About Our Freedom Tribute: Tony Burroughs

Tony Burroughs is an internationally known genealogist, author, and former adjunct genealogy professor at Chicago State University. He lectures throughout the United States and Canada on all aspects of genealogy.  I renewed by efforts to seek out more resources to document my ancestors when he visited Camden, South Carolina in the latter part of 2010.  A whole new avenue of research opened to me after hearing the answer to a question posed by an attendee.

The question was, "How do you document slave ancestors?"  His answer was, "If you want to learn more about an ancestor who was a slave, spend more time researching Reconstruction and Civil War records."  At the time, I had come to a standstill with the some ancestors.  This was caused by jumping back in time too soon without identifying other resources that would have been generated after 1860.  We get excited easily, and it is difficult to remember to find all you can before moving to the previous generation.

Following Tony's advice

Resisting the urge to become frustrated, I set out to try to identify more record types.  I can now say, that I have discovered more record types than I have the time to access. 

I had a great day at the South Carolina Department of Archives and History (SCDAH) today.  I researched the 1869 South Carolina State Census on microfilm, where I discovered several of my ancestors living in Abbevile and Union Counties:
Beverly Vance, b. 1832, Abbeville (great great grandfather)
Andrew Johnson, Abbeville (great great grandfather)
Henry Sims, Union, (great great great grandfather)
Jas. A Tucker, b. 1805, Union, (great great great great grandfather)
Pettus W. Chick, Union, (great great great grandfather)
Eliza Maybin, Union, (great great great grandmother)

My eyes wore out before I was able to finish.  Sometimes we can get so bogged down in the research that we miss the basics.  My successes since Tony's visit shows the importance of tapping into expert advice.

As a matter of fact, this blog,  About Our Freedom, is the result of his inspiring words.  I have not yet determined if I have a USCT in my line, but it sure has been a joy to share in your experiences here and also in this section of this site:  About Civil War.


Truly overcome by my findings today,  I feel a deep sense of gratitude for the effort Tony Burroughs has made to help us know how to find success in documenting our ancestors.  He was there teaching at Chicago State University before the internet became what it is today and before anyone could tell me just how to begin researching African American ancestors.

Black Roots

When Black Roots came out, I did not need to be sold on it.  I still use it as a guide because it is full of record types he used in documenting his own family as well as principles of genealogical research.  Back then while I was hearing, "You will not be able to find records before 1870,"  I would open Black Roots and in my minds eye, picture my own ancestors.  I have an ancestor named Lewis Burroughs, from Upstate South Carolina. My imagination did not have to stretch too far.  I am a believer in "Seek and ye shall find."
Click here to order Black Roots

Tony's efforts have not only helped me to document and share my findings with hundreds of extended family, but as he shares his own personal history, I cannot help but to be determined to go through the hard work of finding more and sharing my success with others.

He is a very candid speaker.  He does not gloss over history where some avoid the harsh realities of the past.  Events in history and in our ancestor's lives many times resulted in records being generated.  Skipping events results only in missing the opportunity to learn more.

Tony will be back in South Carolina at the Greenville County Library on February 26th, 2011.  See Finding Your History with Tony Burroughs to learn more. Tony thank you for all the seeds that you continue to plant!



  1. I didn't hear the words uttered but some how in the past few months, I've decided that I need to immerse myself more into civil war and reconstruction era records.


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