Discover Madison Kentucky January-February 2021 - Page 22

We Live Here

History not shared , is lost

Words by | Sharyn Mitchell

My personal journey with genealogy began

with a document I found in the vital statistics archives .
I was interning for the Social Security Administration and was allowed access to the Kentucky Vital Statistics records in connection with my job .
I came across a Madison County birth certificate which had the race of the child changed from “ W ” to “ C .” In the margin the doctor had written , “ I will tell you about this one when I come to town .”
As I knew the family , I questioned my mother , Mary Richards , about the change .
She replied , “ Honey , everybody knows the insurance man was the father !” That was in 1977 , and I was hooked . Later , I found others who were just as excited by finds like that one in 1977 .
It led me to co-found the African-American Genealogy Group of Kentucky ( AAGGKY ), which celebrated its tenth year in January .
The group was formed in January 2011 by 11 researchers interested in preserving the history of Kentucky ’ s African American generations and telling the “ other ” side of the story . We incorporated in April 2011 . The group , as initially conceived , grew out of the frustrating exceptions encountered when researching Black history .
Traditional research is often roadblocked by slavery . Record-keeping bowed to the whimsies of Jim Crow . Simply finding the missing records was and is a major undertaking .
22 Madison Magazine January-February 2021 knew that a whole race of people could be filed under “ A ” for African , “ B ” for Black , “ C ” for colored , “ N ” for negro , n *****, or none of the above ?
Those designations can be found occasionally in the back of a book , un-indexed , or sometimes , not there at all .
When you do find a hidden gem , who do you tell when you finally unlocked the key ? Who do you share it with ?
This is how the AAGGKY came to be , the first of its kind in Kentucky , by sharing .
Along the way , we met like-minded travelers and
AAGGKY grew . Researching Black history is an undertaking . As an enslaved people , we were not allowed to read or write . Histories had to be passed down orally . We were allowed “ given ” names only , but no family names to tie us together . Families were ripped apart , children sold . We ALMOST lost our identity ! But we were here too ! And yes , we can prove it . Madison County ’ s history is older than Kentucky , but little has been written about its Black citizenry . How do I know this ? After all , there are no written records ? That ’ s where you ’ re wrong . That ’ s where YOU and the AAGGKY come in . A fledgling organization , 10 years in the making , the AAGGKY is out to make a name for itself by bringing Black history out of the courthouse basement and onto front page news . OUR history is found in YOUR books . In your wills and diaries ; in your court records ; in your social columns and in your love letters . In your graveyards and in your church minutes are our family stories . Sometimes omitted from your indices and your notes , our vital records have been there all along , hidden among brittle pages , in dusty tomes .
In nearby Boonesborough , at the entrance to the “ fake ” fort , is a tall four-sided obelisk inscribed with the names of the Descendants of Boonesborough . Missing from those