Discover Your Roots with DNA

Source: DNA Testing Advisor ( Access on May 18, 2017

Discover Your Roots
with an African DNA Test

African Outline

Many African Americans and others are using an African DNA test to get answers about their ethnic ancestry.

Typical questions include the following:

  • How much of my genetic heritage is African?
  • What regions of Africa do my ancestors come from?
  • Where does the remainder of my heritage come from?
  • Is my African ancestry from my father’s lineage or my mother’s?
  • Do my physical features reflect African ancestry or something else?

Fortunately, there are several reasonably-priced African DNA tests that answer these and other questions about one’s ethnic ancestry.

The tests all use home test kits and sample collection is easy and painless. Depending on which company you use, you might wipe some cells from inside your cheek with a little swab or spit some saliva into a tube. No blood is required.

Here are my top seven recommendations for anyone interested in an African DNA test.

1. Ancestry DNA

AncestryDNA recently rose to the top of this list. Both men and women can take the test and it will identify other people in the database who share common ancestors with you. It is an autosomal test similar in technology to Family Finder and 23andMe, discussed below.

The test includes an Ethnicity Estimate that summarizes the percentage contributions of different regions of the world to your overall ancestry. That estimate now breaks African Ancestry into nine regions:

  • Africa North
  • Senegal
  • Ivory Coast / Ghana
  • Benin / Togo
  • Cameroon / Congo
  • Mali
  • Nigeria
  • Africa Southeast Bantu
  • Africa South-Central Hunter-Gatherers

This is the first widely recognized, legitimate DNA test to provide this detailed a breakdown of African ancestry

2. Family Finder, which includes Population Finder

Family Finder is an autosomal DNA test from Family Tree DNA. It’s widely used by genealogists, including those interested in African American genealogy.

The company will compare your DNA against a database of other users to find genetic matches. Most often these genetic matches will be cousins, having a common ancestor with you somewhere in the last five or so generations.

By emailing your matches you can connect with previously unknown relatives and learn much more about your family tree.

As part of the Family Finder test, you receive a myOrigins report, formerly called Population Finder, where the company compares your DNA with over 60 reference populations from around the world. This is a biogeographical analysis of the DNA you received from ALL of your ancestors.

The African part of your DNA may place you in any of four sub continental groups based on similarities to certain scientifically studied populations. The groups and populations are as follows:

  • Central African: Biaka Pygmy, Mbuti Pygmy
  • East African: Bantu (Kenya)
  • Southern African: Bantu (South Africa), San
  • West African: Mandenka, Yoruba

Very few people outside Africa are 100% African. Population Finder will classify the remaining portion of your ancestry using other populations.

3. Y-DNA Test at Family Tree DNA

Family Tree DNA also offers a Y-DNA test, which tracks your paternal line. Since only men have a Y-chromosome, only men can take this test. But women can still test a man from their paternal line, e.g. a brother, a father, a brother of your father, or a son of your father’s brother.

Like Family Finder, this test finds genetic matches who share a common ancestor. But with the Y-DNA test you know the common ancestor has to be a male in the direct paternal line like your father’s father’s father etc.

The Y-DNA test will also predict a man’s Y-DNA haplogroup. And many haplogroups are clearly tied to origins in sub-Saharan Africa. This is the real indicator of your paternal line’s ethnic ancestry.

TIP: If you’re interested in finding genetic matches, you should order the Y-DNA 37 test, which checks 37 markers. But if you’re only interested in determining your haplogroup, you only need 12 markers. I suggest you go to Family Tree DNA and look for the combination package of Family Finder plus Y-DNA 12. The combo price is an excellent buy.

If you later decide that you want to discover your precise position in the Y-DNA tree of life, you can upgrade to more markers or even order a Deep Clade test. That will tell you exactly which subclade of your haplogroup you’re in. In many cases this can tighten the geographic origins of your paternal line.

4. mtDNA Test at Family Tree DNA

Both men and women have mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) to test. But only women pass it on to their children. So mtDNA is the test to track your maternal line. That’s your mother’s mother’s mother etc.

As with the test described previously, you will probably see matches with other users. But mtDNA mutates so slowly that your common ancestors may have lived thousands of years ago. That makes mtDNA less useful than Y-DNA as a genealogy tool.

Still, mtDNA also has a haplogroup that relates directly to the origins of your maternal line. And some of those are clear indicators of African origin.

5. 23andMe Which Includes Ancestry Composition

23andMe is another autosomal DNA test like Family Finder. This test can also serve as an African DNA test, because it has an Ancestry Composition feature that tells you what parts of the world your ancestors lived a few hundred years ago.

This admixture report is similar to the Population Finder feature of the Family Finder test. It reports on African Ancestry from these three regions:

  • West African
  • East African
  • Central and South African

However, if you also test at least one of your parents on 23andMe, this test can split your ancestral percentages into your paternal and maternal sides.

23andMe also has a DNA Relatives feature that’s similar to Family Finder and it will estimate your Y-DNA and mtDNA haplogroups. So if you want to cover all your bases—then the 23andMe test can be a great value as an African DNA test.

6. Y-DNA and mtDNA Testing at African DNA

Harvard University Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. was a pioneer in African DNA testing. He founded African DNA to encourage more African Americans to get their DNA tested.

The company offers a Y-DNA test of 25 markers and an mtDNA test like the mtDNA Plus test at Family Tree DNA. In fact, Family Tree DNA is affiliated with the company and does their DNA testing.

Now they can also offer the Family Finder test that they renamed Ancestry Finder.

