NAPAC links families for reunion

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 8, 2007

NATCHEZ — Family reunions are about fun, friends and remembering heritage. But for the families whose heritage stems from Pine Ridge and Church Hill, there was an added bonus Saturday.

Members of these families united at the Natchez Association for the Preservation of Afro-American Culture, some coming from as far away as Mexico and California.

“All of these people are coming together to celebrate their rich heritage and what they have found out about their genealogy,” said Darrell S. White of the NAPAC Museum. “They have outlined their lineage and are here to share it.”

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Extremely long pieces of white paper stretched out across multiple tables had family trees on them that ranged back to the 1700s.

“We have been researching and documenting our lineage since 1982,” said Estella Person Akalonu, of the Fowler family. “We know our family and they came from Pine Ridge and Church Hill.”

William Thomas Person is Estella’s brother and although he was unable to attend the eye-opening event he was there in spirit because he and his wife were the ones who started the long trail down family history road.

The number of names on each list linked the people in the museum to could easily have impressed even the most avid historians. Person even said she recounted the history of her family using DNA research to show that they originally came from the Fulani tribe of Northern Nigeria.

“My great-great grandmother was owned by Col. James Wood who was part of the first colonies in Maryland,” Person said.

Person is a member of the Fowler family and proud of it. At the event a total of 12 different families had used their name and research to outline their true family lineage and all of them found that it lead back to Pine Ridge and Church Hill.

Launa Nash was presenting her findings on the Harris and McNealy families.

“It is fascinating to connect with family members and come to a place were they once lived,” Nash said.

“Each time we do this we bring more people who never even knew they were part of the family.”

At 3 p.m. today at Saint Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church there will be a celebration to end the reunion.