I was thrilled to present at RootsTech Connect 2021, the world’s largest family history technology conference which attracted over one million attendees globally. I shared a session on Helping African Americans Trace Slaveholding Ancestors Using DNA. I outlined my four-step approach developed over years of genealogy experience: create a family tree; talk with family members; use research to extend your tree; and leverage extensive DNA testing. Learn how I used this approach to uncover that my third great grandfather Henry Johnston, born enslaved in Catawba, North Carolina in 1848, was the son of an enslaved woman named Milly and her slaveowner John Smyre Jr. whose family emigrated from Germany to North Carolina in the early 18th century. Watch my session below.


April 1 is Census Day.

The United States 2020 Census kicked off this year and will conclude when the census bureau delivers a final report to the President by December. The US government has conducted the census every 10 years since 1790 in order to accurately count the US population, apportion representation in Congress and inform funding for citizen services.

For genealogists, census records represent a vital information source for family history research. They provide valuable details on our ancestors and if examined over time can reveal a family’s story over many generations. …


This blog is a celebration of my mother Ann and her family namesakes in commemoration of Women’s History Month.

My mother was named after her grandmother Annie and her great-great grandmother Sarah Ann. My mother’s life as a parent and educator fully realizes the hopes and dreams of the Anns who came before her.

Ann Richards Kearns was born and raised in the segregated city of Suffolk, Virginia. She graduated from all-black East Suffolk High School as the class Salutatorian and then integrated Randolph Macon Women’s College in Lynchburg, VA, majoring in math. Upon graduation she married my father, a…


The Republican Party of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina hosted a convention on Saturday April 12, 1884 to appoint delegates to the State convention. The scene that unfolded that day at the Mecklenburg county courthouse was utterly chaotic, and my great-great-great grandfather W.B. Harvell stood in the middle of it all.

The chaos was born of warring political factions attending the convention. The black “town” faction from Charlotte battled the black “country” faction from rural Mecklenburg County. Both black factions challenged established white party leadership for power. Moles from the Democratic party undermined black political allegiance to the Republican party.

The…


I enjoy genealogy because it takes me on new life adventures and experiences. This year it led me to an exciting guest appearance on the reality show Relative Race.

Relative Race airs on BYUtv and is in its sixth season. Contestants race across the country on a 10-day adventure in search of relatives they have never met, in hopes they will reach the finish line first and win a $50,000 grand prize.

Here’s how I was contacted for the show. My family and I have tested with multiple DNA services that offer online accounts which I check regularly for new…


Seventy-five years ago, my grandfather James Doc Richards was one of 73,000 U.S. troops to land on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. I know this because he told me so.

About a year before my grandfather passed away, he came to visit with me. I took the day off and we spent it together. Over lunch, he shared stories of participating in the Normandy invasion. He said he would never forget the sound of bullets whizzing by his helmet, the sights of death, the utter chaos. He also reflected on the sting of serving in a segregated United States…


On Sunday, May 20th Morehouse College commencement speaker Robert F. Smith made news by committing to pay off all student loans for the entire graduating class. Morehouse is a historically black, all-male liberal arts college located in Atlanta, Georgia. Its 2019 class is made up of 396 students, who combined owe between $10 and $40 million in student loans.

Smith’s extraordinary act of generosity has set the world on fire and sparked a debate on how to improve college affordability for all. I felt privileged to be present as he made history. …


Last week the genealogy company Ancestry stopped airing a TV ad titled “Inseparable” after receiving an avalanche of criticism on social media for romanticizing slavery. The ad depicts a white man in the pre-civil war south urging an enslaved black woman named Abigail to escape north with him.

Screen grab of the “Inseparable” ad

I have been reflecting on this controversy and want to share my sentiments on the “Inseparable” ad as an advanced Ancestry user who has endorsed the company’s products and services to many African American friends and family members who have come to me seeking guidance.

Over the past few days I have…


Successful genealogy research starts with goal setting. After all, how can you effectively uncover your family history if you have not defined the questions you want to answer? So at the beginning of each year I establish a set of family history research goals for myself.

I have been researching my family history for many years now, so breakthroughs are harder for me to achieve. …


On sunny winter day this past February at a storage facility near Suffolk, VA, my cousin Betty entrusted me with a precious family gift, an original drawing of my great-great-great grandfather Exum White. My intention was to hang it in my home, just as cousin Betty had done in hers for many years, but first I wanted to make sure I conserved it.

My cousin Betty was kind enough to entrust this original crayon drawing of my great-great-great grandfather Exum White with me. It originally hung in the home of my great-great grandmother Martha White Richards.

The portrait is a crayon enlargement of an original photo my third great grandfather took with his brothers around the turn of the twentieth century. It is part of a hand-coloring tradition that traces back to the…

Andre Kearns

Blogging on Race, Culture, History and Genealogy.

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