Note that African DNA only offers one paternal line Y-DNA test and one maternal line mtDNA test. They do not offer additional Y-DNA markers, the Full Mitochondrial Sequence (FMS) test, or Deep Clade testing. You need to order those tests directly from Family Tree DNA.

The African DNA web site does have more content specific to African DNA testing than any of the more general DNA testing companies. So I encourage anyone looking for an African DNA test to visit the site and learn all you can.

Uniquely, African DNA does offer some higher priced packages that combine DNA testing with genealogy research to build your family tree.

For most African-Americans there are no genealogical records prior to the 1870 census, when last names of former slaves began to be recorded. If you want someone to build a few generations of your family tree, however, this is an option to consider.

MONEY-SAVING TIP: If you’re not ordering a package with genealogy research, be sure to recheck Family Tree DNA to compare prices before placing an order with African DNA. At the time of this writing, you can order the same Y-DNA and mtDNA tests directly through Family Tree DNA for significantly less money.

7. Y-DNA and mtDNA Testing at African Ancestry

African Ancestry is another company that specifically features African DNA tests. Like the companies above, they check your Y-DNA and mtDNA to determine your paternal and maternal lineages. Since their web site does not provide details of either test, I cannot compare them.

Unlike Family Tree DNA, they do not keep a database of customer results, so you will not receive any matches to people with similar DNA. Since the company does not have an autosomal test like Family Finder and 23andMe, it cannot provide any admixture percentages. You won’t learn anything about ancestors outside your narrow paternal and maternal lines.

I found some interesting data on the web site. Even though this site specifically attracts people of African descent, 35% of the paternal line tests show European ancestry. Much of that non-African DNA was introduced into the family tree during the era of slavery. In addition, 8% of their maternal line samples show non-African haplogroups.

An article in the Wall Street Journal was critical of the African DNA test reports provided by this company. Independent experts say that mitochondrial DNA is not sufficient to nail down an ancestor’s origin to a specific country.

Furthermore, the large migrations of Africans over the last 3,000 years means that the typical black American’s DNA will match Africans living today in several countries. Even the founder of African DNA was quoted in the article that the country-specific reports his company provides are largely a “best guess.”

The testing prices at African DNA are higher than those of the companies listed above. Even if you have your African DNA test done elsewhere, the African Ancestry web site includes some interesting information on African heritage and a list of country-by-country resources in Africa for genealogists.

Other African DNA Tests of Uncertain Quality

DNA Tribes uses autosomal markers representing all your ancestors. But unlike AncestryDNA, Family Finder and 23andMe, which check nearly a million autosomal SNPs, DNA Tribes checks a maximum of 27 STRs.

I won’t try to explain the difference between an STR and a SNP here. But autosomal STRs are what police forces around the world have been collecting from criminals for decades.

The company examined 383,000 STR records and claims to have identified major genetic regions around the world. They compare your DNA with their proprietary database and issue reports on your most closely matched regions.

The company does not share its database or reveal its methods. And independent experts are skeptical when such detailed reports arise from so few markers.

Roots for Real offers Y-DNA, mtDNA, and an autosomal test based on 16 STR markers. They position their autosomal admixture test as an African DNA test. But their database is only about one third the size of the already questionable DNA Tribes test. And all of their tests are overpriced compared to market leaders Family Tree DNA, 23andMe, and


Henrietta Lacks Story NIH




Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Henrietta Lacks (1920-1951)
MSA SC 3520-16887


Despite living a very short life, Henrietta Lacks is one of the most important people in the history of medicine. Lacks’ cells, known as the HeLa cell line, are mysteriously immortal and have been used by scientists and researchers all over the world to study and develop cures for a plethora of diseases. For decades, Lacks and her family were not given any recognition for her contribution to the medical field, but, in recent years, Henrietta Lacks’ legacy has been credited for saving the lives of millions.
Henrietta Lacks was born as Loretta Pleasant in Roanoke, Virginia in August 1920 to Johnny and Eliza Pleasant, both African American. No one is aware when she changed her name to Henrietta from Loretta. Lacks’ mother died when she was only five, and she was then sent to live in Clover, Virginia with her grandfather in a log cabin that was previously the slave quarters on her white great-grandfather’s plantation.1 While slavery was still legal, Lacks’ white great-grandfather took a slave mistress, thus starting Henrietta’s family line of black Lackses.2 When she was old enough, Lacks began farming tobacco on the plantation like the rest of her family.

