Taking Back What Was Once Lost

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If this is your first time visiting my blog, Welcome! However you found me, I’m glad you’re here. This is what Reclaiming Kin is all about:

  • to document family history research in a way that teaches and engages the reader,
  • to share discoveries, finds, approaches and tools that further research,
  • to provide ways to make our research exciting for others by adding social history,
  • to shine a light on resources, repositories, websites and other sources, and
  • to highlight and discuss the many challenges of slavery and slave research.

Below you’ll find a representative sample of the type of posts contained at Reclaiming Kin. If you’d like to read more, you’ll find a separate page above dedicated to Archives you can explore. I’d love for you to sign up to receive notification of my new posts via email, which can easily be done on the right-hand of the Homepage. Also, feel free to send me an email.

These are some of my favorite posts and I hope you like them too:

Methodology and Analysis
Do You Have An Artificial Brick Wall?
Robyn’s 10 Key Genealogy Principles
Look Out for Multiple Marriages
Phillip Holt is Not Dead After All
Criminals in the Family: Joseph Harbour
Analyzing and Correlating Records
I Found You Mary Neal: Analysis Uncovers an Identity
Harriet and Martha: Sisters Reunited
Is the Wife Really the Mother of Those Children?
Collateral Research: Research All Siblings
Sorting Rezins
A Breakthrough! The Fendricks Family
Harris Family Breakthrough! Big City, Here I Come
Untangling Matildas: Brick Wall Crashes Down
One Step Closer in Alabama: the Fendricks Family
Black Newspapers Break a Brick Wall

Research Tips
Are You Using Genealogical and Historical Societies in Your Research?
Formulating A Research Question
The 1880 Donut Hole
Using Charts in Your Genealogy Research
Clustering at the Cemetery
7 Ways to Jumpstart Your Research
Tips on Using World War I and II Draft Registrations
The Application for a Marriage License
Deconflicting “The Same Name”

Slavery/Slave Research
What You Didn’t Know About Slavery
Slave Surnames: Where Are They From?Mind of the Slaveowner
Slave Research: Search the Slaveowner’s Wife’s Family Too
Freedmens Bureau Labor Contracts
Researching Freed Blacks
A Strategy for Researching Freedmens Bureau Records
Beyond the Will and Inventory: Tracing Enslaved Ancestors Through Probate
Digital Library on American Slavery
Slaves Search for Their Family Members in Newspapers
Documenting the Slaveowner in Your Genealogy Software
Slaves In Community Papers
Runaway Slaves
Researching the Slaveowner in Online Books
There Were No Good Slaveowners
Freedmens Bureau Jewels: “They Are a Rather Worthless Couple”

Records and Resource Suggestions
University Theses and Dissertations
Historic Trust Inventories: Search the Land, Find the People
Prologue Magazine at NARA
Ancestor’s College Records
Records of Antebellum Slave Plantations
Extension Service Records
Have You Checked Published Family Histories?
The Joy of Probate
Maps Lead the Way to Better Understanding
Newspaper Research
Divorce Records: A Great Genealogy Resource



  1. michelle michelle
    May 3, 2009    

    Robyn, You must send me this photo that includes Aunt Pauline. I think I recognize most of my cousins but is that Uncle Wellie on the left: Wow such a treasure, these photo’s. – chelle

    • Rosemary Pleasent Rosemary Pleasent
      August 2, 2009    

      Hi Robyn- I’m 60 yrs. old and been reseaching my surnames in La. and the Ms. delta since around 1997. our surnames are Braddocks, Samuels,Rileys. My brick wall is the braddocks of Ripley,Ms. Tippah Co. i now live in central MS. about 45 min from Vicksburg. But my place of birth is Clarksdale, Ms. Coahoma County. My daughter lives in Frederick and works in Rockville. she has lived there since 2007. I visited her this pass thanksgiving. I’m so delighted at the wk. you are doing on your tree. You will fine me on several genealogy sites trying to fine a connection with a lost granddad, he was my mother’s mother last husband. I’m the only one one in the Samuel/Braddock family that do research. The families just wait for me to fine thje answers. This relative’s grand children and great grand live in Albany,NY. My blessings to you. msrose601@comcast.net

  2. May 5, 2009    

    You’ve done an excellent job Robyn–very impressive.
    Gives me a little more inspiration to dig further in my own family’s history.

