AfriGeneas Press Kit

What Visitors Have To Say  


My heart started to sing when I logged on this evening. I called my sister and we talked about the info and about you wonderful people who are always willing to help. I want to thank you all again and I ask GOD for blessings on your heads. 

I've been a list member for about six months, and a day does not pass that I don't learn some interesting fact. This piece is one of the best, and most interesting that I've received from AFRIGENEAS. 


That's what makes AfriGeneas a GREAT board, we help each other and advise each other, something the world is lacking. Thanks.

I derived such joy from the willingness of so many to share their knowledge with me. From the responses, I could tell that these were all people who derived great joy from sharing -- and that is the beauty of it all. Nothing is worth having if you can't share it with someone else. All of you will be the inspiration for me to continue my search for "From Whence I Came". Boy, am I glad I discovered AfriGeneas -- its FANTASTIC. 

I stopped counting at 40 responses but there were more. I'm enclosing some of the details that were added. Thanks much!!!!! 

Thank you to everyone here that replied to my cry for help on planning a reunion--I got some wonderful suggestions and ideas-book referrals and web page references and there is a digest on AfrGgeneas that talks about reunions. 

He's been located!!! My grandfather, Thomas Jefferson Penn, has finally been found... Thank you all for the support and insights so far. Without a lot of your suggestions and advice, I'd still be wondering if this man existed. Thanks again.

Thank you! AfriGeneas is my support group. You all have opened so many doors it's incredible!... It's nice to get mail from AfriGeneas and share in everyone's triumphs.

I am an African (Nigerian) happy to come across your website. Lots of people will benefit from this especially our younger generation. This will not only help them in knowing their history and culture, but will help establish a better relationship with Africans. Keep up the good job.

Before you think I did this all on my own, I must tell you about the wonderful African American family genealogists / family historians at who gave me my start with their helpful experienced advice and gave their time to help with census lookups, etc. I remain an active member of the AfriGeneas forums today and give freely back as I continue to volunteer my time to do many lookups or share my experience with the novice. They say you can't keep what you don't give away and I strongly believe it!

About AfriGeneas
more than you ever wanted to know

AfriGeneas is the premiere online destination for anyone conducting African American or African Ancestored genealogical research. The website consists of twenty-seven forums, eight regular chats, the AfriGeneas Mail List and over 100 additional discussion, geographic and surname mailing lists, a surnames database containing over 50,000 records, a death records database containing over 17,000 obituaries and funeral programs, a marriage records database of over 5000 records, a slave records collection of over 3000 records, census schedules, a documents and articles library, rss news feeds and much, much more. 

The AfriGeneas Family Reunion Primer is the top-ranked African American family reunion planning site. 

Part of what makes AfriGeneas so successful is that it is more than a compilation of records, it is a community of researchers, many of whom are experts in their fields. Whether they are genealogy newbies or old hands, what binds them all together, is a willingness to share and to help others achieve their goals of reuniting with the ancestors. Our motto is: “Each one, teach one.”

AfriGeneas is run by a small staff and a dedicated group of volunteers. Webmaster Valencia King Nelson and Site Administrator B.J. Smothers are responsible for the day-to-day operations.


AfriGeneas evolved from a small group of “GeneaBuddies” into the largest African Ancestored genealogy mailing list and from that into the best-known African Ancestored genealogy forums and chats on the internet.

It grew from traditional genealogy to fill a specific need: to assist every researcher with African ancestry to find his roots. In particular, AfriGeneas aims to help researchers to climb the “1870 brick wall” and to reconnect their family trees across the chasm created by slavery and the diaspora. 

AfriGeneas began in the late 1980s on independent Bulletin Board Systems and on Special Interest Groups at Prodigy, Compuserve and America Online. By 1996, the AfriGeneas name had been coined and AfriGeneas consisted of several interconnected services housed at different locations on the internet. The backbone of AfriGeneas was the mailing list hosted by Mississippi State University which had thousands of subscribers. AfriGeneas also had a presence on AOL, in particular with the African American genealogy chats hosted by the Genealogy Forum. There was also a website and an e-newsletter.

The domain was launched in March 1999. 

See "Welcome and Perspective" for further information.

The "AfriGeneas Family" Logo

The AfriGeneas Family pictured in our logo has become synonymous with AfriGeneas. The five generations of a slave family on J.J. Smith's Plantation, Beaufort, South Carolina were captured on film by Civil War photographer Timothy H. O'Sullivan c.1862.

How To Pronounce AfriGeneas

The word AfriGeneas is derived from African American Genealogy Buddies. It's pronounced: A · fri · GEE · nee · as. Hear it spoken.


Main Office:
Valencia King Nelson
1496 Soaring Pointe NE
Marietta, GA 30062

Alabama Office:
B.J. Smothers
322 Union Street
Selma, AL 36701

Rankings and Traffic Statistics

• AfriGeneas averages 1.3 million page views, 225,000 visits and 100,000 unique sites every month. 

• AfriGeneas is Google’s top-ranked site for searches on “African American genealogy”. The AfriGeneas Family Reunion Primer is Google’s top-ranked African American family reunion website. 

• The AfriGeneas front page ( has a Google PageRank of 6/10.

• Alexa’s traffic rankings place in the top 40,000 sites (out of 80 million+) per month. 

• ranks AfriGeneas in the top 60,000 sites.

Selected Awards

• One of Family Tree Magazine’s Best 101 Genealogy Websites for nine years in a row. In 2004, AfriGeneas was named to their Hall of Fame. In 2006, AfriGeneas was designated a “Reader Favorite”.

• Voice of America Website of the Week in February 2006.

• Listed in the New York Public Library’s Best of the Web.