Lacks gave birth to her first child soon after her fourteenth birthday, and the father of the child was her first cousin, David “Day” Lacks.3 Henrietta and Day named their first son Lawrence and, four years later, Lacks gave birth to her second child and first daughter, Eliza. On April 10, 1941, Henrietta, age 20, married Day, age 25. Soon after their marriage, Day moved to Baltimore to take advantage of the large amount of opportunity in the steel factories during World War II, and Henrietta and the two children soon followed.
While living in Baltimore, Henrietta gave birth to three more children. She “spent her time cooking for Day, the children, and whichever cousins happened to be at her house. She made her famous rice pudding and slow-cooked greens, chitlins, and the vats of spaghetti with meatballs she kept going on the stove for whenever cousins dropped by hungry.”4 One of her friends reflected that “Hennie made life come alive—bein with her was like bein with fun. Hennie just love peoples. She was a person that could really make the good things come out of you.”5 Although Henrietta Lacks held the ability to make the good come out of people, something lethal was growing inside her body. She began telling her family and friends that she had a knot in her womb or that she was bleeding even though it was not her time of the month.6 After feeling something strange on her cervix, Lacks knew it was imperative for her to go visit a doctor.
Lacks made an appointment at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and her biopsy results determined that she had Stage I epidermoid carcinoma of the cervix, or cervical cancer. The doctor that examined her found it incredibly interesting that even though she had no cervical abnormalities when she delivered a baby at Hopkins three months prior, she now returned to the hospital with a cancerous tumor.7 After the mass was diagnosed as cancerous, Lacks was instructed to return to the hospital to begin radium treatment. Radium was known to cause cancer, but it was also known to kill cancer. Unfortunately, it was also known to burn the skin, which is exactly what happened to Lacks during her treatment. Those close to her were horrified when Lacks confided in them the damage from her treatment, telling them that “Lord it just feels like that blackness be spreadin all inside me.”8
That “blackness,” her cancer, was actually spreading all inside her. In August 1951, Lacks returned to Hopkins, asking to be admitted because her pain was unbearable. She died a grim death on October 4, 1951 at age 31 from cancer that had metastasized throughout her entire body. Lacks was buried in a wooden box in an unmarked grave in Clover, Virginia. What Henrietta Lacks and her family did not know, however, was that she would live on forever through her cells. During her cancer treatment at Johns Hopkins, her doctor took healthy and cancerous samples from Lacks’ cervix without informing her of his actions or getting consent from her, and gave them to George Gey, a cancer researcher.  This was standard practice, and, at the time of Lacks’s death, there were no state or federal laws regarding obtaining consent from any patient.9 Gey was constantly analyzing human cells in an effort to create the perfect culture medium, or the liquid used for feeding cells. After being placed in a Petri dish, the cells would usually die within a few hours, but Gey found that Henrietta’s cells did something amazing. Her cells kept reproducing.
Gey started his own cell line, which he named HeLa in tribute to Henrietta Lacks. Neither Gey nor his assistant revealed the name of the original owner of the immortal cell line, thus making Lacks’ name unknown to the public. The medical breakthroughs from the usage of HeLa cells quickly began after Lacks’ death. A scientist named Jonas Salk proclaimed that he had found a cure to polio but needed to test the vaccine first. Salk acquired some HeLa cells, and, in 1954, Salk released the vaccine that prevented polio. Millions of lives were saved from this disease, thanks to the testing performed on the HeLa cells.
Since Gey did not patent his HeLa cells, labs all over the world soon began obtaining these unique cells for research and experiments. HeLa cells even went to space when the United States wanted to test how human cells would react in zero gravity, and were used to determine the affects of the atomic bomb.10 Scientists used HeLa cells to study molecular biology, virology, and genetics. Lacks’ cells were also used for research on cancer, AIDS, and, more recently, Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). Vaccines and drugs for diseases such as herpes, leukemia, influenza, hemophilia, and Parkinson’s disease were also developed through testing done on HeLa cells.
Henrietta Lacks’ cells were being used to make scientific breakthroughs beyond many researchers’ wildest dreams, but her family was unaware of Henrietta’s contribution to science. In 1953, a reporter at the Minneapolis Star claimed that the HeLa cells belonged to a woman named Henrietta Lakes, alerting people for the first time that these were human cells.11 Other reporters claimed that HeLa stood for Helen Lane or Helen Larson.12 Either way, the name Henrietta Lacks was never published, and the Lacks family was unaware that Henrietta’s cells were being circulated around the globe until 1973.

One day in 1973, Bobbette Lacks, Lawrence’s wife, was having lunch with her friend and her friend’s brother-in-law. The brother-in-law and Bobbette discovered that they were from the same part of Baltimore, and Bobbette told him that her last name was Lacks. Her friend’s brother-in-law told Bobbette that he worked at the National Cancer Institute and that he had been working for years with cells in his lab that he just recently learned belonged to a woman named Henrietta Lacks. Bobbette soon learned that this man, like many others around the world, had her mother-in-law’s cells in their labs.13 Thus began the anger, confusion, and frustration that would consume the Lacks family for decades.
The Lacks family, still living in Baltimore City, was impoverished and in poor health. They were being harassed by doctors and researchers for blood samples and developed a serious mistrust of Johns Hopkins Hospital. They felt that they had been robbed by Hopkins and thought that Henrietta was still alive and her body was being held hostage in the hospital. Some members of the family thought that suing the hospital for taking a part of Henrietta without her consent or knowledge was the proper path, but they would soon learn their case was fruitless. Around the same time the Lacks family discovered the truth about the HeLa cells, a Californian man named Roger Moore was attempting to sue his doctor for unknowingly scraping his cells and profiting from them. The case finally reached the Supreme Court of California, and the court ruled that “When tissues are removed from your body, with or without your consent, any claim you might have had to owning them vanishes. When you leave tissues in a doctor’s office or a lab, you abandon them as waste, and anyone can take your garbage and sell it.”14 This ruling set a precedent, stripping a large amount of power away from patients and legally allowing doctors and researchers to financially exploit their patients if they discovered something medically groundbreaking. This opened a global debate about bioethics, but also left the Lacks’ family without a legal case.
In 1997, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) came to Baltimore to interview the Lacks family for a documentary about the HeLa cells’ role in cancer research. This gained some publicity about the woman behind the HeLa cells, and, in the same year, then United States Representative Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. formally addressed Congress about Lacks, saying that “Henrietta Lacks’ selfless contribution to the field of medicine has gone without acknowledgement for far too long. Her cells made her immortal: through her death, countless others have been saved by the research that was made possible through her cell line…I sincerely hope her name will also be immortalized as one of courage, hope, and strength, and that due recognition will be given to her role in medicine and science.”15 Henrietta’s enormous contribution to decades of science was recognized, but true justice for Henrietta still seemed hopeless.
Hope came to the Lacks family a few years later in the form of a young, white, female writer named Rebecca Skloot. Skloot became fascinated with the mystery behind the HeLa cells at age sixteen and spent many years trying to uncover the story behind the immortal cells. The Lacks, understandably, were mistrusting of Skloot and her motives. Skloot, however, proved to be faithful to the family in regards to spreading their story, and she became the closest with Henrietta’s daughter, Deborah. Deborah never knew her mother but always wanted to understand what happened to her. Through Deborah, Skloot was able to better understand the struggles of the family and tell the story of Henrietta, and through Skloot, Deborah was able to learn about her mother and even hold her cells. Skloot published The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks in 2010 and describes the book as “not only the story of HeLa cells and Henrietta Lacks, but of Henrietta’s family—particularly Deborah—and their lifelong struggle to make peace with the existence of those cells, and the science that made them possible.”16 The novel became an instant best-seller and was even comissioned by Oprah Winfrey to be made into a movie. The Lacks family was finally given the recognition they struggled for years to gain.
In 2013, 62 years after Henrietta’s death, the Lackses were finally able to have a voice in the distribution of HeLa cells. Controversy began again in early 2013 after a German lab published the HeLa genome in an online magazine. The German research lab published the paper “to show the degree to which the genomes of HeLa cells diverged from those of healthy cells, so researchers could take that into account when designing experiments and analyzing results from studies using the HeLa cell line,” but the Lacks family worried that others would be able to formulate their genetic codes through this public information.17 The article was taken down, but the Lackses still felt their biological information was being distributed without their consent and that “history was repeating itself” since anyone could get a hold of Henrietta’s genomes.18 In August 2013, an agreement between the Lackses and the National Institute of Health (NIH) was formulated, decreeing that scientists had to obtain permission from the NIH in order to conduct research on HeLa cells. The NIH and two members of the Lacks family would approve or reject the applications as they saw fit. Finally, the Lacks family could stop the outright exploitation of Henrietta.
Henrietta Lacks did not live a long life, but her cells will live on forever. She has had a greater impact on science than any other scientist or researcher will ever claim, and her cells have been used to save the lives of a countless number of people and animals. As the most important person in medicine, and as a former Maryland resident, Henrietta Lacks will be immortalized as an important Maryland woman through her induction into the 2014 Women’s Hall of Fame.