  3. May 14, 2009    

    You are building a wonderful account here. What a beautiful honor for your ancestors! I particularly liked the piece on the cemetery. It reminded me of my own 25 year search, which ultimately led me to the historic Zion cemetery in Memphis. Check me out on Facebook — Our Black Ancestry (as well as my website).

  4. May 30, 2009    

    Robyn this is a great blog. You are always full of information. I am glad to have you as my “genealogy buddy”. You are truly an inspiration.

  5. June 15, 2009    

    I’ve just gotten through reading all of your blog posts and have enjoyed it tremendously. Your posts are always insightful and are well-written. Thank you for sharing and added you to my RSS reader.

  6. Valerie Morris Valerie Morris
    June 22, 2009    

    Hello Robyn

    It was by chance that I discovered your website. I felt as excited as you must feel when you have located another clue ! lol. I am a newbie at this. I just started searching in March of this year. I have longed to know my father and his family my entire life. ( I never met him). I signed up for Ancestry.com and my entire world has changed. I don’t know how you get any reading done or anything else. lol , I am hooked and can’t say away from the computer, I am on the computer for hours at a time. I feel like an addicted “junkie” lol, but I am loving this.
    Anyway I was hoping you would give me a few pointers. Both my parents have passed as have all of my relatives of my mother’s generation and beyond. I am the oldest member of my family ( 60 years old) so there is no one to ask. So here is one of my “brick walls” my father was Rappahannock Indian. He and my mother were not married. I have been able to learn his date of birth and date of death in addition to his military information. I have learned of his father and his grandfather who was born in Bowling Green Virginia in 1865. However I have been unable to find out anything about the date of my gg father’s death.

    I learned that mt father did get married the year of my birth and they have his name and his wife’s name in the records of the tribe, but they will not release the information to me because I am not Rappahannock.

    I would love to know what my father looked like. I tried searching the internet for the name of his high school in 1935 , I even wrote to the historical society where he lived but nothing.

    I am sorry I feel as if I am rambling. lol lol….
    Could you give me some pointers , right now I just want to know what he looked like.

    What should i do next ????

    Thank You .

  7. October 6, 2009    

    Hi Robyn,

    Thanks so much for your comments on my blog. Glad you enjoyed reading them, because I had a ball writing them. I have another blog: . This blog is dedicated to my maternal line. I am orginally from Chicago, IL but have lived in the MD/DC area for over 15 years. I love it here and the people are just awesome. You have my email and would love to keep in touch. Will be so nice to have a conversation with someone that understands what I am talking about(LOL). Would love to get together for coffee, tea, or just some genealogy!!

  8. Kirvin Bonner Kirvin Bonner
    October 14, 2009    

    Steve Skolochenko-

    Recommended you to me and he raved about your passion for Geneaology. I was fortunate to have a maternal grandmother leave to 105 and I located her in the 1900 census. After that I’m lost so if you can give me a few pointers on how to continue my search it would be greatly appreciated. Regards, Kirvin

  9. November 6, 2009    

    Kudos Robin! I stumbled onto your site while researching runaway slaves. Verrry nice. I am creating five sculptures for a sculpture garden in Yonkers, NY, to honor the enslaved Africans that resided at the Philipse Manor Hall–six of whom were among the first to be freed by law in the United States, 76 years before the Emancipation Proclamation. (Please visit the gallery page at http://www.EnslavedAfricansRainGarden.org to see them in progress and share.)

    I am a Morgan alum as well (I just moved back to NY from Columbia, MD), and that experience made me aware of the need to honor the past, while building the future. I became interested in genealogy in the early 90s, just before my grandfather/my mother’s father died. I was inspired to create a book titled The Toone Family, and recently I posted the images from the book online at http://www.toones.ning.com. Then, I began researching my father’s family, those images are also posted at http://www.bagwell.ning.com.

    Now, I, too, am intrigued by the ancestors experience as enslaved Africans. Keep spreading your enthusiasm, and keep up the good work.

  10. November 12, 2009    

    Hi Robyn,

    I just awarded your blog, the Kreativ Blogger’s Award. I’ve always enjoyed reading your blog. You can check out the award on my blog.


