Several years ago I was struck by a sudden onset of an addiction – to genealogy research. It started when I looked up my family name online. With low expectations, I assumed my Black ancestors were essentially erased from the American archives. Beyond my mother’s stories and memories of my father, my family’s history would never be known.
Fortunately, I was wrong.
The discoveries of my family history research began coming one after the other. And many of them were incredible revelations about my ancestors – the lives they lived, the accomplishments they achieved, the people they were. Now that I was able to tell stories about the people responsible for every opportunity I had been given, I was proud. Beyond proud.
Discoveries of the past also brought some unexpected plans for the future.
If my ancestors had a story to tell in the archives, so must so many others. And yet, their stories weren’t being told. The documents that bore the names of so many of our ancestors remained uncovered, perhaps never to be known. And not unlike me, so many people wrongly assumed nothing could be done to change the unfortunate truth of their lost histories.
I imagined what a difference it would make if we broke down the myths of forgotten pasts. And I was most excited about bringing these revelations to younger audiences, empowering them to claim their histories and learn from their ancestors. Lives could be changed by breaking open the archives to a new audience. And some justice would finally be granted to those ancestors who have remained unknown for too long.
And so Ancestors unKnown was born.