  1. Henrietta Lacks Women’s Hall of Fame 2014 Nomination Packet. Return to text
  2. “The Way of All Flesh,” Adam Curtis, available on YouTube: Return to text
  3. Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, (New York: Crown Publishers, 2010), 23. Return to text
  4. Ibid, 42. Return to text
  5. Ibid, 43. Return to text
  6. Ibid, 15. Return to text
  7. Ibid, 17. Return to text
  8. Ibid, 48. Return to text
  9. Alok Jha and Rebecca Skloot, “The ‘immortal’ Henrietta Lacks–Science Weekly,” podcast audio, The Guardian: Science Weekly, accessed June 25, 2014, Return to text
  10. Henrietta Lacks Women’s Hall of Fame 2014 Nomination Packet. Return to text
  11. Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, 105. Return to text
  12. Ibid, 109. Return to text
  13. Ibid, 180. Return to text
  14. Ibid, 205. Return to text
  15. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., “In Memory of Henrietta Lacks” (June 4, 1997), Congressional Record Volume 143, Number 75,  Return to text
  16. Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, 7. Return to text
  17. “German lab apologizes for publishing the genome of ‘immortal’ woman’s cell line,” Washington Post, April 2, 2013. Return to text
  18. Andrea K. Walker, “Lacks’ kin finally get say in use of her cells: After decades, NIH accord requires permission to use her genome in research,” Baltimore Sun, August 8, 2013. Return to text

Biography written by 2014 summer intern Sharon Miyagawa.

Return to Henrietta Lacks’ Introductory Page


This information resource of the Maryland State Archives is presented here for fair use in the public domain. When this material is used, in whole or in part, proper citation and credit must be attributed to the Maryland State Archives. PLEASE NOTE: Rights assessment for associated source material is the responsibility of the user.

