Telling Our Stories

SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG)  |  By Margaret Snider
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Students of genealogy pay close attention in a class at the 2016 African American Family History Seminar. Photo courtesy Sharon Styles

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Buffalo soldiers will be back at Courage to Stand –Telling Our Stories, the 2018 African American Family History Seminar. Photo courtesy Sharon Styles

African American Family History Seminar Enlightens All

SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG) - The 2018 annual African American Family History Seminar is a good place to discover your ancestry, whether you are a beginner or a seasoned researcher.  “Many people come to our seminar who may not be African American, but their child, or their grandchild, or their husband or wife may be,” said Sharon Styles, co-chair for the seminar.  “Sacramento is so diverse in people that anyone can come and learn.  The genealogists who want to be more informed when they’re researching for other people, they come to learn.” 

The seminar will be held from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m., Saturday, March 10 at the FamilySearch Library, 2745 Eastern Ave., Sacramento.  The fee is $28 and registration by March 2 will guarantee receiving the syllabus and lunch.  For high school and college students registration and lunch is only $10.  Attendees can register online at

Styles became a member of the seminar committee in 2013.  “I’ve met so many wonderful people who are also interested in family history and in genealogy, so it’s been a win-win,” Styles said.  

The keynote speaker this year will be genealogist and author Angela Walton-Raji, who has focused her research on blended African and Native American families.  California Assemblyman Jim Cooper will speak about his own family research after the opening ceremonies.  Each hour of class time will include five different courses to choose from.  New this year, volunteers will be available for one-on-one assistance if someone has a particular question, or to help navigate Ancestry and FamilySearch.

When it comes to genealogy, Styles said, not everyone has a passion for it.  Nevertheless, she encourages everyone to document stories about their families now because birth and death dates are wonderful, but you still need something about them to make them fully formed people.  In two or three, or 20 generations from now, what you record about your story will be valuable.  “And when you tell your own family history,” Styles continued, “you don’t have to worry about someone else telling your story.  In order for our stories to be our own, we have to tell them.”

Denise Griggs, exhibit chair for this year’s seminar, said that her father was orphaned by the time he was eight and all he knew about his parents was that their names were Bud and Sadie. Those turned out to be nicknames and he never found any more information about them.  Griggs was eight when her father told her that, and she said to him, “If you promise me you won’t die when I’m a kid, I’ll find your family when I grow up.” When Griggs was at Oral Roberts University, she finally did and faxed the information to her father the day before Father’s Day.  She had found a census and by his older siblings’ names in that document, Griggs found her father’s parents.  That is when she got into genealogy, 30 years ago.

In the exhibits, local dentist Clay Wilson, who also paints, will have his work on display. There will be photographs from Robert Davis Photography and Sacramento Quilting Collective is coming with some of their homemade quilts.  And if you are at the seminar and think you’re seeing double – it is probably Denise’s identical twin, Delores.  “We both answer to Denise or Delores,” Griggs said.  There’s probably a story there.

“Discovering your roots is a personal portal to the successes and trials of your ancestors,” said Bruce Anderson, chairman of the event. “It will give you a special connection and hope for your life, and it will become a footprint and foundation for future generations.”

If you want to help with this program, you can sign up to volunteer for the African American Family History Seminar by going to  Or you can go to and enter your town or zip code to find a variety of projects and ways to serve in your community.