Church News and Events

African American Family History Conference Is March 9

Contributed By By R. Scott Lloyd, Church News staff writer

  • 4 February 2013

Marcie Ambrose with her grandchildren: Michael Ambrose, DeVaughn Garay, Gabriel Ambrose, Joel Ambrose, and Nala Jean Garay. She will be a speaker at a Los Angeles conference to help African Americans search their genealogy. Photo by William W. Ambrose III.


While February is African American History Month, March will be the month some African Americans in Southern California focus on their own history.

The 11th annual African American Family History Conference, Discover Your Roots XI, will be held March 9 in the Church’s historic chapel located at 1209 S. Manhattan Place in Los Angeles. Both beginners and experts tracing their family trees will find workshops geared to their individual abilities, according to Alma Bailey, organizer of the event.

“We’ll be fortunate to have Aaron L. Day, a long-time genealogist and family historian, give the keynote address, and there will be an additional 21 other outstanding teachers for a wide variety of workshops,” she said.

Marcie Ambrose, campus facility coordinator for Pasadena City College, has been researching her family history for more than two decades.

“Researching and finding my ancestors is not a short-term project. I am committed to doing the research, and my commitment has been rewarded with fabulous finds,” she said.

“The African American genealogy conferences have helped to reinforce my enthusiasm and have given me additional tools to use.”

Sister Ambrose explained that her main motivation for pursuing her family history is building a legacy for her children and grandchildren.

“At a time when many teenagers and young adults struggle to find direction, it can help them to learn of the foundation built by their ancestors and how they can continue to build on those foundations, passing the legacy on to future generations,” she said.  

“Young people want to understand who they are and where they came from. They need to know the sacrifices that have been made in their behalf by ancestors just a few generations back.”

Sister Bailey spoke of the challenges in the past as African Americans endeavored to research their family history. She explained that frequently when people of African American descent attempted to research their family history, they hit roadblocks because many families were separated due to slavery. Also, accurate records were not always kept for slaves, but today there are extensive genealogical records available and African American families can locate lost family members and discover their heritage.

Sister Ambrose said she was fortunate that her family talked about their history. They knew they came from the Georgia plantation of Confederate General John Brown Gordon. Additionally, the daughter of the general wrote a manuscript of the white Gordons and the black Gordons.

“My great-uncle and the daughter of the general corresponded by letters in the late 1940s, both inquiring about each other’s family,” she said. “These letters are prized possessions.”

Sister Ambrose said that even with this information, there were still roadblocks, and the African American family history conferences provided direction so she could continue her efforts. “From ‘Genealogy Basics for Beginners’ to ‘Using DNA Testing to Discover Your Roots,’ I’m certain that those who attend this conference will take away a wealth of information, as I have in the past, which will help them in their research,” she said.

Other topics include U.S. Civil War Pensions, Family Tree Sources and Cloud Storage, and Blogging Your Family History.

The African American Historical Society of Long Beach, the California African American Genealogical Society, the Pasadena Area African American Genealogical Society, the San Diego African American Genealogical Society, and the Church are working together to make this event possible.

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