Decoding My Own Thoughts:

Spotlight on the 1870 Brick Wall

I feel like my mind is blank...
When really, it's so jumbled with thought
It can't find its baring,
Thought after thought piled higher and deeper
Merging into a homogeneous blob
Until one thought is another thought
And I'm confused--
Am I full or empty?
High alert: my brain wants to decipher
Some internal code I've created
But I've forgotten the password to my own mind,
Locked it away so I'm locked out
Barred from entry
Lost in my own sanctuary.

The Trouble of Tracing Lineage in African-American Families

Known as the 1870 brick wall, the census of 1870 is a critical point for black/African-Americans researching their roots. Prior to 1870, slaves were not recorded by name, thus making it difficult to locate information on these ancestors. Since many families did not initially relocate after the civil war, the 1870 census is the best and only place for descendants of slaves to begin tracing their family roots [1]. The 1870 census was the first census in America to include freed slaves by name, previous censuses listed only ages and gender making them impossible to glean information from. While many believe that using a surname to trace the final slaveholder of an ancestor to find records, an estimated 20% are all that adopted the slaveholder's surname as their own [2]. The progress of the internet has led to various cites and more availability to documents pertaining to genealogy as well as in increase in interest. Some of us may never find those missing pieces, but that doesn't mean we can't continue to search.


  1. msualumni. "The Criticality of the 1870 Census". Reclaiming Kin. May 27, 2013
  2. "The 1870 Brick Wall". Low Country Africa; visited February 2014
  3. Kenyatta D. Berry. "Slave Ancestral Research". PBS; visited January 2018

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