African American Lives: Austin edition pt 2

Building on the widespread acclaim of African American Lives (2006) and Oprah’s Roots (2007), African American Lives 2 journeys deep into the African-American experience to reveal the triumphs and tragedies within the family histories of an all-new group of remarkable participants. Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. returns as series host, guiding genealogical investigations. Part two airs Sunday, Feb. 22, at 4 p.m.

In conjunction with the rebroadcast of this series, KLRU’s Michael Emery will be blogging about his own genealogical experiences. Here is part one of his journey.

In addition to a great waste of time, the Internet has been a great advancement for genealogy. Consider the way the soc.genealogy newsgroups were adopted by a neat California couple in the 1990s and became Rootsweb.com, operating out of a nondescript Unix box on the floor of a spare room in their house. It got way too big, way too fast for them, so then Ancestry.com bought the rights and consolidated it with their commercial operations, while still maintaining lots of free services for historians and genealogists. It must be the world’s biggest genealogy operation anywhere.

For me, the neatest new thing is Geni.com, which is a social network for families. In the 13 months since I entered my particulars and the immediate family, over 860 other relatives, deceased and living, have been born into this data cloud. In this virtual family tree, I can point to links in Africa and Asia; Europe is still a distant continent, but for how long? Geni remains a free service, which I find truly amazing.

That figure of 860 individuals doesn’t include dozens of family members whom I haven’t yet entered. Also missing is my wife and her large family out of New Orleans. She is averse to sharing the privilege of her genealogy with 860 virtual strangers in affinity because of the fear of somebody stealing her identity. Getting her family to join in on the fun might be a future story for this blog.

I am in the process of watching AFRICAN AMERICAN LIVES 2 right now, and will soon make comments on it.

– Michael Emery

At KLRU, Michael Emery directs Texas Monthly Talks, is a camera operator for Austin City Limits and other productions, and produced Juneteenth Jamboree. He is a former bicycle commuter, currently a car commuter, and aspires to be a bicycle commuter again.