About These Scrapbooks

Page 1

    I began researching my maternal grandmother’s lineage in 1998.  After uncovering her free African-American ancestry that traced all the way back to revolutionary Maryland, I realized the only effective way to share that fascinating story to an ever-expanding base of Brooks cousins was a website, a challenge that I eagerly accepted. In about a year, The Brooks Website, forerunner of The Brooks Scrapbook, was launched and dedicated to that grandmother,  Lily Mae Brooks Whitworth.  By that time, I had become an avid genealogist with an annual subscription to Ancestry.com containing an ambitious, ever-expanding family tree entitled “The Dudleys of Roanoke, Virginia”  that traces all of the families related to my father and mother.   

    Though I considered myself a genealogist, I took a sidebar to research a new interest - the all-black high school from which I graduated in 1961. For a couple of years, my focus became black history, not genealogy, of the extraordinary educational tradition of Roanoke’s only black high school that had existed, a history quietly under-valued, if not unheralded, even after its 1973 closing.  The facts uncovered, the interest level of the Addison family confirmed and the wide dispersal of a natural audience dictated the need for a second website dubbed Lucy Addison High School of Roanoke, Virginia launched in 2005. While the scope of that history was limited to profiling the school, its graduates and its faculty, an obvious and needed book-end, yet another history project, a website celebrating the extraordinary civic contributions of black village elders who operated outside that high school’s hallowed halls, became apparent. Just as the school’s remarkable successes with black education was a story richly deserving public airing, the story of the transformation of Roanoke’s nineteenth century, ex-slave populations into dynamic and viable blue-collar and professional neighborhoods was equally compelling and worthy of its place in the sun.  Soon my third and,  by far, most challenging website was under way. Entitled Roanoke’s African-American Heritage -The First Hundred Years, 1874-1973, this ambitious website attempted to document the history of the city’s progressive and extraordinary black culture that has largely escaped public view by Roanoke’s black and white citizens.

   Repeated interest and questions from other branches of my family created, in my heart, a yearning for Whitworth, Dudley and Sears research and documentation.  Despite all of my maternal grandfather’s tree branches tracing directly to slavery, it turned out that his mother’s line, unknown to me, had already been documented and, incredibly, was in the process of being archived in the Library of Congress. Recorded by the longest-running, consecutive, family reunion tradition in the country, according to the Library of Congress, the Roberts-Borders-Mauney-Howell-Briggs Family Reunion, descendants of that family had been accumulating its rich genealogical record by meeting annually without fail since 1906. In 2005 in Charlotte, North Carolina, at its 100th reunion, Library of Congress representatives announced the addition of that family’s records to its archives. With that history documented and handed to me on a silver platter by new-found cousins, I was able to create a fourth website, The Whitworth Scrapbook that penetrates the brick wall of slavery for entire families going back to the 1790’s.