    • November 14, 2009    

      Mavis, you are so thoughtful! Thank you so much for this honor…I will try my best to continue to live up to it!;)
      I appreciate it;)

  11. November 24, 2009    

    Hello Robyn,

    I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed reading your blog and your family stories.

    Todd Rathkamp

  12. Robin Waters Robin Waters
    December 12, 2009    

    Hi Beautiful Cousin! I am thankful that you took the journey I have been trying to take for a while. Any help I can be please, dont ask, just tell me! Love you

    Robin Waters

  13. December 17, 2009    

    I was wondering if you could tell me where you found the painting of the slaves fleeing on the underground railroad. I volunteer for a church history magazine, and we are looking for images for our next issue. Thanks.

  14. Corey Meyer Corey Meyer
    December 17, 2009    

    Your blog looks great. Look forward to reading more.


  15. Johnel Metcalf Johnel Metcalf
    February 9, 2010    

    Hello, I think it is wonderful that we are able to look up our families history and fine out where we came from. You have done a magnificent job with your family history. I am in the same process myself and I just had a question on where to begin once I have obtained the basic information? For instance, I have the birthdays of my great grand parents and the dates they went home to glory. But where do I go from there? Could you please offer me some guidance or advice? I would really appreciate it.


    Johnel Metcalf


  16. Michaela Day Michaela Day
    March 1, 2010    

    I am just starting my search for info on my paternal grandfather’s family. I would appreciate any suggestions on where/how to research METCALF and DAY history in & around Clarksdale (& I’m told Fryesdale as well). So far all I’ve come up with is a slaveholders name Jonathan Day listed on the 1870 census. I see you are busy and am not nessecarily expecting a response- though would be pleasantly surprised by one!

  17. Michaela Day Michaela Day
    March 1, 2010    

    @ Johnel Metcalf, I am researching my paternal grandfather’s kin with the surnames DAY & METCALF coming from the Clarksdale (Coahoma County) area of Mississippi. This may be a long shot, just wondering if ur METCALF family has any connections in the NW of Mississippi?

  18. Michaela Day Michaela Day
    March 1, 2010    

    I meant to include my email: mdaytheartist@yahoo.com

  19. April 6, 2010    

    I sent you an email but wanted to send a message here as well.I am currently working on a family tree online to leave to future relatives and discovered your wonderful website.Hope we can share our information and keep the family trees growing!

    My great great grandfather’s second cousin’s great grandson is Haley, Alexander Murray Palmer, b 1921.

    Looking forward to hearing from you or other relatives.

    Relatively yours,

  20. April 11, 2010    

    I’ve nominated your blog for the Ancestor-Approved award! Thanks for continuing to share your work with the blogging community. Your posts are always thoughtful and well-written, and I enjoy following you!
    Please visit my blog to “pick up” your award!


  21. Rosemary Pleasent Rosemary Pleasent
    November 7, 2010    

    Hello Robyn- Hadn’t seen you post anything to your site in a long time and missing you. Always, Rosemary Pleasent

  22. January 19, 2011    

    Hello Robyn. My name is Lee Freeman and I’m the genealogist/historian at the Florence-Lauderdale Public Library in Florence, Alabama. Lauderdale County was where James Jackson, Sr. built his palatial mansion the Forks of Cypress, 5 mi NW of Florence. Florence hosted Alex Haley during the 1989 Alabama Reunion.

    I just read your Alex Haley blog from last year.

    We’ve been researching Queen Haley here for several years and would be interested in swapping information. For example, we have information that indicates Queen’s mother Esther/Ester/Easter was owned by at least two families (the Lesters and Martins) in Giles Co. Tennessee before the Jacksons of Lauderdale County, AL acquired her, and was living as late as 1870 (if memory serves the novel incorrectly has her dying during the Civil War. Haley apparently took some artistic license here). Esther also, according to an 1842 bill of sale, seems to have had at least two other children, Caroline and Jere.

    Anyway, we’d gladly swap any information with you.


  23. July 3, 2011    

    Great Job!

  24. Greg Hilton Greg Hilton
    September 18, 2011    

    Interesting information here. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve seen. Maybe you can suggest a website where I can post deeds of manumission or other slave records that I have found in my family research of 25 years. This information might be helpful to someone. I’m researching Hilton, Offutt, Hays, Howard among others in Montgomery and Frederick Counties. Families lived in the Barnesville/Poolesville area. Thanks much.

