Bernice A. Bennett, B.S. , MPH.
Bernice A. Bennett is widely known as the host of her own Blog Talk Radio show - Research at the National Archives and Beyond, a unique program devoted to presenting those who research and tell the African American family story. She is a family historian researching and documenting her own African American roots in the Orleans, St. Helena and Livingston Parishes of Louisiana, and Edgefield and Greenwood Counties of South Carolina. She has presented her research at the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Association; South Carolina Genealogy Society Summer Workshop; National Genealogical Society, the International Black Genealogy Summit and, the Washington DC Family History Center.
Bringing together her over 35 years of experience in community health, Bernice A, Bennett has embraced her love of teaching, facilitation, training, Association management, research and public speaking into helping others search for their roots. She is the President and Founder of BB’s Genealogy Research and Educational Services, LLC.
Bennett has volunteered at the Washington, DC Family History Center for several years and has coordinated the African American Special Interest Group. She currently serves as a Citizen’s Archivist at the National Archives in Washington, DC where she is preparing the Civil War Widows Pension Records for preservation and digitization.
Bennett received her BS degree from Grambling State University in Education and her Master’s of Public Health degree from the University of Michigan in Community Health.
She holds membership in several national and local genealogical societies and the National Institute of Genealogical Research Alumni Association (now known as the Genealogical Institute on Federal Records (GenFed).
Janis Minor Forté B.A. M.A.
Fortejm@yahoo.com, ©Jan. 2024
Janis Minor Forté, is an experienced genealogist, lecturer and writer and has presented at national, state and local genealogical conferences. She recently presented at the RootsTech conference in Salt Lake City. She is also a frequent lecturer at the NGS, and OGS conferences. Added to her many talents, she is also a Track Coordinator for the Midwest African American Genealogy Institute (MAAGI). Her presentation specialties include methodology and problem-solving techniques, skill building and case studies. She is also skilled in on-site and online research. Janis is a graduate of the University of Chicago with a Masters Degree in Social Service Administration. She may be contacted via e-mail at: email@example.com
Shelley Murphy B.S., M.A, D.M.
An avid genealogist for over 30 years, Dr. Shelley Viola Murphy, aka "familytreegirl," was born and raised in Michigan, now living in central Virginia. She conducts genealogy workshops at local, state and national conferences. Murphy is known for her inspiring & interactive "SO WHAT" with genealogical research, along with interesting problem-solving methodology lectures such as the use of Timelines.
Murphy serves on the Boards of the Library of Virginia and the Albemarle Charlottesville and Fluvanna Historical Societies.
She is a Coordinator and Instructor at the Midwest African American Genealogy Institute (MAAGI) and develops staff and public genealogy educational programs for the Center for Family History at the International African American Museum (IAAM).
Serves as the Genealogist General for the Society of the First African Families of English America and Trustee for the International Society for British Genealogy and Family History. She holds membership in AAHGS NGS, DAR, and local genealogy groups.
Currently working for the University of Virginia as the Descendant Project Researcher-seeking descendants the enslaved laborers who helped build the university. Host of “Freedmen’s Bureau Friday’s. An Adjunct Professor at Averett University since 2009. Dr. Murphy’s personal research focuses on Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia/West Virginia, South Carolina, Tennessee and the UK.
Angela Walton-Raji, B.A., M.Ed.
Angela Walton-Raji is a nationally known speaker, author, and blogger who has been conducting family history since the 1990s. She has authored four books devoted to the Freedmen from Oklahoma, once enslaved in the Five Civilized Tribes. Her most recent book was published this year by History Press, “Oklahoma Freedmen of the Five Tribes.”
She has broken new ground with her work on showcasing women who served as civilian employees for the Union Army during the Civil War war, and presented at national conferences on this topic of the forgotten black women who were among the first women to work outside of the home, as paid workers.
At the National Genealogy Society annual conference of 2023, she was awarded the Malcom H. Stern Lifetime Achievement Award in Richmond Virginia.
After many years in higher education administration, she is retired from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County where she served for many years as the Director of Graduate School Recruitment. Ms. Walton-Raji lives in Maryland where she continues to research and write.
