Jun 2, 2022

How Do You Prove Ancestry to Enslaved People?

This year, California’s government approved a plan to pay reparations to residents of the state who can show that they are descendants of those formerly enslaved. Seeking the evidence will be a process, genealogists say.

Adrienne Abiodun knows she is a descendant of a once-enslaved man, named Phillip Branch.

She knows the name of his former enslaver, as well – John Whitaker. Ms Abiodun’s fourth great-grandfather, Mr Branch, was born in North Carolina around 1795-1800 and then was brought to Mississippi.

Mr Branch’s entire family was enslaved by the Whitaker family.

Ms Abiodun has several close family members in California who descend from formerly enslaved ancestors. Her grandparents fled the south to escape post-slavery segregation and were in California as early as 1947.

A professional genealogist at Legacy Tree Genealogists, she is closely watching announcements from the state.

On Wednesday, 1 June, the task force released a 500-page report detailing how it says the legacy of slavery has affected black Americans in the state, laying out the case for payments.

It will then deliver a reparations proposal in July 2023 for the California government to consider turning it into law.

While Ms Abiodun is based in Florida, her family would be eligible for these reparations. But first, they – and any of the 2.5 million black Americans in California who plan to seek the payments – will have to show the evidence of their relationships to their forbearers.

Ms Abiodun says that while proving lineage is “not necessarily the easiest to come by, it’s not impossible.”

You can read more in an article by Chloe Kim published in the BBC News web site at: