National Archives to host weekend genealogy fair
Data reveals Native Americans once owned slaves

By Curt Yeomans


Rachel Meek found the World War I draft card for her grandfather, Joe Pierce, a farmer from Monroe County, Ala., on Tuesday at the National Archives and Records Administration's (NARA) Southeast Region office in Morrow.

Shirley Kelly was in the next room doing online research. She was looking at genealogy documents for the first time, and she was searching for information about her husband's family.

Meek and Kelly are two of the average of 10 people daily who visit the NARA office to do genealogical research into their family histories.

"I recently retired from the military (as a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Air Force) and just started looking into my family history," said Meek, of Severn, Md. "My interest in this probably started when I did a genealogy project in the fifth-grade because I was frustrated that no one could tell me anything."

Kelly, from Newnan, Ga., who was having trouble searching documents, added, "You start asking questions, and you find many elderly people are dying off, or can't remember information anymore."

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Southeast Region, located at 5780 Jonesboro Road in Morrow, will capitalize on the interest people have in genealogy by holding a Genealogy Fair on Saturday, from 9 a.m., to 4 p.m. A pie contest will be held from 3-4 p.m., in conjunction with the fair.

The fair will expose participants to several of the NARA Southeast Region's resources including ship manifests, bankruptcy and criminal court records, World War I draft cards for all U.S. citizens who registered for the draft, and southeastern draft cards for the period which followed the war, and concluded with the Vietnam War era.

The fair will include 10 classes on various areas of genealogical research, including immigration records; searching for ancestors in court records; searching draft cards; searching for records online; taking care of family archives; preserving family photographs; searching through NARA resources; doing research with Atlanta History Center resources; restoration efforts at Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, and finding out if an African-American has a Native-American ancestor. The last subject is in response to growing number of requests from people, said Maureen Hill, a NARA archivist.

"We've had more and more people [African-Americans] coming in lately, wanting to know about Native-American ancestors," said Hill, who works in NARA's genealogy department. "When they come in, we're trying to find where that intersection occurred."

However, Mary Evelyn Tomlin, public programs specialist for NARA's Southeast Region office, said the issue of African-Americans having Native-American ancestors sometimes surprises people. "A lot of people didn't know Native Americans owned slaves, but they did."

It costs $20 to sign up for the fair, and checks can be made payable to the Friends of the National Archives Southeast Region. For more information, contact Tomlin at (770)968-2100.