Lisa A. Fanning
Lisa Fanning, an Indiana native, is a genealogist, genetic genealogist, and family historian, channeling a lifelong passion into unraveling the rich tapestry of her family's American history in the South and Midwest for the past 28 years. Her research encompasses the study of enslavement and migration in middle Tennessee, Kentucky, and Georgia, as well as exploring Tri-Racial Isolate communities in North Carolina, free African American settlements in southern Indiana, and tracing the extraordinary journey of the Anderson family, emancipated in 1712 in Norfolk, VA. Notably, Lisa is the 8th great-granddaughter of Kate Anderson, the matriarch of the Anderson family, who was born in 1670.
Lisa is also a genetic genealogist who volunteers her skills for initiatives such as the DNA Doe Project, Tulsa Race Massacre DNA Identification Project, and DNA Search Squad. She has given multiple presentations on her family history and contributed as a genealogy consultant on " Before the Bulldozers: Historic Southwest D.C. Exposed." Lisa serves on the Board of Directors of the National Genealogical Society, holding positions as the Chair of the Membership Committee and a member of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. She is also on the Board of Directors of the Society of the First African Families of English America. Additionally, Lisa is the coordinator for the Midwest African American Genealogy Institute's (MAAGI) DNA track.
Beyond her contributions to genealogy, Lisa is an award-winning artist with a remarkable professional journey spanning three decades. She has been instrumental in creating educational and career pathways for underrepresented groups and initiatives to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion across international affairs, higher education, and healthcare. Lisa holds a B.A. in French and an M.A. in Intercultural Communication, specializing in French language and culture.
Terry J. Ligon
Terry Ligon is a Genealogist, Historian and Research Specialist in the area of Freedmen of Indian Territory. As a specialist on Indian Territory Freedmen history, Terry has also utilized his skills as a Writer and Video Storyteller.
For the past thirty-five years, Terry has devoted and made this research his life’s work as he works tirelessly on bringing attention and recognition to the history of his ancestors, who were enslaved by Chickasaw and Choctaw Indians.
Terry is a founding member of the African American Genealogical Society of Northern California-AAGSNC.
Mr. Ligon is a founding member of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Freedmen Association-CCFA, that has as its mandate, to educate, empower, engage and embrace the history of the Chickasaw and Choctaw Freedmen and their descendants
A native of California, Mr. Ligon earned Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees from the Academy of Art College and the University of San Francisco concurrently.
Terry has given presentations at numerous conferences throughout the country and became a teaching member at the Midwest African-American Genealogical Institute in 2019 in its inaugural Freedmen of the Five Tribes Track.
Terry has been blogging since 2010 on the subject of history of blacks living among the Chickasaw and Choctaw Indians, specifically those who sought to be transferred from the Chickasaw and Choctaw Freedmen Roll to the “by Blood” roll.
Terry’s research focuses on the:
Terry is currently working on a book temporarily titled “We Came West with the Indians” this work attempts to bring attention to the men, women and children that were among the first settlers of Indian Territory when the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee/Creek and Seminole nations “emigrated” west of the Mississippi River.
Featured on BBC, NPR, Radio Sweden, and The Atlantic, Shannon Christmas is an internationally recognized genetic genealogy expert, biological family reunification specialist, and lecturer with over a decade of experience pioneering DNA techniques to identify ancestors and solve mysteries. Harnessing expertise in adoption/unknown parentage research, colonial American, Southern, and African American genealogy, Shannon relishes unleashing the power of DNA to amplify voices long silenced by traditional archiving, bringing hidden ancestors into full view.
A former 23andMe Ancestry Ambassador and Ancestry.com Ace, Shannon Christmas manages The Captain Thomas Graves of Jamestown Autosomal DNA Project and serves as a co-administrator of The Hemings-Jefferson-Wayles-Eppes Autosomal DNA Project and The Macon DNA Project. Shannon was one of a select few genetic genealogists invited to participate in the American Society of Human Genetics’ Roundtable on Genetic Ancestry Inference. A genetic genealogy instructor on the faculty of The Midwest African American Genealogy Institute, Shannon has received invitations to lecture on genetic genealogy at Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage, James Madison’s Montpelier, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, The White House, and The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
A certified product manager who has advised DNA test companies, Shannon earned a Bachelor of Arts in Government from Harvard University, a Masters in City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a Masters in Liberal Arts in History from Harvard University.