• Named a “Family History Favorite” by, “Best of the Net” by and “One Great Genealogy Site” by

See "Our Awards" for additional information.

Who’s Who at AfriGeneas 

Valencia King Nelson

Valencia King NelsonValencia King Nelson, one of the original founders, is an online genealogy pioneer and the guiding light of AfriGeneas.

Ms. Nelson was a pioneer in launching the development of Black genealogy on the internet. She and a few others visionaries realized that the Bulletin Board System could easily accommodate genealogy. With Ms. Nelson paving the way, the Black genealogy community was born and soon connected researchers from New York to Ohio to points south.

Ms. Nelson is a retired Social Worker who spent most of her professional career at the University of California, Santa Barbara. As an interesting aside, one of her students at UCSB—Steve Case—went on to found AOL, although at the time she admits that she had “no clue” about his future direction and success. Three years ago she received a Lifetime Achievement Award and retired as the Personnel Director of the Genealogy Forum at AOL where she spent more than a decade spearheading the African American Special Interest Group.

Originally from Anniston, Alabama, she now resides in Marietta, Georgia.

B.J. Smothers
Website Administrator

B.J. Smothers is a co-founder of AfriGeneas’ website, She has been its developer and site administrator from its inception in 1999. 

Ms. Smothers has been researching her family history for over 20 years. In 1995 she discovered online genealogy and began transcribing records and sharing them on the internet. She founded African American Census Schedules Online (which is now a part of and African American Cemeteries Online. She became part of the Alabama GenWeb Project in 1996 and has been the coordinator of the Dallas County and Wilcox County sites ever since. Her current projects include the Black Belt DNA Project hosted by Family Tree DNA and co-sponsored by AfriGeneas with the goal of reconnecting Alabama Black Belt families whose ties were torn apart by slavery, the Civil War and the Diaspora.

Ms. Smothers was reared in Queens, NY and lived in Atlanta, GA for 20 years. She currently resides in Selma, AL. She is a former banker, urban planner, historic preservation consultant and antiques shop owner. She is the founder and President of the Black Belt African American Genealogical and Historical Society headquartered in Selma.  

Eric Thomas
Mail List and Help Desk Coordinator

Eric Thomas manages the main AfriGeneas mailing lists at and 100-plus surname and geographic mail lists on the Yahoo and AfriGeneas servers. He keeps the meeting rooms and chat center functioning and user friendly and is a co-manager of the AfriGeneas Genealogy Technology forum.

Eric Thomas became actively involved in genealogy in the early 1980's. He began frequenting genealogy BBSes and about 1990 he became a regular visitor to Tracks, a BBS that that Valencia King Nelson operated out of Anniston, AL. He has been affiliated with AfriGeneas and its precursors ever since. In addition to his work with AfriGeneas, Mr. Thomas is a founding member and past two term president of the Sacramento African American Genealogy Group (SAAGG). 

Originally from Philadelphia, he now lives in Sacramento, CA. He is twice retired from careers as a computer programmer and from the Sacramento Fire Department. 

Angela Walton-Raji
Senior Editor

Angela Walton-RajiAngela Walton-Raji is a well-known and respected expert in African American and African-Native genealogy. She was the long-time moderator of the African American and African-Native genealogy chats at AOL and currently co-hosts the Tuesday night chats at She is also the manager of AfriGeneas’ African-Native American forum.

Ms. Walton-Raji, the author of several books including Black Indian Genealogy Research: African American Ancestors Among the Five Civilized Tribes, a guide to researching the 20,000 Freedmen of the Indian Territory, has researched her family history for more than a quarter of a century. In 1991, she found her family records among those of the Choctaw Nation then discovered that her great grandparents were African slaves of Choctaw Indians, and that her ancestors were among several thousand Africans who were enslaved by Native Americans, including those who migrated west on the Trail of Tears.

Ms. Walton-Raji has spent more than twenty years in higher education recruitment. She currently resides in Baltimore, Maryland where she is the Director of Graduate School Recruitment at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. 

See "AfriGeneas Staff" for additional personnel.

See also "Books by AfriGeneas Members".

Representative News Articles

Wilmington (NC) Star-News -- 31 Jul 2006
The flower child: It's a tradition many have forgotten, but the spirit of young girls bringing bouquets to the dead lives on in a few congregations

WNCV-TV (Raleigh, NC) – 6 Mar 2006
Researching Your Family Tree

Salon Magazine – 21 Feb 2006
Jim Crow and The Indians

The Journal News (Westchester, NY) – 17 Feb 2006
At 100, she's living history

USA Today – 1 Feb 2006
DNA rewrites history for African-Americans

The New York Times – 25 Jul 2005
Blacks Pin Hope on DNA to Fill Slavery's Gaps in Family Trees

Black Enterprise – Jun 2005
In black face: the good, the bad, and the ugly is the history of her collection

Selected Sites that Link to AfriGeneas

Family Tree Magazine
PBS (Frontline, Ken Burns’ Civil War, African American World)
African American Historical and Genealogical Society
Arlington (VA) Department of Libraries
Auburn University Libraries
Birmingham (AL) Public Library
Brooklyn (NY) Historical Society
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
Cornell University Library
District of Columbia Public Library
Howard University Libraries
Internet Public Library
Librarians’ Internet Index
New York State Library
River Valley Middle School (Jeffersonville, IN)
Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center
Stanford University Libraries
Tampa Bay (FL) History Center
Tuscaloosa (AL) Public Library
Williamsburg (VA) Regional Library
Winnipeg (CAN) Public Library
York University (Toronto, CAN) Department of History

17 Aug 2006 :: 24 Jun 2008
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AfriGeneas ~ African Ancestored Genealogy