Invitation To Tell Your Story



Consider this to be an invitation extended to you anywhere in the world; regardless of religion — whether young or old, male or female, Black, White, East Indian, Asian, Hispanic/Latino, Native American Indian…well, you get the picture.
Working with the Arnett family in Kentucky, I became involved in their stories about their past. I laugh with them and felt a deep kinship with them without meeting them face to face. Their stories were so vivid and told a story of family members without pictures. I could see the story so clearly in their words and how they gave their story life and breath.
I decided to do it again by just putting out this invitation. As with the Arnett’s, nothing will be published without the family permissions. I will send the written stories back to the family genealogist I met for possible inclusion on their family website.
The Arnett’s are a multicolored family whose location for most of them is in Salyersville and Henderson, KY.
Even though I will be specific about the details of each story, the main targeted in this endeavor doesn’t have any particular skin color, gender or geographical location. The Enemy to be unmasked/exposed in this uplifting endeavor is Prejudice, Bigotry, Racism, and Narrow-Mindedness — wherever prevalent — which is embodied in a person who does have a particular skin color, gender, and geographical location.
To be perfectly honest, I have had to come face to face with my feelings of race, prejudices, narrow opinions about others of color not my own. I have processed the fact that some of my relatives were slave owners, fought with the Confederate Army and wrote slave laws long ago. I know a family who gave up their slaves and worked to abolish slave and were a part of the underground railroad from Florida to Canada. This is my family and I have worked through my own feelings about events and places. Without the courage of my ancestors, I would not be who I am today. This is where I come from, this is how I got to be, this is me.
The truth is the main friend of this endeavor. Truth-centric. I want the readers to feel the heartache inflicted by prejudice. I also want the reader to feel hope. I see myself merely as a storyteller through which very private pain can be communicated, along with the wisdom lessons that somehow emerge out of grief. That is the purpose of this endeavor, The Moment
My interest in this project was enhanced during my research for the mother of Mary Arnett born in 1821 in Kentucky. I was inspired by Joyce McCullum my cousin to research her GGG grandmother. I am an African-American who’s great great great great grandfather was a plantation owner in Wake County, NC and his father a plantation owner in Powhatan, VA.
When I interviewed the Arnett’s, they volunteered to talk about themselves and the racism they faced from both sides black and white. During these interviews I was becoming more and more interested in the idea of people sharing their earliest memories of prejudice and how they were affected by it — mentally, emotionally, physically, relationally and spiritually.
“Do you remember The Moment, when you realized that because of
the color of your skin that the rules were somehow different for you?”
It was this question that unlocked the door for people to share some deep experiences. Asking you to answer a question like that or having to do with other aspects [nationality? gender? class? language? religion? physical characteristics?]. But also please consider going deeper, by answering some additional questions. I am putting together stories for future publication.
How did you feel at The Moment in the past? Plus, how have you dealt with The Moment since it occurred? What wisdom lessons do you want to pass on to the next generation? I am looking for storytellers. I am also asking you to draw a picture (No, I’m not an artist either) in 3-5 minutes that best depicts the scene during your experience of The Moment. This picture may represent your memory either symbolically or literally. Call me if you need more clarification. Cell: 240-678-6076.
Are You Open to Participating in this Project?
“A family journey in the past to the present”. This going to be very similar to reading the “Slave Narratives”

Please submit your stories.
This publication or story for the families involved will be filled with real/honest experiences, with a hopeful theme. The purpose:
A). To educate/sensitize readers regarding the realities experienced by minorities. “Post Traumatic Slave Disorder” (PTSD).
B). Offer a mental, emotional and spiritual roadmap for any reader who is experiencing prejudice.
(You may even want to function as a storyteller sharing the story of a friend who is considered a minority in your country…and what happened to make you first realize the rules for your friend are different. What has this understanding opened in your own heart and mind?)
Copy the following points and paste them into the main body of an email or as a Word Document. Focus your experience (s) upon the following items:
1. “This is my recollection of the first defining moment when, because of my __________ [color of skin? nationality? gender? class? language? religion? physical characteristics?], I realized that the rules were somehow different for me…” –Please cover the who, what, when, how, where and why aspects as you remember them. (If you can’t remember a specific moment, answer this the best you can. I am looking for the story of your earliest moment) — something like…”It was a hot August day and I was in 1st Grade, on my way home from the store…” or Moonbaby at 10 years old, her web name “confronting a rattlesnake on the bridge from her house to her aunt’s house and she ran and got her grandfather’s shovel and pound the snake to death. Her grandfather looked at the shovel all bent up and laugh about it. He was proud of her courage confronting the snake”. To be able to effectively communicate your story I need to know details about “the moment”, like weather conditions, what was said or not said, what you were wearing, the location, your immediate feelings, body language, how you responded, etc..
2. This is specifically what happened to me or to a friend (or how you became sensitized to this issue through someone else’s experience. For example — Do you remember The Moment when you realized that you have “Privilege” (because of skin color, class, gender, etc.)? When and how when did you vicariously experience that or come to that realization?)
3. Immediately and then over the years, this is how I was affected mentally, emotionally, physically, relationally, spiritually —
4. “As I look back on my life in relation to all of this, the life wisdom lessons I have learned are…” — (In other words, what wisdom lessons do you want to pass along to the next generation?)
5. Explain what you currently see on the job, in your neighborhood, and at church with regard to prejudice
6. “This is what I would like to say to young people who will be facing the same types of things I confronted.”
7. “I am (hopeful) (not hopeful) about race relations/diversity in my country, because…” (I’m not looking for positive or negative — just your perspective. And I am open to you sharing your beliefs about how God views all of this) —
8. If you live in a country that profited from the labors of your ancestors in slavery, do you feel that your country owes you anything? Why or why not?
9. I need some specific information from you, like gender, race, age, part of the world you were raised in and where you reside now. And if you are in another part of the world, it sure would be great if you can share your perspective on human relations in that part of the world and the perspectives folks around you have about America.
10. I am also asking you to draw a picture (No, I’m not an artist either) in 3-5 minutes that best depicts the scene during your experience of The Moment. This picture (drawn on plain white paper with a black ink pen) may represent your memory either symbolically or literally. Please do not spend more than 5 minutes on the drawing. With honesty, try to put yourself back in the moment of the situation you are trying to capture on paper. I prefer that you scan the picture on at least 300 dpi resolution. I prefer to keep everything digital. and email it along with your story.
10. Here are the next steps:
a. After you have responded to this invitation, I will probably want to talk with you by phone if I have selected your story. If you are from another country, I will probably continue to dialogue by email.
b. I will then send you the final edit for your input. I will be using the literary license as I attempt to make your experiences more accessible to the reader. Most everyone will be known by first name and last initial unless you want your full name to be known (e.g. Brian K. or Susan G.). You can make up an alias if you want. I will also want to have a brief bio to introduce your piece (e.g. Susan K. — the 34-year-old woman, Sr. Vice President of Sales of a pharmaceutical company, living in Manhattan…)
c. I am also positive that if published my publisher will want you to sign a release, allowing me to use your story.
d. This process will take almost a year before it is completed, so please be patient…
e. If you have any friends from similar or different nationalities who might like to participate, please refer them to this page.
Thank you for your potential part in this project. I am pleased to mention that a percentage of the royalties from the sales of The Moment will be going to The Freeman Institute Foundation.
If your story is chosen, you will receive a complimentary signed copy of the story and or book as a token expression of my appreciation for your participation, along with a few extra signed copies to give away…Please send in your contribution as soon as possible. The sooner the better. Initially, you may send an email indicating your level of interest and when you believe you will have your story in written form.

