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New genealogy program debuts at Brazos Valley African American Museum

Posted at 8:45 PM, May 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-09 21:45:41-04

BRYAN, Texas — When sixth-grade math teacher Fabi Payton was looking to start the nonprofit I Heart Bryan, she was seeking inspiration in the form of local history.

When she strolled into the Brazos Valley African American Museum for the first time, she had an epiphany about Aggieland’s black history.

“It was just wonderful to see the human relationships and inter-connectedness in times of struggle," Payton said. "There was love in hate, unity in division, joy in misery, and there was just so much to learn.”

Payton, who is of black and Italian heritage, has long seen the importance of local history, and of tracing one’s personal history. In the near future, she plans to bring her husband, whose roots are in Burleson county’s black community, to a new program being offered by the museum: the Pruitt-Sadberry Genealogy Family History Search.

Using the new computers and online databases with help from a volunteer, museum board member Barry Davis has just finally uncovered the identity of his great grandfather.

“Basically his name was Wilkes, and that was his first name. His last name was Whitfield," Davis said. "For a living, he worked in the produce area, and he drove the wagon.”

The program was conceived as a shared goal between museum leadership and the local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Inspired by the legacy left by museum founders, volunteers from within and outside the church will now help members of the community research their family lineage.

“It’s a myth that it’s hard for African Americans to research," Davis said. "It’s hard for everybody! And so this program we’re going to be offering at the museum is for everybody.”

The program is open to people of all ethnicities and backgrounds, with the goal of building a clearer picture of Brazos Valley's history.

“I want my husband to have answers, and I want my kids to have answers," Payton said. "Both my husband’s parents were from here, and we don’t have many answers.”

Those interested can sign up for free appointments with the program starting Tuesday. The first appointments at the museum will be open for Saturday. For more information, and to sign up, visit the following link:

Brazos Valley African American Museum (bvaam.org)