African-Americans unearth family histories via new technology

Like so many others, Patricia Watts longed to find out more about her family history.

For several years, she searched databases and made numerous trips to local libraries to research her family tree. It was during an exhaustive search of her mother’s side of the family that she received an unexpected gift.

A New York-based historical society contacted Detroit genealogist Dale Rich, looking for the Detroit family of decorated former slave John W. Jones. Searching government records, Rich discovered Watts is a descendent of Jones, who was responsible for helping to lead more than 850 slaves to safety through Elmira, N.Y. He was her great-great-grandfather on her father’s side.

“I’m so excited,” says Watts of Detroit. “I know (my dad) would have been happy if he had known about this.”

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