Woman Traces Family History Back to Civil War Era

By Ryan Berlin

Tracing your family roots can be a long, expensive, tedious, and frustrating road.
Grace Rollins, 45, of Mt. Pleasant , Michigan , is right in the middle of traveling that road.
Rollins has been able to trace back five generations on both her mother’s side and father’s side of the family. Going beyond that becomes a lot more difficult, because of the type of record keeping in that era and the fact there was slavery in the United States in that time period.
It is hard to get past the 1870 wall.
“Before that, records weren’t necessarily kept. Where we would usually be found is deed documents, as far as property,” she said.
When it comes to record keeping from the 1800s, a big change occurred after the Civil War when the census started recognizing African Americans by name and ethnicity, Rollins said.
Much of her time is spent trying to find first source documentation, birth certificates, Social Security cards, and marriage certificates. None of her searching has come easy.
“When you get that far, you have to start looking at the slave owner’s family versus your own family.”
On her mother’s side, just after slavery was abolished, the family owned land in Arkansas .
Through her search Rollins discovered a cousin she had not known. Her cousin gave her a 67-page land document which revealed that her great-grandmother, who was the daughter of the property owner that deeded the foresting rights to a lumber company, was on the list.
Rollins is planning a trip to South Carolina with her sister to continue their search. She hopes she can trace their roots all the way back to Africa .

Caption: Grace Rollins, 45, of Mt. Pleasant , Michigan , looks through documents she has gathered from tracing her genealogy. Rollins said her interest was sparked by The Genographic Project, started by National Geographic, which is an anthropology study that maps historical human migration patterns by collecting and analyzing DNA samples from hundreds of thousands of people from around the world. “The most amazing thing is tracing and finding how far you can trace back,” she said. Sun Photo by Matthew Stephens