Article: A new tool hopes to uncover the lost ancestry of enslaved African Americans

History, Open Data
Isaac Granger Jefferson, Virginia (c. 1845)

A new tool hopes to uncover the lost ancestry of enslaved African Americans

I would give everything I own for the chance to interview Mary Jen Burton Jessie. My mother’s grandmother was born in 1875 near Aiken, South Carolina, 12 years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Without ever seeing a picture or drawing of her, I visualize a stocky build, prominent cheekbones, rounded shoulders. All physical trademarks courtesy of my maternal side.

And if I thought my mother Eloise got carried away by birthing 10 children, Mary Jen one-upped her. The 11 surviving children she and Henry Jessie created are half the leaves on part of my family tree I’ve been able to pluck and prune together since joining Ancestry.com back in 2018.

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