Today we look at a massive family tree that traced the history of one Black family for generations and generations: the Blackwell Family Tree.

There are actually three of these large-scale canvases, which are considered folk art as well as genealogy projects.

All of them started with Thelma Doswell.

She was a schoolteacher from Washington DC who became the first Black board-certified genealogist.

When she started researching her family’s history in the 1950s and 60s, the conventional wisdom was that there was not enough of a paper trail to put together a tree for a Black family.

Doswell proved that wisdom wrong, going through every possible document to find every bit of information she could about her ancestors.

And at the annual Blackwell family reunion, she gave everybody questionnaires to fill out, to tap into family history that had been passed down from generation to generation.

Doswell was able to trace her family’s history back to a woman named Amar in 1735.

Amar had been enslaved and shipped from Senegal in west Africa to Yorktown, Virginia, along with her daughter, Tabitha.

The two were separated, and Tabitha later married an enslaved man named Jack.

Over decades, Doswell added thousands of names to the Blackwell family tree.

Perhaps the best known name is Arthur Ashe, who’s listed as “Tennis Champion – World.”

But Doswell found and shared the stories of the lesser-known Blackwell relatives as well.

In researching their lives and making them a part of her family history, she showed other people interested in genealogy that you could trace Black families’ roots back through the years.

Her family trees have been digitized, so they can be shared with genealogists all over the world.

The original canvases are now in the collections of several East Coast museums, including the Library of Congress.

The reputation of these trees just keeps on growing.

Starting this Saturday in Fairbanks, Alaska, it’s the World Ice Art Championships.

Some artists will sculpt their masterpieces out of a block of ice – but others will take part in the Multi Block Classic – which is when artists use NINE blocks of ice to make enormous installations.

A family reaches back to reclaim its history  (QCity Metro) 

Blackwell-Ashe Family Tree to Take Root in Richmond (Richmond Magazine)

World Ice Art Championships

Help us tell more stories like this one as a backer on Patreon

Photo by Mark Gunn via Flickr/Creative Commons