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Category: Genealogy

A colorful image of names written in on a winding family tree

An African American Family History Like No Other

Posted by: Neely Tucker

When the Library opens its new Treasures Gallery next year, displaying some of the most striking papers and artifacts that span some 4,000 years, one of them will certainly stand out: The Blackwell's Kinfolk Family Tree. It's a dizzying, almost overwhelming piece of folk art that depicts the genealogical history of an African American family from Virginia. It's 8 feet tall and 6 feet wide, contains more than 1,500 names spread out on curving trunks, branches and leaves and details family connections from 1789 to the 1970s. Its most famous member? Arthur Ashe Jr., the tennis great.

Full portrait of a clean-cut young man, standing very erect and with a serious expression, in a photo studio.

John Phelan and the Sinking of the USS Oneida

Posted by: Neely Tucker

One of the LIbrary's genealogy specialists was struck by reading the elaborate inscription on a 19th-century cemetery marker in her hometown. It spurred deep research and an extensive Library research guide into the 1870 sinking of the USS Oneida, costing the lives of 115 sailors, including the young man whose memorial caused her to pause: John Phelan. This is his story.

Image of an ornate clock showing 2:05 with sculpted male figures sitting on each side of the clock face

Women’s History Month: Genealogy

Posted by: Neely Tucker

During Women's History Month, it's good to remember that specialists in the Library's Local History and Genealogy Section collaborate with researchers to help find female ancestors, who are often obscured in historical records. A video presentation offers help in tracking down female ancestors whose last name changed due to marriage, or whose names did not appear on home ownership and other records.

Image of an ornate clock showing 2:05 with sculpted male figures sitting on each side of the clock face

The Great Buchanan Inheritance Hoax

Posted by: Neely Tucker

Ninety years ago, a Texas grocer named Lorenzo D. Buchanan stepped forward with one of the great hoaxes of 20th-century American pop-culture life, a genealogical fabrication that continues to resonate today. The Great Buchanan Inheritance Hoax rocked American life from 1931-1936 with his false tale of an $85 million inheritance that was available to anyone who could prove a family connection.

Image of an ornate clock showing 2:05 with sculpted male figures sitting on each side of the clock face

Free to Use and Reuse: Genealogy

Posted by: Neely Tucker

It’s time once again to dip into our Free to Use and Reuse sets of pictures, culled from the Library’s millions of copyright-free photographs, prints, maps and so on. This month, we’re featuring things that relate to ever-popular genealogy searches, as people look to uncover the secrets of their past by identifying their ancestors and the …

Image of an ornate clock showing 2:05 with sculpted male figures sitting on each side of the clock face

My Job at the Library: Researching African-American Genealogy

Posted by: Wendi Maloney

Ahmed Johnson is a local history and genealogy reference librarian in the Library’s Main Reading Room and a specialist in African-American history. A bibliography he created, “African-American Family Histories and Related Works in the Library of Congress,” guides Library researchers seeking to understand their families’ stories to printed and digital sources at the Library. Here …