Thursday, February 28, 2013

Fordham Launches Burial Database Project of Enslaved African Americans

New York, N.Y., Feb. 1, 2013—Fordham University has launched a website to engage public support in creating a database to document burial grounds of enslaved African Americans.

“This website is our liaison to members of the public who share our desire to bring dignity to the enslaved by identifying and documenting their burial grounds,” said Sandra Arnold, a Fordham employee and student, and the founding director of the project.

“We hope to receive support from descendants, property owners, churches and local community organizations to properly memorialize these forgotten people. Most enslaved African Americans are buried in unmarked or abandoned graves and are increasingly in danger of desecration and forever being lost,” she said.

A senior secretary at Fordham University by day and adult undergraduate student at night, Arnold got the idea for the database when she stumbled upon her own ancestor's burial site some years ago.

Arnold visited the site for the first time in 2003, paying homage to the graves of her great-grandfather, B. Harmon, a former slave, and his wife, Ethel. Arnold credits her 99-year-old great-aunt, E. Frye (Harmon’s daughter), for igniting her curiosity to find and visit the site.

“She talked about the cemetery all the time like it was a precious jewel. I just wanted to see it, and then I wanted to see where he was buried. So I went out there, and it was just breathtaking,” she said. “It’s an island in a cotton field, at the end of a field road.”

Arnold began to conduct independent research by collecting data on slave burial grounds throughout the United States. She soon elicited the participation from administrations of four presidential estates: George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. All contained valuable information on slave cemeteries within their grounds.

“The potential of this project is immeasurable,” Arnold said. “Not only can it properly memorialize the enslaved, it can also facilitate a mutual and respectful dialogue about a subject that is still very sensitive to many.”

  • The mission of the Burial Database Project of Enslaved African Americans is to identify and document burial sites of enslaved African Americans.
  • Upon completion, it will be the first database of its kind to document these grounds on a national level.
  • Researchers will document as many as the public will assist in identifying.
  • The ultimate goal of the Burial Database Project of Enslaved African Americans is to produce an unprecedented national burial registry as a publicly accessible genealogical tool and scholarly aid.
  • There are slave burial sites with graves that are cared for by family and community members and are clearly marked by headstones. Those will be documented as well.

“The launch of the Burial Database Project of Enslaved African Americans is significant at this historical moment not only because it is the year of the sesquicentennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, it is also a moment of some urgency as the locations of these spaces may soon disappear in the oral histories of descendants and local communities. The launch is a call to the public to assist the Project in uncovering and documenting these important historic monuments.”
- Irma Watkins-Owens, Director and Fordham professor of African and African American Studies

"The pervasive cemeteries of the enslaved are the indelible, though often buried, mark of humanity on a historic landscape of willful dehumanization. These represent the contestation of humanity from which the distinctive wealth and culture of the Americas are significantly derived. The Burial Database of Enslaved African Americans takes sides in that ongoing history."
-Michael L. Blakey, National Endowment for the Humanities, Professor of Anthropology, Director of the Institute for Historical Biology, College of William and Mary.

"I have been studying historic, African-American cemeteries for over a decade. Our understanding of 19th-century communities, religious beliefs, and family structure is not complete without a thorough study of these historic sites. The Burial Database Project represents a significant step forward in our efforts to locate and document these sacred sites so that they will be preserved for current and future generations to visit and study. Given the generations of enslaved families, I think most people will be surprised at how many historic slave cemeteries exist.”
-Lynn Rainville, Founding Director, Tusculum Institute, Research professor in the Humanities, Sweet Briar College

"The Burial Database Project is of huge significance for both the memorialization and the study of the enslaved populations of the Americas. Drawing on the most recently developed techniques of the digital humanities, including crowd-sourcing, it will result in the establishment and maintenance of a National Burial Ground Registry of Enslaved African-Americans that will become a major source for re-creating and understanding the lived experience of slavery in our country’s past."
-David Eltis, Robert W. Woodruff Professor of History; Co-Editor, Transatlantic Slave Trade Database; Emory University

“Too often Americans have chosen to forget our shared history of slavery, finding it too painful to dwell on or too distant from our lived experiences. Nowhere is this more evident in the neglect given to the burial grounds of enslaved African Americans. In identifying these sites, the Burial Database Project will not only provide important information to historians but will honor the memory of those who labored in bondage.”Thomas Thurston, Education Director, Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, Yale University


As you’ll see in this USA Today story from 2012, this database is sorely is needed. Similarly, this CNN story from February 2011, refers to the “invisible dead.” And this November 2011 story from shows how these burial sites are sometimes simply stumbled upon.

Founded in 1841, Fordham is the Jesuit University of New York, offering exceptional education distinguished by the Jesuit tradition to more than 15,100 students in its four undergraduate colleges and its six graduate and professional schools. It has residential campuses in the Bronx and Manhattan, a campus in West Harrison, N.Y., the Louis Calder Center Biological Field Station in Armonk, N.Y., and the London Centre at Heythrop College, University of London, in the United Kingdom.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

2014 FGS National Conference Call for Presentations

Deadline for Submissions is June 1, 2013

February 6, 2013– Austin, TX. The Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) announces a Call for Presentations for the FGS 2014 Conference, “Gone to Texas,” to be held August 27-30, 2014, in San Antonio, Texas. The conference will be held in conjunction with the Texas State Genealogical Society and the San Antonio Genealogical and Historical Society as local hosts. The deadline for submission of lecture proposals is Saturday, 1 June 2013.

