit Historical Society Black Historic Sites Committee and is a former trustee for the Historical Society of Michigan.

As a sixth-generation Michigander born in Detroit, her interest in genealogy and the preservation of African American history harken back to her ancestor, abolitionist and Underground Railroad Station Master William Webb. Strong Williams is a retired museum curator and exhibitions designer.

Jazmyn Davison

Jazmyn DavisonJazmyn Davison is currently a stay-at-home mother who enjoys spending time with family and friends. Born and raised in Mansfield, OH, Davison went on to work and serve in leadership development, banking and in service to God.

She finds joy in learning about her ancestors and believes it’s an important component in the journey of discovering who you are.

Cheryl Garnett

Cheryl GarnettCheryl Garnett is the president and co-founder of the Washtenaw County African American Genealogical Society. She also serves as a board member of the Fred Hart Williams Genealogical Society and a board member of the Genealogical Society of Washtenaw County.

To Cheryl, family is everything. She is the mother of five adult children, 17 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Fulfilling a promise to her grandmother, she has been researching and reconstructing her family history and genealogy since 1996. She retired from the Ann Arbor VA Hospital in 2015, after serving 32 years as the director of Occupational Therapy.

LaJoy Mosby

LaJoy MosbyLaJoy Mosby begin researching her family history in the late ‘70s after viewing the TV miniseries “Roots.” She currently serves as the National President of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, Inc. (AAHGS). She serves as the president of the Central Maryland Chapter of AAHGS.

She is also a member of several other genealogy societies, including the National Genealogical Society, Kentucky Genealogy Society, Alabama Genealogy Society, African American Genealogy Group of Kentucky and the Woodford County (KY) Historical Society.

Omer Jean Winborn

Omer Jean WinbornOmer Jean Winborn is a retired educator and the co-founder of the Washtenaw County African American Genealogy Society. She currently serves as the Vice President of the Fred Hart Williams Genealogical Society in Detroit, Michigan. Winborn serves as a board member for the Washtenaw Genealogical Society of Washtenaw County.

Genealogy Resources:

  • Detroit Society for Genealogical Research
  • Michigan eLibrary: Genealogy eResources for Kids
    • 25 Fun Things to Do with Your Friends and Family is an eBook in EBSCO’s Public Library eBook collection.  One of the activities involves interviewing grandparents to learn more about their lives.
    • Families Through Time Ebook is a book within the EBSCO K-8 eBook collection and is designed to introduce kids to the concept of family history and traditions. There are prompts within the book to help them capture some of their own family traditions.
    • My Heritage Library Edition accesses various records throughout the world to provide more information about ancestors.  This is not designed for use by younger children; however, middle and high school students could possibly use it to learn more about grandparents and great grandparents.
    • PebbleGo offers 10 different articles on families within its Social Studies module.  This eResource is designed especially for children in grades K-2.
  • Finding Your Roots: The Seedlings
    Inspired by the popular PBS series “Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.” and shot on the campus of Penn State University, “Finding Your Roots: The Seedlings” follows 13 young people in a genetics and genealogy camp as they explore their family history and DNA ancestry with techniques never before used in an educational setting.
  • Other PBS Learning Media Resources

Funding Credits:

Corporate support for “Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates, Jr.” Season Nine is provided by Ancestry and Johnson & Johnson. Major support is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Support is also provided by Ford Foundation; Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation; Candace King Weir; and by The Inkwell Society and its members Jim and Susan Swartz; Hayward and Kathy Draper; Mitch Kapor and Freada Kapor Klein; Nicole Commissiong and Darnell Armstrong; and Anne Wojcicki.

Stay Connected: 

Subscribe to Detroit Public Television’s YouTube Channel & Don’t miss American Black Journal on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m and Sunday at 9:30 a.m. on Detroit Public TV, WTVS-Channel 56.

Catch the daily conversations on our website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @amblackjournal.

View Past Episodes >

Watch American Black Journal on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 9:30 a.m. on Detroit Public TV, WTVS-Channel 56.