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Breaking the Brick Wall Researching in Black and White
10-10 @ 8:00 pm - 9:15 pm
Identifying a former slave family’s slaveholder is one of the most difficult barriers in African
American research. Records documenting the existence of slave families are scattered and at
best can be hard to find, but not impossible. The initial approach, whether free or enslaved, is the
same as other genealogical searches, but obstacles will begin to appear prior to the end of the
Civil War. Carefully analyzing basic records, i.e., census, vital records, wills, deeds, etc., and
learning where to locate documents pertaining to the business transactions of a potential
slaveholder will help to yield success.
From this lecture you will learn how crucial it is to understand the history of the United States
and the slavery system, while acknowledging that the research process will require patience,
determination and perseverance in order to bridge the gap between 1870 and the slavery era.
You will learn about records that may exist in libraries, archives and/or private papers that can
help break brick walls in slave research. Using a case study, we will follow an African
American family from 1940 back to the slavery era and to a potential slaveholder(s). You will
learn how important using the cluster/collateral genealogy method is to this process.
About our Speaker
Deborah A. Abbott, Ph.D., is a professional genealogist, specializing in African American
research, manuscript collections and genealogy methodology. She serves as a Trustee on the
Board of the Ohio Genealogical Society (OGS), a member of the Cuyahoga County Archives
Advisory Board in Cleveland, and a member of the Board of Directors for the Federation of
Genealogical Societies (FGS). She is also an associate with the Kentucky-Tennessee Associates
based in Springfield, TN, past president of the African American Genealogical Society,
Cleveland, Ohio and a retired professor of Counseling from Cuyahoga Community College in
Cleveland. She holds both the BS and M.Ed. degrees from Tuskegee University in Alabama and
the PhD degree from Kent State University in Ohio.
Dr. Abbott is an instructor at the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research in Athens,
Georgia, the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG) in Salt Lake City, Utah and the African
American Genealogy Colloquium at Alabama State University in Montgomery, Alabama. She
presents lectures and workshops at a variety of national, state, and local genealogy conferences
across the country, as well as colleges, businesses & libraries. She has had articles published in
the Ohio Genealogy News and Family Tree Magazines. Dr. Abbott can also be seen teaching
African American research entitled “Needles & Threads” on Ancestry Academy, an educational
website video course for Ancestry.com. .
Dr. Abbott is a member of National Genealogical Society (NGS), the Association of Professional
Genealogist (APG), the Genealogical Speakers Guild (GSG), and an honorary life member of the
Fred Hart Williams Genealogical Society, Detroit, MI, as well as a member of other state and
local genealogical societies. She teaches monthly classes entitled “Using Ancestry.com in
Genealogy Research” at the Lakewood (Ohio) Public Library and coordinates the “Genealogy
and Family History Clinic” for the Cleveland Public Library.
A Cleveland native, she is a life member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., the Tuskegee
University National Alumni Association, and Antioch Baptist Church in Cleveland.