february 2020

202013feb1:00 pm3:00 pmGenealogy Methods - The Ganges Families History Project by Michael Kearney


Event Details

Which is not to suggest, as is too often done, that historical truth is never to be attained, in any of its aspects. With this kind of truth, as with all others, the problem is the same: one errs more or less. (Marguerite Yourcenar, Memoirs of Hadrian).

In July 1800, the USS Ganges, patrolling off the coast of Cuba, seized two American slaving vessels and sent them to Philadelphia as prizes. There, the enslaved Africans aboard were freed by the U.S. District Court, given the surname Ganges and indentured out to masters and mistresses in the Philadelphia area. This incident poses a host of questions, both historical and genealogical (although these are really just two aspects of the same thing):

  1. What happened to the Ganges?
  2. Who was responsible for their enslavement and rescue, and what happened to them?

Answering these questions had required research in a broad variety of records well beyond the usual census, vital and probate records (although these are useful, too): court records, military records, legal records across multiple repositories on three continents. The talk will highlight some of the most interesting questions answered to-date in what has become a multi-year research effort.

Michael Kearney, PhD, is currently a volunteer at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and a member of the planning committee of the Main Line Genealogical Society. He took up these duties following a 44 year career managing large-scale information system projects at the University of Pennsylvania. He has been an active genealogical researcher for more than 25 years and has had work published in the New England Historical and Genealogical Register and the New York Genealogical and Biographical Record. His latest work, The Annotated World War I Diaries of Captain George F. Kearney, is now available on Amazon Books.  He will be discussing his most recent effort: The Ganges Families History Project ( thegangesfamilies.com )

Handout (sources)


(Thursday) 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm


Easttown Library & Information Center

720 First Ave, Berwyn, PA 19312

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