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Mending Broken Ties: Reconstructing Family Trees Sawed by Slavery - Digital Download

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All slaves had family members who were sold away or transferred to the slave-owners' heirs, never to be seen again. Many even took different surnames. It was not uncommon for two displaced brothers to retain different surnames after Emancipation. Collier will present cases of how displaced family members were found.

This class was presented to a live webinar (online seminar) audience on July 31, 2015. 1 hour 34 minutes, plus 3 pages of handouts.

Viewers' comments
  • This was great - very well explained - hope he can come back one day
  • Absolutely outstanding!
  • especially enjoyed the case study and thinking out loud research questions and procedures approach, as well as the reminder that the ancestor will provide clues in their own time. Well done!
  • Even though I don't have this type of research in my immediate family, I LOVED his enthusiasm!!! And, now I want to find out what ultimately happened to a slave owned by an ancestor in early New York City, bequeathed in a will to his wife. I've always wondered. Now I need to know! Thank you, Melvin.
  • EXCELLENT information! Thoroughly enjoyed the seminar!
  • Excellent speaker and informative material. A+++
  • Excellent, I found the details of how he tracked down the different branches of the separated family very interesting.
  • Fantastic information! I was in tears...
  • Fascinating! His research was amazing. His presentation was really good because he had great visuals.
  • Great cases studies, especially in showing how one follows the trail of the enslaved and their enslavers. We need more webinars like this that explore different perspectives regarding African American genealogical research. Thanks for hosting this one as well as the others!!!
  • Great information, even for those without African-American ancestors.
  • Great job, and the presenter was very knowledgable about the subject matter, and did an excellant job of explaining it. Some of the material covered, I recently learned. However, he showed me a different approached when conducting my research.
  • I can't believe this was his first webinar. He's a natural! It's just a testament to how much he knows his material. EXCELLENT JOB!
  • I have been searching for my grandfather's family on my mother's side for a couple of years and this has helped me with other search avenues to look up. thank you so much.
  • Inspiring and moving! Filled with lots of great research strategies. Thank you!
  • It was so exciting to hear someone who was helping African-Americans with part of their slave history. He gave us so many great tips that I'm going back over some of my own family history and rechecking those census records. Hope to hear more help for African-Americans trying to find their slave families and the slave owners. Hope to hear from Melvin again in the future!
  • Just a great balance of facts, case study, and storytelling. Learned a lot.
  • Melvin Collier's webinar was as interesting as it was insightful. One of the over-arching messages was that your research is never done as long as you continue to THINK about your Ancestors and resolve to bring their story to life.
  • Melvin provided a wealth of information! This was an amazing, important webinar for those of us still seeking our enslaved ancestors.
  • Mr Collier has a tremendous knack for historical story-telling, I could listen to him for hours
  • So good...I had tears as clues were presented...indeed with the ancestors help.
  • The information was very informative and interesting. Please have Melvin Collier present again. His work is important, timely, and needed. He also is an engaging speaker.
  • The presentation was excellent. I love all of the tools that were shared that can immediately help me with searches. I also appreciate the question and answer section and giveaways!
  • The webinars that are presented here always give such good information, and show me that there are different ways to discover my ancestors!
  • This is difficult resesarch and Melvin made it look easy. Nice job!
  • This was a fantastic webinar!!! To cover such a complicated topic in so much detail in this short period of time was amazing!!
  • This was my first webinar. I got a lot of new resources. I knew about the Freedman Records, but I did not realize the detail of the bank records. I am happy that I attended.
  • Very inspiring and thorough. Makes me want to settle down and dig in.
  • Very interesting presentation and it's great to see that the ancestors finally revealed themselves.
  • Very interesting! I am doing research on a distant relative I found had slaves, trying to get info that might help others related to slaves that were owned. I have just started doing research on that, used slave indexes for the first time. I really appreciated all the help I didn't realize could be found. I figure it will help with my own research on family lines too. (I have double the lines, adopted and biological). Thanks so much for having the wonderful webinars.
  • Well done. Lots of information to process during our lunch breaks. Thank.
  • What an exceptional webinar! Thank you, Melvin Collier! You have re-energized my search. Is there a mark higher than 5?!?!?! Thank you Geoff for making this episode happen. A great day in genealogy!
  • Wonderful presentation. Great information. Easy to follow his story. Loved it!
  • Wow! I am very impressed with Melvin Collier's research strategies. I am inspired to follow the tips he presented and to continue to mend my family broken ties. I would love to see more targeted webinar series for African- American Genealogy research. Thank you very much for the Freedom Series!
About the author:

A native of Canton, Mississippi, Melvin J. Collier is the author of: Mississippi to Africa, A Journey of Discovery (see and 150 Years Later: Broken Ties Mended (see

His books have been used by genealogical and historical scholars as great reference sources for genealogical methodologies.

Melvin is a former civil engineer in corporate America for nearly 10 years. His passion for African-American history and historical preservation led to a major and fulfilling career change in the Archivist profession. He is a former archivist at the Archives Research Center of the Robert W. Woodruff Library Atlanta University Center, where he has worked on the Morehouse College Dr. Martin Luther King Papers, the Maynard Jackson Administrative Papers and Photographs, the Dr. Asa Hilliard III Papers, and other collections, 2006-2013. Currently employed by the federal government, Melvin has been conducting historical and genealogical research for over 20 years, starting at the age of 19. He has given numerous workshops and presentations on historical and genealogical subjects. He appeared on the NBC show, Who Do You Think You Are, as one of the expert genealogists on the Spike Lee episode (2010). Melvin maintains a genealogy blog, Roots Revealed, at He earned a Master of Arts degree in African-American Studies, Clark Atlanta University, in 2008, with additional graduate coursework in Archival Studies from Clayton State University, 2010-2012. He was the recipient of the 2012 Marsha M. Greenlee History Award by the National Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society (AAHGS).

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