Books by James M. Rose, PhD

When Black Genesis was originally published in 1978, it was the first book to provide researchers with information on resources and a methodology specific to African-American genealogy. Now, owing to the unprecedented growth of interest in the subject, this landmark publication has been completely updated and is once again the premier guide to African-American genealogy. The 2nd edition of Black Genesis provides guidance not only to the same basic resources presented in the original edition but also to a substantial amount of additional material. The original goal, however, remains the same--to introduce the novice and professional researcher to African-American genealogical research methods and resources.

Some 100 pages larger than the first edition, the 2nd edition of Black Genesis boasts a new format that makes locating resources pertaining to slaves and free blacks in the United States easier than ever. Part I provides an overview of general research principles and methodology, while Part II contains a rundown of specific resources for all fifty states, Canada, and the West Indies. Under each location, the information is organized by the following categories: Important Dates, State Archives, Census Records, State and County Records, Cemetery and Church Records, Military Records, Newspapers, Manuscript Sources (personal papers, slave records, and diaries), Internet Resources, Research Contacts, and Bibliography. Resources described include research guides, published genealogies, community studies on African-American families and, most importantly, original research material that can be found in national, state, county, and city archives, and in historical societies and libraries.

 

Black Roots in Southeastern Connecticut, 1650-1900, represents a milestone in the publishing of African-American genealogy. Authors Brown and Rose spent eight years gathering every shred of information they could find on approximately 2,000 African-American families who inhabited one or more of 26 counties in Southeastern Connecticut. Their sources consisted primarily of U.S. census records from 1790 through 1870 and secondarily on manumission records, deeds, probate records, diaries, church records, and military records. In particular, Brown and Rose have amassed an amazing amount of information on blacks who were living in an area that, on the eve of the Revolutionary War, had one of the largest slave populations in New England. The authors cite the specific source for each element appearing in their genealogical sketches. The brief introduction summarizes some of the challenges of investigating black roots, while the bibliography, name index, and subject index at the back of the volume make using the book quite easy.

 

The desire to get a clearer sense of our own identity by searching for our roots - in family stories or in the return to particular places strikes all of us at different times. Many people first thought about "roots" in the 1960s, when they read the best-selling book or saw the movie of that name by Alex Haley. The book followed Haley's search for his own ancestors who had come into this country as slaves as it expanded into a larger quest for his people's earliest origin in Africa.

Haley's book inspired many black Americans to undertake the research and writing of their family histories. Among them was James Rose, who grew up in New London, Connecticut in the 1960s, and was in New York taking an Oral History class at Queens College when the movie "Roots" came out. Through his teacher and the Kinte Library Project, Rose eventually met Alex Haley and began a serious search for his own genealogy.

James Rose's journey took him back in time, through family interviews, and back to the neighborhoods where he grew up. "On Saturday, July 20, [1973], the day of my thirty-second birthday, I left for New London. It took only two and a half hours.... Driving down toward Shapley Street I noticed right away that the whole black district had been wiped out by urban renewal. All of my old haunts were being torn down, and it was as if a whole part of me had been uprooted and lost to time...." As in most center cities, James Rose's familiar neighborhood contained many old and historically valuable buildings, which were to disappear forever.



Published originally in 1981, the work at hand is an alphabetical listing of all free African-American heads of household listed in the five U.S. censuses for the State of New York taken between 1790 and 1830. Since it was during this 40-year period that the New York legislature passed a series of statutes resulting in the gradual emancipation of the state's slave population, the scope of this work documents the emergence of a completely free black population by 1830. In all, there are 15,000 references to freedmen, many of whom appear in more than one census.

A few observations about the arrangement and contents of the volume are in order. The householders are listed by surname in a single alphabetical sequence. Persons for whom a first name but no surname is given in the census are interwoven into the alphabetical arrangement by first name. Accompanying each householder is the census year in question, his/her New York county and township of residence, and a page reference to the original record. While the sources given for the 1800 to 1830 censuses refer to pages found on the microfilm copies of the original census enumeration sheets, the 1790 references correspond to pages in the well known 1908 U.S. Census Bureau publication, Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1790. Finally, the researcher must bear in mind that many free blacks of this era worked for and resided with white families. Since only heads of household are identified in these censuses, these black servants/boarders cannot be represented in this volume. Nor can the other members of the African-American households-except as one of the statistics attributed to every household.



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