DR. ALFRED S. BROTHERS, JR
Al is a retired Program Manager and Engineer from Raytheon and an Author, Researcher, and Genealogist.
He was born in Boston Massachusetts, attending Boston Latin School, the oldest public high school in the United States. He graduated from Boston University College of Engineering in 1964 and entered the United States Air Force. Al was commissioned a Second Lieutenant upon graduation and entered USAF pilot training at Williams AFB
During his 22 years in the US. Air Force, he was a pilot and instructor pilot, an engineer, a program manager, and a commander. He flew FB-111, B-52 and B-57 aircraft.
Al joined the private sector in August 1986.
His genealogy experience on his family and research support and education to others extends over 40 years. His areas of interest are New England (particularly Massachusetts and Connecticut) Nova Scotia Canada, Maryland, Virginia, the District of Columbia and
military genealogy research. He is a member of the Rotary International Fellowship of Genealogists and the Allen County Genealogy Society.
Al is the Vice President of the African American Genealogy Society of Fort Wayne and a founding member. He chairs the training committee and conducts monthly Research Tools and Tips workshops at the Allen County Public Library and via Facebook. He is a
lecturer on African American Military Genealogy and a faculty member with the Midwest African American Genealogy Institute.
Boston University, BS - Aeronautical Engineering,
Golden Gate University, MPA, - Public Administration,
Central Michigan University, MPM, - Management,
Century University, Ph.D. - Business Administration,
RIC MURPHY is an educator, historian, author, documentarian, and lecturer.
He currently serves as the President General of the Society of the First African Families of English America.
His award winning book, the Arrival of the First Africans in Virginia was turned into a documentary with the same
name and has won over twenty international films awards, including being selected as Best Director.
His family lineage dates to the earliest colonial periods of Plymouth, Massachusetts, and of Jamestown, Virginia. Mr.
Murphy’s lineage has been evaluated and accepted by several heredity societies, including the Daughters of the American Revolution; the National Society of the Sons of Colonial New England; the Sons of the American Revolution; the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War; and the Sons and
Daughters of the U. S. Middle Passage.
Mr. Murphy was a Resident Fellow at
Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government; and he has a Masters in Urban Affairs from Boston University, and a Bachelor of Science Degree from the University of Massachusetts.
Vicki McGill, an accomplished photographer, graphic designer, social media strategist and family historian began her genealogical research with a high school project in the mid 1980s. The project focused on discovering your family’s history by obtaining information from various sources including family member interviews and presenting a report based on the findings. At that time Ancestry, Family Search nor even the internet existed which led her to take a trip to the
U.S. National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C. to see what U.S. Census and any other available records may reveal. Those microfilmed records provided basic information which she was able to verify with several family members and complete the project.
Fast forward to 2008 when Vicki was selected to chair her family's 2010 reunion, she decided to refocus her genealogical research with the goal of being able to share a more in-depth history of the family's roots in South Carolina and what led them there. During this effort she began to use several online resources including Family Search and Ancestry, take trips to her local Family History center, gather oral histories and other documents to uncover a variety of records and
details about many ancestors. She eventually reached the period of enslavement which presented a new set of challenges. She was able to use her design skills to create a reunion booklet that is a family history keepsake that can be passed down to future generations and encourage others to continue the research. The booklet is filled with a variety of ancestral details, historical facts, and a family tree which family members still refer to and share to this day.
In 2016, she began incorporating DNA into her research connecting with other living descendants of her ancestors, some of whom are also doing this work who she can collaborate with. A continuous learner she has taken a several genealogical research courses to improve her research skills including Midwest African American Genealogical Institute (MAAGI) and others
offered by various Afro American Historical and Genealogical Society (AAHGS) chapters and has also joined her local chapter in Washington, DC.