Email Address:
100,000 Blessings,
Duke B. Montgomery

Genetic Genealogy Standards Chapter 1




The Genetic Genealogy Standards Committee presented these standards at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy in Jan. 2015.

This document is intended to provide standards and best practices for the genealogical community to follow when purchasing, recommending, sharing, or writing about the results of DNA testing for ancestry.

These Standards are intentionally directed to genealogist, not to genetic genealogy testing companies. As used in the Standards the term “genealogist” includes anyone who takes a genetic genealogy test, as well as anyone who advises a client, family member, or other individual regarding genetic genealogy testing. However, it is ultimately the responsibility of those taking a genetic genealogy test (“tester”) to understand and consider these standards before ordering or agreeing to take any genetic genealogy test.

Standards for Obtaining, Using and Sharing Genetic Genealogy Test Results

  1. Company Offerings. Genealogists review and understanding the different DNA testing products and tools offered by available testing companies, and prior to testing determine which company or companies are capable of achieving the genealogist’s goal(s).
  2. Testing With Consent. Genealogists only obtain DNA for testing after receiving consent, written or oral, from the tester. In the case of a deceased individual, consent can be obtained from a legal representative. In the case of a minor, consent can be given by a parent or legal guardian of the minor. However, genealogists do not obtain DNA from someone who refuses to undergo testing.
  3. . Raw Data. Genealogists believe that testers have an inalienable right to their own DNA test results and raw data, even if someone other than the tester purchased the DNA test.
  4.  DNA Storage. Genealogists are aware of the DNA storage options offered by testing companies, and consider the implications of storing versus not storing DNA samples for future testing. Advantages of storing DNA samples include reducing costs associated with future testing and/or preserving DNA that can no longer be obtained from an individual. However, genealogists are aware that no company can guarantee that stored DNA will be of sufficient quantity or quality to perform additional testing. Genealogists also understand that a testing company may change its storage policy without notice to the tester.
  5. Terms of Service. Genealogists review and understand the terms and conditions to which the tester consents when purchasing a DNA test.
  6. Privacy. Genealogists only test with companies that respect and protect the privacy of testers. However, genealogists understand that complete anonymity of DNA tests results can never be guaranteed.
  7. Access by Third Parties. Genealogists understand that once DNA test results are made publicly available, they can be freely accessed, copied, and analyzed by a third party without permission. For example, DNA test results published on a DNA project website are publicly available. 1 Except in situations where DNA testing is specifically mandated by law or court order. This type of mandated DNA testing may affect other Standard including Standards #3 (Raw Data), #6 (Privacy),
  8.  Sharing Results. Genealogists respect all limitations on reviewing and sharing DNA test results imposed at the request of the tester. For example, genealogists do not share or otherwise reveal DNA test results (beyond the tools offered by the testing company) or other personal information (name, address, or email) without the written or oral consent of the tester.
  9.  Scholarship. When lecturing or writing about genetic genealogy, genealogists respect the privacy of others. Genealogists privatize or redact the names of living genetic matches from presentations unless the genetic matches have given prior permission or made their results publicly available. Genealogists share DNA test results of living individuals in a work of scholarship only if the tester has given permission or has previously made those results publicly available. Genealogists may confidentially share an individual’s DNA test results with an editor and/or peer-reviewer of a work of scholarship. Genealogists also disclose any professional relationship they have with a for-profit DNA testing company or service when lecturing or writing about genetic genealogy.
  10. Health Information. Genealogists understand that DNA tests may have medical implications.
  11.  Designating a Beneficiary. Genealogists designate a beneficiary to manage test results and/or stored DNA in the event of their death or incapacitation. Standards for the Interpretation of Genetic Genealogy Test Results
  12.  Unexpected Results. Genealogists understand that DNA test results, like traditional genealogical records, can reveal unexpected information about the tester and his or her immediate family, ancestors, and/or descendants. For example, both DNA test results and traditional genealogical records can reveal misattributed parentage, adoption, health information, previously unknown family members and erros in well-researched family trees, among other unexpected outcomes.
  13. Different Types of Tests. Genealogists understand that there are different types of DNA tests, including Y-chromosome DNA (“Y-DNA”), mitochondrial DNA (“mtDNA”), Xchromosome (“X-DNA”), and autosomal DNA (“atDNA”) testing. Each test has advantages and limitations, and can be used in different ways for genealogical research. Often, multiple types of testing can be or must be used to test a hypothesis. Prior to testing, genealogists determine which type(s) of DNA testing is capable of achieving the genealogist’s goal(s).
  14.  Y-DNA and mtDNA Tests. Genealogists understand the current recommended minimum YDNA and mtDNA testing standards, guidelines for which are currently being drafted and will be found at when completed. Genealogists are aware that even after an initial mtDNA or Y-DNA test, additional testing (e.g., additional markers and/or sequencing) might be necessary in order to achieve the genealogist’s goal(s).
  15.  Limitations of Y-DNA Testing. Genealogists understand that Y-DNA test results reveal relationships among testers through their direct paternal lines. However, identification of the exact relationship or most recent common ancestor (“MRCA”) cannot be determined by Y-DNA test results alone.
  16. Limitations of mtDNA Testing. Genealogists understand that mtDNA test results reveal relationships among testers through their direct maternal lines. However, identification of the exact relationship or MRCA cannot be determined by mtDNA test results alone.
  17. Limitations of Autosomal DNA Testing. Genealogists understand that autosomal DNA test results, alone, can be used to confirm or deny first degree relationships with certainty (parent/child or full siblings). Genealogists understand that analysis of genealogical relationships beyond the first degree requires the combination of DNA test results and traditional genealogical records.
  18. Limitations of Ethnicity Analysis. Genealogists understand that ethnicity analysis is limited by the proprietary reference population database and algorithm utilized by the testing company, and thus understand that estimates can vary. Genealogists further understand that because individuals do not possess DNA from all ancestors, an ethnicity estimate can neither be predicted nor evaluated based solely on a genealogical family tree.
  19. Interpretation of DNA Test Results. Genealogists understand that there is frequently more than one possible interpretation of DNA test results. Sometimes, but not always, these possible explanations can be narrowed by additional testing and/or documentary genealogical research. Genealogists further understand that any analysis of DNA test results is necessarily dependent upon other information, including information from the tester, and that the analysis is only as reliable as the information upon which it is based.
  20.  DNA as Part of Genealogical Proof. Genealogists understand that no single piece of evidence, including evidence gathered from DNA testing, alone constitutes genealogical proof. Establishing genealogical proof requires thorough research in reliable relevant records, complete and accurate documentation and source citation, analysis and correlation of all evidence, resolution of conflicts caused by contradictory information, and a soundly reasoned written conclusion. For more information, see the Genealogical Proof Standard (
  21. Citing DNA Test Results. Genealogists understand and use the current recommended minimum standards for citing DNA test results in reports to clients or in works of scholarship. Guidelines are currently being drafted and will be found at when completed.

