That is the question everyone interested in genealogy ask. It is my desire to go back as far as Africa. I probably need a genie in a bottle to complete that quest. As a Black American, my ancestry is hidden from me in a way that is not hidden from other Americans. Since my ancestors were slaves, their names were not on the census before 1870. It is not impossible to go back farther if I can identify the slave owners but that is difficult too. Many slaves wanted to distance themselves from their lives as property. They changed their names. They didn’t talk much about that time with their innocent descendants. White descendants of slave owners are also unwilling to share that part of their family history.
However, once the slave owners are identified, it is possible to find records on file because slaves were part of a financial transaction, as heinous as that is. I have the receipt of the purchase of my great-great-great grandfather Solomon Koonce who was sold to Isaac Koonce of Haywood County, Tennessee in January 1840.. I have also deducted that Solomon was owned for a period of time by Francis Nunn who died intestate in Lauderdale County, Tennessee around 1837.
I may be in the minority but I am also interested in my White ancestors. I am the sum of all of my parts. In looking for those ancestors I am learning more about my country’s history and psyche. That is also part of my history—slavery, the Civil War, the American Revolutionary War, the making of a nation. I plan on studying that too, to put my history into the larger context.
I can go back much farther on some of my white ancestors. So far I am able to go back at least 12 generations. I have found the link between me and one of my favorite writers, Jane Austen and even closer, the link between my family and Reba McEntire. This is exciting to me. I am not ashamed at embracing all my of heritage because I do not deny my ancestry regardless of color or nationality.
This is what I attempt to do in updating my family history. The surnames that I will be following are Koonce, Warren, Featherston, Cotten, Alexander, Brassfield, Tarpley, Elmore, Alexander, Saunders, and Wright. There may be more as I learn more. I will also research the locations where they lived--Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi and maybe others as I learn of them. Hopefully, one of those locations will be somewhere specific on the continent of Africa.