  25. December 11, 2011    

    What wonderful work you do! I’m so glad I stumbled across your blog! Thanks for sharing!

    PS: A snippet of my own family research http://stylesource01.wordpress.com/category/family-research/.

  26. MaryJane MaryJane
    March 8, 2013    

    I have been doing my and my husbands genealogy. During research, I findread wills where “slaves” by name listed. Is there a central website where I can submit the data? or has all of this been covered somewhere? If I read it, I might as well give it to someone instead of moving onto the next piece of research.

  27. July 19, 2013    

    Hi Robyn! I am a frequent visitor to your blog as I came across it by happenstance. I enjoy reading about your genealogical journey (everything from the research strategies to the thrilling discoveries that only genealogists understand) as I have been going about mine for the last 7 years. I just wanted to say thanks for the help you didn’t know you were giving me and I look forward to reading about your future discoveries. 🙂

  28. Quentin Turner Quentin Turner
    July 26, 2013    

    I have a discharge paper for Hilliard Simpson of the 110th USCT stationed I Pulaski TN. Dated 1864, I believe Mr Simpson escaped along with nearly 25 other slaves owned by John Simpson, the largest slave owner in Lauderdale county Al. Pulaski is just across the state line. I seek relatives of Mr Simpson in order to return the discharge paper. Any help would be appreciated.

  29. October 5, 2013    

    Are you the Robyn who came to the Anne Arundel Genealogical Society program on Slave Ancestors? Did you suggest books for the AAGS website?

  30. Butch Leitz Butch Leitz
    November 20, 2015    

    I love this site, what an amazing resource. Kudos.

    I was looking up information on one sector of family from the Edgecomb County area that I had not spent much time working on and in trying to understand why the will of Kenneth Hyman wasn’t probated until 1851 after his passing in 1834, your succinct post on June 16th 2009 (Back to Court) referencing a passage in the will I must have read several times without the gravity of it sinking in just nailed it:
    “…all the rest and residue of my property I wish to be held in common stock until my youngest child attains the age of eighteen years .”
    You elaborated in the post and spelled it out.
    I spent some time looking at the rest of the site and appreciate the methodology and tips.
    Thanks for having these posts in a public forum from which we can all learn a thing or two.

  31. Karim Rand Karim Rand
    April 12, 2016    

    What a great blog! I’m glad I found you.

  32. Cynthia Stewart Cynthia Stewart
    July 31, 2016    

    Hi Robyn I am so amaze at your website and everything that you have contributed to the Holt family. I too am a descendant of Malinda Holt, Cynthia J. was my gg grandmother and I have a family photo of her and her family the Normans’. I would love to speak with you.

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About Me

I blog, teach, write and lecture about family history research and it's just as rewarding today as it was when I began 18 years ago. This lifelong quest has helped me to better know my past and I've taken back--reclaimed- my kin and some of that lost memory.  

Post History

What I Talk About

Locations and Surnames

Hardin, Chester and Lawrence Counties, TN
Holt, Barnes, Harbour, Bradley Springer and Fendricks
Lawrence County, AL
Springer and Fendricks
Montgomery County, MD
Prather, Simpson
Somerset County, MD
Waters, Fountain, Curtis
Duval and Madison County, FL
Smith, Harris, Garner

Favorite Family History Quotes

"The past is not dead. In fact, it's not even past."
-William Faulkner

"Call it a clan, call it a network, all it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one"
- Jane Howard

"Friends are God's apologies for relations."
-Hugh Kingsmill

"No matter what you've done for yourself or for humanity, if you can't look back on having given love and attention to your own family, what have you really accomplished?"
-Elbert Hubbard

"Families are like fudge; mostly sweet with a few nuts."

"If you can't get rid of the skeleton in your closet, you might as well make it dance!"

"Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city;)"
-George Burns

"Where does the family start? It starts with a young man falling in love with a girl. No superior alternative has yet been found."
-Winston Churchill

"The great gift of family life is to be intimately acquainted with people you might never ever introduce yourself to had life not done it for you."
-Kendall Hailey

"If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all the generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people."
-Thich Nhat Hanh


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