The conference begins with an all-day Focus on Societies program for genealogical society officers, board members, volunteers and other interested parties followed by a three-day genealogical conference in which a variety of topics will be presented.

The program committee seeks proposals for engaging, collaborative and dynamic presentations, workshops and sponsored talks. The categories of interest include, but are not limited to:
  • Society Management
  • Basic and introductory genealogical instruction
  • Methodology and problem solving techniques
  • Ethnic research (African American, Czech, German, Hispanic, Native American)
  • Technology, software and social media
  • Genetics, DNA and family medical history
  • Transportation, migration and immigration
  • “Gone to Texas” topics
  • Southern and western regional topics
Speakers based more than 50 miles from the conference location are strongly encouraged to submit multiple proposals (more than four), as those speakers will be invited to present a minimum of three lectures at the conference. There is no limit to the number of proposals a speaker may submit.

Submission Requirements

Presentations will be one-hour long, which includes a ten-minute question/answer period. Send proposals in Microsoft Word, RTF or similar format. File names should include your last name, first initial, and proposal topic. (Example: SmithR - TechStrategies). Please submit one file per proposed topic. Each proposal document should include:
  • Speaker(s) name.
  • Speaker(s) contact information, including mailing address, phone, email and website, if applicable.
  • Prior speaking experience. Speakers who have not spoken at a national conference are encouraged to submit a video, audiotape, or CD recording of a recent presentation.
  • Speaker(s) biography.
  • Speaker(s) abbreviated brochure biography (350 characters, including spaces).
  • Lecture title and description for brochure (230 characters combined, including spaces).
  • Lecture outline/summary (1 page or less)
  • Audio-visual requirements. FGS does NOT provide projectors, computers, or internet access for speakers.
  • Intended audience level: beginner, intermediate, advanced or any level.
Send proposals, as an email attachment, with “FGS 2014 Call for Presentations” in the subject line, to no later than Saturday, 1 June 2013. If submitting lecture recordings by mail, please email for the appropriate postal address.

Invitations to speak will be extended between 2 September and 20 September 2013. All submitters will receive notification of their selection or non-selection by 27 September 2013. The deadline for acceptance and submission of signed speaker contracts is 1 November 2013. Syllabus format guidelines will be sent to all speakers upon receipt of their signed contract as every presentation will require materials to be included in the conference syllabus.

For additional guidelines regarding the selection process for FGS 2014, please refer to the supplemental document at


Selected speakers receive an honorarium, travel compensation, and conference registration as well as per diem and hotel nights based on the number of lectures presented. (Sponsored speakers only receive conference registration and syllabus materials. See more about sponsorships below.) Non-sponsored speakers receive compensation according to the FGS Conference Speaker Policy at

Sponsored Lectures

Societies and businesses are encouraged to submit proposals for sponsored talks. The sponsoring organization will cover its speaker's costs to present the lecture. Sponsored speakers will abide by all speaker deadlines and syllabus requirements. Sponsored speakers will receive complimentary FGS conference registration and electronic syllabus materials.

Additional Information

Camera-ready handouts will be required for every lecture or workshop presentation and will be compiled in a syllabus distributed to conference participants. The deadline for submissions of syllabus materials is 1 June 2014.

FGS 2014 Deadlines

  • 7 Jan 2013: Call for Presentations
  • 1 Jun 2013: Proposal deadline
  • 27 Sep 2013: Last date for invitations or declines sent to submitters
  • 1 Nov 2013: Signed speaker contracts due
  • 1 Jun 2014: Syllabus materials due for all presentations

Website for FGS 2013 Conference Now Online

The website for the Federation of Genealogical Societies' 2013 Annual Conference, Journey Through Generations, held in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, August 21-24, 2013, is now online. Visit the FGS 2013 website here to learn more.  Registration for the FGS 2013 conference will be available soon.

A Conference For The Nation’s Genealogists

Learn from experts. Collaborate with other genealogists. Look for your ancestors in the more than one million books and microform sources in The Genealogy Center of the Allen County Public Library.

The FGS 2013 confernece is co-sponsored by local hosts Allen County Genealogical Society of Indiana and the Allen County Public Library.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Federation of Genealogical Society Announces New Blog for War of 1812 Fundraising

Preserve the Pensions Blog Provides Key Updates on Community Project

February 1, 2013– Austin, TX. The Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) announces the creation of the Preserve the Pensions blog to assist in its efforts to preserve and digitize 7.2 million pages of War of 1812 Pension Records with the help of the genealogy community.

This new social media asset joins the family of other FGS blogs and websites, all which keep the genealogy and family history community updated on progress of FGS activities including fundraising projects and records preservation.

The bicentennial of what’s been called “America’s Second Revolution” began on June 18, 2012 and over the next three years, the public will turn its attention towards key anniversary events including the Burning of the White House and the Writing of the Star Spangled Banner.

The National Archives reports that the War of 1812 pension files are among the heaviest requested materials. With that level of use, these valuable records, available in no other format, are in danger of grave deterioration.
  • Free to the Public: As these valuable historical documents are digitized, they will be made available to all at no cost, and the original pension files can be retired to much less active use.
  • Digitized Images Now Available: Completed images and associated indexing are posted incrementally. Genealogists, historians, teachers, patriotic societies, and history buffs all have access to the images that have been digitized right now. Images will be offered for free at Fold3 indefinitely.
FGS thanks the Preserve the Pensions partners including the National Archives, fold3 and who have generously donated time, money and resources.

Visit the Preserve the Pensions blog at for updates, success stories of researchers using the War of 1812 Pension Files and more.
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