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African Americans trace family history at conference

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Hundreds of people will gather at the Cherry Hill Stake Center in New Jersey this month to learn new techniques for researching African American ancestry and hear from scholars and sponsors in the black genealogical community. In the first ever Mid-Atlantic African American Genealogy Conference, several genealogical resources will come together to share information and expertise on April 19. It really is going to be a very powerful program, said Scott Nesbit, communications director for the conference. In addition to 20 instructional classes, the conference will feature noted speakers including Martin Luther King III, human rights advocate and son of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Nesbit said Kings message of supporting the African American family is in keeping with the aim of the MAAAGC. We see (the conference) as being very pro family… and I think that fits quite comfortably with Mr. Kings efforts, Nesbit said. Sponsored in part by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the conference will feature presentations by geneticist Dr. Rick Kittles, scientific director of African Ancestry Inc.; Reginald Washington, African American genealogy specialist at the National Archives in Washington D.C.; and Khadijah Matin, national president of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society. Because so many African Americans are the descendents of slaves, tracing their family lines to before the 1860s can be especially difficult, Nesbit said. Thats why classes on military and slavery records, along with classes about the Freedmens Bank will be so helpful. Theyll walk away with some additional resources, Nesbit said. (Theyll) be able to overcome obstacles specific to their families.Also present will be a representative from the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation, which uses samples of DNA from living people to trace them to their ancestors the world over. Registration for the event is $10 and can be complete at maaagc.com. The conference is also sponsored by the African American Genealogy Group, Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, The African American Museum in Philadelphia, Chick-fil-A, National Archives and Records Administration Mid-Atlantic Region, and Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation.