A few years ago, I took on the unbelievably complex and daunting task of constructing the maternal branches of my family tree. My first step was to sit down with my grandmother and listen as she recounted the names of her grandparents and their parents. Granny relayed some wonderful, albeit slightly inaccurate information.
Beyond my great-great grandparents, I had no names. Most importantly at a certain point in history, Black people in this country didn’t technically have distinguishable last names, or really any last names. I was frustrated and the last thing I wanted to do was turn to government records but that’s just what I did.