A surge of new resources is chipping away at barriers to African-American genealogy.
In 1976, Alex Haley’s book Roots galvanized popular interest in genealogy. The story—a research-based yet imaginative tracing of Haley’s family history through American slavery and to his African homeland—especially inspired those with African ancestors.
Tony Burroughs, a professional genealogist and author of Black Roots: A Beginner’s Guide to Tracing the African-American Family Tree (Fireside), got hooked on genealogy after hearing Haley speak in 1969.
“At the time, none of us had even heard the word genealogy,” Burroughs says. He looked for a how-to guide—not easy to find in pre-Roots days. “I read a book from the Boy Scouts, and I’ve been doing genealogy ever since.”