Knowing VS Believing

Chapter 2: “Brick Wall of Slavery”

When it comes to genealogy, you either have:

  • thought about this issue yourself,
  • know somebody who’s dealt with it, or
  • hit this brick wall yourself

The “Brick wall of Slavery” is a genealogy concept that suggests a so-called “Black” person will eventually hit a brick wall once they reach the 1870's.

This phenomenon exists because 1870 was the first US Census that included slaves by first and last name.

Any census record before 1870 didn’t include this level of detail for slaves.

As a result, so-called “Black” people tracing their ancestry can’t take advantage of:

  • data from census records,
  • birth/death certificates or
  • military records before 1870

Hence why it’s called a “brick wall.”

This “brick wall effect” compounds due to a horrible period called the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

All knowledge of their generations became lost due to the buying and selling of their ancestors.

Indeed, this is tragic.

But what if there’s a way to break through the brick wall (or avoid the wall altogether)?

What if there IS a more efficient, faster way to find out what part (or parts) of Africa you are from–

And settle this issue in your life once and for all.

There is.

“How?” you ask.

We’ll show you later on if you like.

BUT, to understand how, you need to understand the general methods most used to get to their roots.

There are a few ways, in general, to approach finding what parts of Africa you’re from:

Most start from themselves (you) and work backward to their ancestral homelands.

– The “Now-to-Then” method.

This method is the general genealogy process.

The Problems with Genealogy

1. You start with yourself and what you know

You begin to build that family tree.

This step means writing down as many:

  • names,
  • relationships,
  • dates and places of birth,
  • marriages, and
  • deaths that you know

You have to ask yourself these questions first.

A LOT of questions.

Where were your mother or father born?

What hospital?

What about your grandparents? Great Grandparents?

Some so-called “Black” families have this information readily available.

But the majority don’t - hence they are searching for their history in the first place.

Many don’t even know who their father is.

This fact is saddening – and adds even more to why the thought of finding your roots feels nearly impossible.

Either way, this also means talking to your relatives.

What do they know?

What family stories do they have to add to what you know?




But the most crucial part here leads to the next general step in the genealogy process:

2. Decide what your research goals are

For so-called “Black” people, this goal is to get a “direct connection back to their homeland.”

They want to find what part of Africa they are from.

And then the next phase:

3. Research. Research. Research

The most direct approach to this means sticking to your mother and father, grandparent, great grandparent, and so on.

These are the people directly responsible for you being here in the physical.

Siblings, cousins, aunts, and uncles are good too, but they often add to the complexity.

You’ll understand this much more clearly in the fourth chapter of this series.

Once you set the overall goal, then you have to identify all the pieces missing.

And you can’t just add a person to your family tree.

Every person added has to be verified at some point by a record:

  • birth certificate,
  • death certificate,
  • military record,
  • marriage license,
  • divorce record,
  • US census report, etc.

This meticulous process is all a part of the research – which at first is usually exciting, but then it gets hard.

Extremely hard.

And the doubt kicks in.

And the issue of lack of time piles on.

And then there's the costs – this process has many unknown costs associated with it.

We’ll touch more on the costs in a bit.

But all this (and more) begins to take its toll, usually within the first 3 or 4 generations for so-called “Black” people.

It’s a painful process.

It’s time-consuming.

If you DIY (Do It Your Self) - on average, it’ll take 5 - 10 hours a week.

The idea of doing it on your off time isn’t realistic for 99% of so-called “black” people.

They’re too busy dealing with life in general to have the extra free time required.

4. There is no end in sight

And this process takes months, years, and likely decades to reach your goal.

Don't take our word for it.

Here’s a quote from Crista Cowan, a Corporate Genealogists for

“I cringe every time someone says their genealogy is “all done. I’m a professional genealogist. I’ve been doing this for decades.”

“I can only prove out 36% of the people responsible for my existence in the last 300 years. That means that 64% of my ancestry for that same time period is completely unknown to me.”

And to add to it, Cowan is of Jewish ancestry.

She’s not facing the “brick wall of slavery” that the so-called “Black” man or woman is.

If she understands the enormous time commitment of genealogy, why shouldn’t you?

And even if you can find a way to make that time, there are still other significant factors.

The eventuality of errors is a significant factor to consider.

This list of concerns is why many may hire a professional genealogist.

And here’s where the costs come into play.

5. Genealogy gets expensive (quickly)

Hiring a professional at ranges from $2,500 and up!

And you remember the documents required to verify?

Many documents aren’t available online. Which means you have to order a copy.

These hidden costs add up for each member of your family tree.

And if you are taking the DIY approach, you have to travel and get documents yourself.

This additional travel means added flight and hotel costs.

Possibly time off work.

A hired professional can probably call someone in their network and get it done for you.

But you STILL have to pay for the document.

And remember, when it comes to hiring a professional, the ultimate problem still stands.

You still have to BELIEVE the results they provide to you.

You haven’t done the research yourself, so you’ll still have to verify what they tell you.

REMEMBER: The core issue is about KNOWING VS Believing.

You can’t merely trust genealogy research to tell you what parts of Africa you’re from.

There are too many missing pieces and hurdles to overcome.

Plus, the approach of working from “now-to-then” makes it most subject to the “Brick Wall of Slavery.”

So even for a professional Genealogist, tracing the ancestry of so-called “Black” or “African American” people proves to be an impossible task…

But there is another way...

Instead of starting from the present and working backward, do the reverse.

In essence, this is what we will soon show you in the near future.

It avoids the “Brick wall” altogether and exposes it as a myth... . .

But what about DNA Ancestry tests?

Don’t they get over the “Brick Wall” of slavery?

On the surface, it appears so.

For many, DNA ancestry is a passionate topic.

We at AMEXEM know this first hand from past experiences we’ve had at the mere mention of ancestry tests.

Experiences we’re ready to talk about in the next chapter.