African-American Genealogy Lineup Rootstech 2017



African-American Genealogist Lineup Rootstech-2017

The countdown is on to RootsTech 2017! I can’t wait to see all my Genfriends and meet new ones. This year I’ll be presenting at RootsTech (see schedule below), and blogging, posting and tweeting live from the conference as a RootsTech Ambassador.

Last year was my first year attending RootsTech, the largest genealogy conference on the planet, held annually in Salt Lake City, Utah. It was an amazing experience. With more than 200 breakout class sessions to choose from, you can grow your skills and learn how to overcome tough challenges that arise in your research. The Expo Hall features hundreds of vendors of the latest apps, services and technology to help you make the most of all the tech devices you use in your research.

This year, I’m excited by two new offerings at RootsTech – the Coaches’ Corner, and a robust lineup of African American genealogy sessions.

In the Coaches’ Corner, located in the Expo Hall, certified genealogists will be available to answer your burning genealogy questions. You’ll have an opportunity to work one on one with experts who can help you overcome even the toughest genealogy brick walls.

And, this year, for the first time, you can fill your entire time at RootsTech attending sessions on African American genealogy! Please read on to view African American genealogy sessions for each day of the conference. Excited? The next step is to register for RootsTech 2017. Hope to see you there, and if you can’t attend this year, please watch for our live updates during the conference!

Thursday, February 9

Horizontal Splitter

Using Genealogical Periodicals for Research

Presenter: Frazine Taylor
Frazine Taylor | Intermediate
Thursday, February 9

Although genealogical periodicals offer many sources of hidden information, they are often overlooked or underused by family historians in researching family history. The question becomes why do you think we do not search periodicals for our families? They are too hard, no index, some may have yearly indexes or none at all, just to name a few of the obstacles that makes periodical research difficult and underused. They are often Society publications and the resources necessary to make them widely available are scarce. However, the genealogical information in them are voluminous and genealogical and historical societies have published them for decades.This workshop will focus on the value of published cumulative indexes and time-saving tips to narrow the search for an ancestor using examples found in national periodicals and Alabama’s periodical collection.

Room: 255A
Session number: RT0763
RootsTech Track

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Mapping the Freedmen’s Bureau: New Research Guide

Presenters: Angela Walton-Raji and Toni Carrier
Toni Carrier, Lowcountry Africana; Angela Walton-Raji, Mapping the Freedmen’s Bureau | Beginner
Thursday, Feb 9

The records of the Freedmen’s Bureau are among the richest for tracing African American ancestors. FamilySearch recently announced the completion of the Freedmen’s Bureau Project, a collaborative effort to index all surviving Freedmen’s Bureau records. A new website developed by Angela Walton-Raji and Toni Carrier, “Mapping the Freedmen’s Bureau” ( is an interactive map interface to help researchers make the most of Freedmen’s Bureau records by identifying the Freedmen’s Bureau field office, hospital or contraband camp nearest their area of research interest, to make these records all the more accessible. This session will present an overview of the Mapping the Freedmen’s Bureau website and present a case study which illustrates the importance of digging deeper into these valuable records after searching the FamilySearch index.

Room: 251D
Session number: RT1036
RootsTech Track

Horizontal Splitter

Exploring the Testimonies of Former Slaves in the Southern Claims Commission Records

Presenter: Bernice Bennett
Bernice Bennett, BB’s Genealogy Research and Educational Services, LLC | Intermediate

This session will explore the Southern Claims Commission Records that were created based upon losses in twelve states after the Civil War. The claimants testimony included a list of losses and witnesses to support those losses. These records produced eye witness testimonies from former slaves, family members and neighbors. Freedmen provide details about their lives and knowledge of their former enslavers.

