RootsTech 2018: Successful Outcomes

Last month, I penned a post titled, What Goes Around Comes Around – RootsTech 2018. In it, I shared some of Anita’s and my experiences at RootsTech 2017, and also what I hoped to see and do at this year’s conference.

Now that we’re back, I must say, our mission was accomplished and we both experienced a very successful conference. 

I presented my lecture, Decoding Manumission Papers to Find Family Connections. I was pleased to hear from several attendees about their own experiences uncovering freedom papers in their ancestral research. Even more inspiring was to hear them share that my talk gave them additional insight into exploring and analyzing such documents and allowing them to continue their research. 

I was also encouraged to see how many wanted to learn more about the often hidden language included in manumission documents, a topic that seems to be  taboo in the genealogy community. My purpose was to engage the audience in such a way that those in attendance could see themselves from two perspectives — that of the enslaved person being granted freedom, and from the person granting freedom to another.

Following the lecture, Anita, who was one of several RootsTech Ambassadors and Media interviewers, interviewed me about my session. Can I say that it was kind of strange to be interviewed by my own wife, but it was fun.

One of two individuals I looked forward to seeing at RootsTech was author and genealogist, Tony Burroughs. I met Tony some 20 years ago, and years later when we reconnected, asked if he would write the foreword to my book 

Unfortunately, one of Tony’s two lectures was scheduled at the same time as mine, so he was unable. The disappointing part is that I had consulted with Tony years ago about the very case study I presented in my lecture, and hoped he would be able to attend to learn about my findings. Nevertheless, we a great time catching up and discussing many of the changes and opportunities in the genealogy realm. 

Anita, wearing her “Oprah” hat, also conducted an interview with Tony. Be sure to check it out because yours truly makes an appearance. 

And finally, after many years of waiting, I had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. In my book, I share the story of how I almost met him at a conference in 2009, and what a disappointment it was to miss him. But I suppose the wait was worth it because at RootsTech, I had the chance to share with him part of my personal ancestral research discovery journey, and to also thank him for the personal letter he sent me in support of application for membership in the National Society, Sons of the American Revolution.  

It was because of his research, documentation, and presentation of his finding a Revolutionary War ancestor named John Redman, that I was inspired to pursue my own ancestral research. That, of course, led to me discovering a Revolutionary War ancestor named Mathieu Devaux dit Platillo. Platillo, my 4th generation great-grandfather, served under the command of the Spanish Colonial Governor and General Bernardo de Galvez, and was also instrumental in helping to secure the freedom of my 4th generation great-grandmother named  Agnes Mathieu.  

Not surprisingly, Anita was able to ask Gates a question during a RootsTech press conference following his keynotes address on the final day of conference

There were several other media opportunities where both Anita and I were interviewed and shared our individual perspectives on attending RootaTech. All in all, this year’s RootsTech was a success. Both Anita and I were glad to have had the opportunity to attend and participate as a presenter and an Ambassador. We both wish to congratulate both RootsTech staff and the many volunteers who made this year’s conference a success. 

Here are a few pictures from this year’s RootsTech 2018:

Freedmen Bureau Labor Contract may provide clues to previous Slave Owner

Labor contract John C. Adamson

John C. Adamson Labor contract dated 13 Jun 1865 between the following named freed person; Easter, Fannie, Hanna Peter, Sylvia, and Charley.
Source: “United States, Freedmen’s Bureau Labor Contracts, Indenture and Apprenticeship Records, 1865-1872,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 11 September 2016), John C. Adamson 13 Jun 1865; citing Employment, Montgomery, Alabama, United States, NARA microfilm publication M1900, Records of the field offices for the state of Alabama, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1872 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 25; FHL microfilm 2,424,743.

Transcription of above text in question lower left corner of a Labor contact for John C. Adamson and a number of named freed persons:

State of Alabama, Tallapoosa County known all new by these present that I John C. Adamson of the state and county have entered this day into an agreement with the following named freed persons to wit:  Easter a women about sixty years of age, Fannie a woman about thirty years of age and her six children under 10 years old and Hanna a woman about 20 years and her child 12 months old and Peter a boy sixteen years of age and Sylvia a girl about eight years of ago and Charley  a boy 9 years old which persons, I agree to furnish with clothing and feed for there labor, I also agree to furnish them with wood and fuel and pay their Doctor bill and other expenses which freed persons do agree to remain with me until the 25th day of December after which time if not further agree upon said persons will be at liberty to go where they think proper signed in the presence of us this June the 13th 1865. Easter X her mark, Fannie X her mark, Hanna X her mark, Peter X his mark.                                                                                                              John C. Adamson

G. B. Adamson

C. T. Welch


Recovered Memories, My Ancestral Connection to Spain, New Orleans And the Support for the American Revolution

This year marks the 300th anniversary of the founding of the City of New Orleans in 1718. To commemorate this occasion, the Louisiana State Museum at The Cabildo in New Orleans’ Jackson Square is featuring a remarkable exhibit, titled  RECOVERED MEMORIES – Spain, New Orleans and the Support for the American Revolution. 

Few people, other than specialist historians, are fully aware of the significance of Spain’s role in the American Revolutionary War. Having declared war on Britain in 1779, Spain joined France in launching a series of major military operations on land and sea, not only in Europe but also in the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, thus opening a second front against Britain within the framework of an international conflict. 

Even before the signing of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776, the Spanish crown had been providing money, arms, and supplies to the thirteen colonies. Between 1776 – 1778, this support largely took the form of covert shipments from Europe, Havana, and the strategic port of New Orleans.  Learn more here about Bernardo De Galvez, The Forgotten Revolutionary Conquistador Who Saved Louisiana

Spain continued to send supplies and loans to the American Congress until 1783. Perhaps Spain’s single most important contribution was the dispatch of one million livres (French monetary denomination) to the forces of General De Grasse, who commanded the French forces for the Yorktown campaign in September 1781.

I am proud to have documented my ancestral connection to the history of New Orleans, and was pleased to view the exhibit on a recent visit to my native city. An extensive commemorative book has been published to compliment the exhibit. One of the many documents included in the book is referred to as “The Emancipation de Agnes Mathieu” (The Emancipation of Agnes Mathieu). Yes, that’s my Agnes! 

This document, which I discovered in 2003 at the New Orleans Notarial Archives, linked my 4th generation great-grandfather Mathieu Platillo and Bernardo De Galvez in the historical past of Spanish Louisiana and its critical involvement in the American Revolution.  Here is one other interesting modern day historical connection observed in 2016 with yet another signature in a blog posting titled, Freedom for one, Citizenship for the other, Two signatures 235 years apart.

When I set out to discover information about my maternal ancestral line, I dug up deep roots that took me back to both the Spanish and French Colonial periods in Louisiana. This research uncovered an enslaved Afro-French Creole Woman and  her relationship with a French National named Mathieu Platillo aka Mathieu Devaux. 

Platillo served as a captain in the New Orleans Militia under the Command of the Spanish Governor and General Bernardo De Galvez. Because of my research and ancestral documentation, I became the first African American in the state of Georgia in 2010, where I currently reside, inducted into the National Society, Sons of the American Revolution. 

My research into the relationship between a woman of color who gained her freedom in 1779, and a French national who fought in the Revolutionary War under Bernardo de Galvez in Spanish Colonial Louisiana, was the focus of my memoir titled, GOT PROOF, My Genealogical Journey Through the Use of Documentation in 2013, and of the 2010 segment of the PBS televised series, History Detectives.