Black History and Freedom: Cheryl Wills’ 3 Tips on Building a Family Tree

Black History and Freedom: Cheryl Wills’ 3 Tips on Building a Family Tree

Guest Post by Cheryl Wills, NY1 News Anchor and author of Emancipated, My Family’s Fight for Freedom and The Emancipation of Grandpa Sandy Wills

“No matter who you are or where you come from, knowing your story is powerful”
– Cheryl Wills

My life was forever changed when I researched my ancestors and learned that my great-great-great grandfather, Sandy Wills, was a runaway slave that fought for freedom during the Civil War. It’s a discovery that makes me proud every day.

Here are some tips to get your students started on their family trees. These tips are a great way to get kids started on an independent historical inquiry that can spark a passion for research that they never knew they had:

  1. Talk to your family members or guardians! Parents, guardians, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins are your starting points. Ask them what the know about your family tree. Even rumors can be useful. Organize your family’s information in a useful way:
    • Person’s name
    • Photographs
    • Place and date of birth and death
    • Where he or she lived
    • Jobs he or she held
    • Hobbies, special interests, awards, etc.
    • Major events in his or her life
  2. Collect family records, including marriage and death certificates, diplomas, photographs, letters, postcards, and personal items
  3. Share your findings with other members of your family by email or a blog

A whole child approach ensures that each student is healthy, safe, engaged, supported and challenged.

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