Over the years, Vicki has collected a variety of oral histories, photographed documents including funeral programs, photos, and other resources to assist in pulling her family's history together
and continues to dig through records. Her current work involves wills, succession records, enslavement transactions, emancipation, and records from the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, also known as the Freedmen’s Bureau, for ancestors in South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, and other states where her ancestors lived and were enslaved.
Recent discoveries have provided details on the lives of Benjamin White Sr. and Jr. along with several other ancestors and steered her research trips to on-site resources including libraries, historical
societies, and court houses.
Honing her genealogical research skills, for many decades, has allowed Vicki to share her talents with many others conducting research for podcast, television ancestry reveals on the Today
Show and CNN, and most recently tracing descendants of families and individuals who received services from the Freedmen’s Bureau. She is the co-founder and facilitator of the Kingstree –Williamsburg County Research Group and experienced in document transcription and genealogical tools and local research best practices course creation and instruction.
Nicka Smith is a host, consultant, and documentarian with more than 20 years of experience as a genealogist.
She has extensive experience in researching the enslaved and their communities and is a valued expert in genealogy research along the Mississippi Delta.
Nicka has diverse and varied experience in media with a background in audio, video, and written communications. She's appeared on TODAY, Good Morning America, CNN, MSNBC, an Emmy winning episode of the series Who Do You Think You Are, was featured in the groundbreaking short film, A Dream Delivered: The Lost Letters of Hawkins Wilson, and has been interviewed by National Geographic, TIME, USA Today, and New York Times.
She is the host of BlackProGen LIVE, an innovative web show with more than 130 episodes focused on people of color genealogy and family history. She is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, a member of two lineage societies (Sons and Daughters of the Middle Passage (SDUSMP) and the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), and a past board member of the California Genealogical Society (CGS) and the African American Genealogical Society of Northern California (AAGSNC).
Nicka served as the chair of the Outreach and Education Committee for AAGSNC, and is the former project manager for the Alameda County, CA Youth Ancestral Project where more than 325 youth were taught the value of family history. Additionally, Nicka is the family historian and lead researcher for the Atlas family of Lake Providence, East Carroll, Louisiana, and guides and coaches an active group of family historians at the Who is Nicka Smith Patreon community.
Renate Yarborough Sanders
Renate Yarborough Sanders is a widely recognized genealogist, speaker and educator, who descends from formerly enslaved ancestors, enslavers, and free people of color.
She authors two blogs: “Into the LIGHT” and “Genea-Related,” and produces a “(Mostly) African American Funeral Programs” online database.
Renate is a member of the National Genealogical Society, the North Carolina Genealogical Society (Publicity Director), the Afro-American Genealogical and Historical Society (member of National Editorial Board and the Scholarship Committee, and Vice-President and Newsletter Editor for the Hampton Roads Chapter), the Wake County Genealogical Society, and the Tyrrell County Genealogical and Historical Society.
She is a member and Deputy Registrar of the lineage society, “Sons and Daughters of the United States Middle Passage.” Renate cohosts “Let’s Talk North Carolina Genealogy,” an online platform and YouTube show, presenting genealogy programing and virtual events for North Carolina researchers; and she has served as a panelist and guest on numerous web shows and podcasts.
Renate provides genealogy education for conferences, societies, employee groups, and for institutions of higher learning; her research has been featured on PBS Radio and in a National Geographic cover story and podcast.
She is currently engaged in a research project for Wake Forest University, seeking to find descendants of enslaved persons who were sold for the benefit of that institution.
Renate is an instructor for the Midwest African American Genealogy Institute (MAAGI) and will join the faculty of the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburg (GRIP) in Summer 2024. She provides coaching and consultation services for individuals seeking guidance with genealogical research, and she continues to engage in project work for various organizations and institutions. Renate lectures on a variety of genealogy topics but specializes in teaching beginning to intermediate research methodology and sharing specific techniques for researching ancestors of color – both pre- and post-Emancipation. She is a retired elementary school educator, mother of two daughters, and grandmother of four beautiful granddaughters (and a grand dog).
