RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – In cities and countries all over the world, people from different walks of life are taking a similar journey...back in time. Trying to better understand their present lives, by researching the lives of their ancestors.
Genealogy research is a growing pastime ----- played out on TV with NBC's popular show, "Who Do You Think You Are?" The Library of Virginia helps answer that question for a lot of people, including a very familiar local leader.
"It's a sense of finding one's place, one's origins," said Viola Baskerville. "It's wonderfully fulfilling to be able to trace your family history."
Former Richmond Vice-Mayor, House Delegate and Cabinet Secretary Viola Baskerville spent years in public office and decades scouring public records researching her family roots; much of that time at the Library of Virginia.
"The Library of Virginia has been a great help in locating specific Virginia property records, land records, maps and names of individuals," she told us.
Baskerville says it her search started with a "name" she got from her mother…
"What is the name of the oldest relative or ancestor you can remember? We were given a name that was very unusual Corbin Braxton. I found out about the 1870 and the 1880 census and started looking up family groups," she said. "The first big find was to find my grandfather in a family group."
Grandparents Charles and Ellen Braxton were married 50 years and had 13 children.
"They said they were married in 1836 that was before the end of slavery. I had to look at birth certificates, death certificates. I spent a lot of time here looking at microfilm," Baskerville told us.
She traced her Braxton roots to slave owners in King William County. She found long lost ancestor.
"We've been able to locate Corbin Braxton in the 1866 register of freedmen that was mandated by the Virginia General Assembly. He was a slave, but died a freed man."
Baskerville's tireless search has taken her beyond the boundaries of North America. Genetic testing linked her to a nation and culture in western Africa.
"DNA over the years takes my ancestry line thru my mother back to Nigeria and the Iboo," she said.
Baskerville says her quest continues. She warns genealogical research can be laborious, with roadblocks along the way.
"Sometimes records are in very unusual places, think outside the box, where else could some document be," Baskerville explained.
The rewards she says are well worth the search.
"The name is what started me on a search over 30 years ago and helped me uncover almost 500 ancestors," she said.