Finding My Black Ancestors
June 1987

“Finding My Black Ancestors,” Ensign, June 1987, 54

Finding My Black Ancestors

Soon after my conversion to the LDS Church, I received my patriarchal blessing. In it I was counseled to do my genealogy work. This surprised me, for as a black person I had always thought that pursuing genealogy would be hopeless. Slaves were only recorded as nameless property. How could I possibly find the records of my ancestors?

But although I didn’t have the experience, time, or funds that Alex Haley had, I did have a patriarchal blessing that encouraged me to uncover my personal roots and see that my ancestors’ temple work was done. So I began.

After months of dead ends, one night I had a dream. In the dream, a photograph of my great-great-grandmother that hangs on our living room wall was lifted down and handed to me. I had already searched in vain for her records. Yet the dream was so vivid that the following day I stared urgently at the photograph, wondering what it held for me and why it had appeared to me in the dream.

Many times that day I returned to the picture. Slowly, but firmly, I received the impression that I should write to the Mississippi archives for information. It didn’t seem logical, but I followed the impulse.

One week later I received the copy of a particular census that verified my great-great-grandmother’s birth and gave me all the information I needed. I now look forward to performing the saving ordinances for her in the Atlanta Temple.

I used to look at that photograph in my living room and see only my great-great-grandmother. Now that picture reminds me that when I felt that finding information about my ancestors was impossible, a way was shown to me.

  • Carol Batey, a homemaker, is a member of the Nashville (Tennessee) First Ward.

  • Brad Wilcox, a teacher and lecturer, serves as a Primary teacher in the Provo Fiftieth Ward, Provo Utah Grandview Stake.