Deep family roots will be the topic of three public, Nebraska-hosted events featuring award-winning genealogist and author Bernice Alexander Bennett.
Bennett, a New Orleans native and resident of Maryland, enjoyed a 35-year career in domestic and international health before becoming a genealogist. Now she focuses on helping others discover their genealogical health. Bennett has documented her African American roots in the Orleans, St. Helena and Livingston parishes of Louisiana, as well as the Edgefield and Greenwood counties of South Carolina.
“I had just an opportunity to … trace my grandmother all the way back to slavery — her family back to slavery, and to meet the slave owners’ descendants,” Bennett said on the show “The Takeaway.”
A family photo of her ancestors led to a rich discovery of papers that recorded the sale of her great-great-grandfather Andrew for $288.
Bennett will speak at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 16 at Omaha’s Lauritzen Gardens, part of an event co-sponsored with the Center for Great Plains Studies. Eric Ewing, director of the Great Plains Black History Museum, will open the event. The event is free, but registration is strongly encouraged. Bennett will also speak at Gere Library in Lincoln at 2 p.m. Aug. 14 and at Homestead National Historical Park near Beatrice at 2 p.m. Aug. 15.
“Mrs. Bennett’s work is a clear example of the power of oral history and acting upon that information to find the corresponding documents,” said Mikal Brotnov Eckstrom, project director for the Black Homesteader Project at the Center for Great Plains Studies. “Genealogical history is one of many unspoken freedoms that many formerly enslaved Americans could not enjoy.”
The Black Homesteader Project is a multi-year endeavor started by Richard Edwards, director emeritus of the center. The project rebuilds the histories of Black communities in Nebraska, Kansas, South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico, and has received support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, National Park Service and 400 Years of African American History Fund, among others.
Bennett speaks widely on genealogy and most recently published “Tracing Their Steps: A Memoir.” The book received the Next Generations Indie Award in 2021 for the African American (Non-Fiction) book category and was a semifinalist in 2021 for a Winning Writers book award. She also hosts the podcast “Research at the National Archives and Beyond” on Blog Talk Radio.