Melissa Tennant Rzepczynski
With her vast experience in family history instruction and research methodologies, Melissa Tennant Rzepczynski brings her knowledge, strong customer service skills, and expertise in family history research to those interested in learning more about their family.
Melissa created Branch Discoveries, LLC in 2022, offering consultations, document retrievals, research services, presentations, and much more. Her knowledge and analytical skills are from decades of experience in research, including families in the Midwest and Southeast United States, immigration and migration, property and probate records, African American, female ancestors, and more.
Melissa began her career in the genealogical field at the History & Genealogy Department for the Hillsborough County Public Library in Tampa, Florida in 2001, where she eventually managed collections, programs, and services for three unique research rooms. She joined the staff of the Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library (ACPL) in Fort Wayne, Indiana in 2007, was promoted to Assistant Manager of Public Services of the Center in 2012, and was named Genealogy Services Manager in 2020. In her 15 years at ACPL, she co-coordinated the Center's programs and seminars, in-person and virtual, and the social media hosted by the Center. She also supervised preservation and digital projects available in the Free Databases section at genealogycenter.org, and managed customer service initiatives.
In her more than twenty years in the genealogical field, Melissa has presented numerous programs at local, state, regional, and national events, including RootsTech, Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) Conference, Ohio Genealogical Society Conference, and Indiana Genealogical Society Conference. She is also an instructor for the Midwest African American Genealogy Institute (MAAGI).
Bio for Janice Lovelace, Ph.D.
Janice Lovelace, Ph.D. is a genealogical researcher, author and lecturer, with over thirty years of experience.
Dr. Lovelace is a frequent speaker at national and regional genealogy conferences on health and genetics, ethnic minority genealogy, and research methodology. She authored the National Genealogical Society’s continuing education course African American Roots: A Historical Perspective and is an instructor at the Midwest African American Genealogical Institute (MAAGI).
She has served as a national board member of Association of Professional Genealogists (2019-2020) and her local society’s board. She belongs to the National Genealogical Society (NGS) and several local societies.
Judy G. Russell
Judy G. Russell, The Legal Genealogist®, is a genealogist with a law degree who provides expert guidance through the murky territory where law and family history intersect. An internationally-known lecturer and award-winning writer, she holds credentials as a Certified Genealogist® and Certified Genealogical Lecturer℠ from the Board for Certification of Genealogists®. Her blog is at https://www.legalgenealogist.com.
The Long Version:
Judy G. Russell, The Legal Genealogist®, is a genealogist with a law degree. She writes, teaches and lectures on a wide variety of genealogical topics, providing expert guidance through the murky territory where law and family history intersect. A Colorado native with roots deep in the American south on her mother’s side and entirely in Germany on her father’s side, she holds a bachelor’s degree from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and a law degree from Rutgers School of Law-Newark. Before she retired, she worked as a newspaper reporter, trade association writer, legal investigator, defense attorney, federal prosecutor, law editor and, for more than 20 years, as an adjunct member of the faculty at Rutgers Law School.
She is a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists, the National Genealogical Society and numerous state and regional genealogical societies. A recipient of the Silver Tray Award from the Utah Genealogical Association and the 2017 Award of Excellence from the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, she now serves as a member of the NGSQ editorial board.
An internationally-known lecturer and course coordinator and faculty member at numerous genealogical institutes, she holds credentials as a Certified Genealogist® and Certified Genealogical Lecturer℠ from the Board for Certification of Genealogists®. Her award-winning blog appears at The Legal Genealogist® website (https://www.legalgenealogist.com).
Roberta F. Ridley
Roberta F. Ridley is the founding chairwoman of the African American Genealogical Society of Fort Wayne, which promotes genealogy research to preserve the history of Black families.
She is a retired employee of the Allen County Public Library, a faculty member of the Midwest African American Genealogy Institute (MAAGI), Chair of the Indiana Landmarks Black Heritage Preservation Program/Fort Wayne Committee, and an independent researcher. She remains active in the community, always working toward cultural understanding with diversity and historic awareness.