Room: 255A
Session number: RT0772
RootsTech Track

Horizontal Splitter

From Nurses to Cooks: Black Women in the Civil War

Presenter: Angela Walton-Raji
Angela Walton-Raji, Mapping the Freedmen’s Bureau | Beginner
Thursday, February 9

This workshop will explore the surprising records that reflect the names of women of color who served in multiple jobs during the war and will explain how to find them. Surprisingly there are service records, and even pension files that describe the work performed by these women. These records point to unwritten chapters in American history, and hopefully will pull back another layer of many untold stories of ordinary people who did extraordinary things.

Room: 250D
Session number: RT0805
RootsTech Track

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Census Data: More Than Just a Population Count

Presenter: Janis Forte
Janis Forte | Beginner
Thursday, February 9

Every genealogist is familiar with Schedule I of the federal census as the official population count. However, this schedule does not present the census in its entirety. In the form of supplemental schedules, each ten years congress authorized topical reports to describe growth in the country. Titled ‘supplemental schedules’, from 1820 to 1880 these reports capture data on agriculture, business, industry, mortality and social variables in the newly formed country. Now available in digitized format, these schedules aid in completing family composition. The schedules may identify missing and reveal cohort groups and community relations. These schedules list those in asylums, institutions and those incarcerated in a county jail or prison. With the growth of the internet, accessing these schedules provides valuable genealogical and community content information which expand the cultural and community of ancestors.

Room: Ballroom B
Session number: RT0615
RootsTech Track

Horizontal Splitter

Freedmen’s Bureau Records on FamilySearch

Presenter: Ken Nelson
Ken Nelson, Family Search | Advanced
Thursday, February 9

In 1865 the Freedmen’s Bureau was established in the South to provide assistance to freedmen and refugees. It provided to those in need food, medicine and clothing, established schools, and hospitals, provided transportation, helped with labor contracts and assisted soldiers with pension claims. For many researchers with African American ancestry, Bureau records are a starting point in making that link to that first generation of former slaves. This class will focus on the Freedmen’s Bureau records on FamilySearch by understanding how best to search the record images, the scope of the Discover Freedmen Project, by looking at the records that were indexed and discuss a strategy for using the records with other Reconstruction era collections such as census records, and voter registrations.

Room: 255D
Session number: RT1046
RootsTech Track

Horizontal Splitter

Friday, February 10

Horizontal Splitter

African American Genealogy for Newbies

Presenter: Nicka Smith
Nicka Smith, Who is Nicka Smith, BlackProGen | Beginner
Friday, February 10

America’s youth both between 1982 and 2000 now number 83.1 million and are more diverse than the generations that preceded them with 44.2 percent being part of a minority race or ethnic group.1 Many of these Millenials identify as African American and have relatives who likely don’t check the same racial designation box as them who are eager to help them trace their genealogy. In this session, learn the basics of researching African American genealogy and have a safe space to ask burning questions.

Room: 255A
Session number: RT1666
RootsTech Track

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Dealing with African American Genealogy Challenges

Presenter: Shelley Murphy
Shelley Murphy | Beginner
Friday, February 10

All genealogy has the so-called brick walls or genealogy challenges. This session will help you consider your research goals, understand what are you looking for and what challenges you will face in researching African Americans. In addition attendees will be provided with some tools and online resources that are available to help combat the challenges.

Room: 255A
Session number: RT1457
RootsTech Track
Horizontal Splitter

Identity by Descent: Using DNA to Extend the African-American Pedigree

Presenter: Shannon Christmas
Shannon Christmas, Through The Trees Blog | Intermediate
Friday, February 10


Using illustrative examples, this session demonstrates how DNA analysis, when used in concert with traditional genealogical research methods, can help family historians overcome challenges unique to African-American genealogy research.


Room: 255A
Session number: RT1436
RootsTech Track
Horizontal Splitter

Saturday, February 11

Horizontal Splitter

The Art of Storytelling: It’s More Than Names & Dates

Presenter: Kenyatta Berry
Kenyatta Berry, Genealogy Roadshow | Beginner
Saturday, February 11


When doing family research we often focus on the names, dates and locations of our ancestors. However, it’s important to develop a story using historical context. Learn how to use online resources, history and technology to create a compelling family story. Using my experience as a host on Genealogy Roadshow, I will talk about our development process from research to story to screen. You will walk way inspired to create your own family story.


Room: Ballroom A
Session number: RT2095
RootsTech Track
Horizontal Splitter

App Attack! Never Leave Home Without Them

Presenter: Shelley Murphy

Shelley Murphy | Beginner
Saturday, February 11

Learning can happen anywhere. Researching & learning online are very useful tools for genealogists. Attendees will get a glimpse of some of the best online genealogy learning sites along with some genealogy cell phone applications. Some of the applications highlighted will be Ancestry, Family Tree, Genealogy Gems, Legacyfamilytreewebinars, Monticello, FindAGrave, & Ben Franklin’s World.


Room: Ballroom I
Session number: RT1434
RootsTech Track
Horizontal Splitter

How to Get More from Your DNA with

Presenter: Shannon Christmas
Shannon Christmas, Through The Trees Blog | Beginner
Saturday, February 11

Learn how to mine your autosomal DNA results for genealogical gems using the most popular third-party tool for genetic genealogy.


Room: 255D
Session number: RT1440
RootsTech Track
Horizontal Splitter

The Legal Genealogist: The Ethics of Criticism


This blog is a combination of comments from several genealogist who are mentors and teachers. When I get stuck on a point of view I turn to them for direction not the answer. Megan Smolenyak, Ann Turner, Elizabeth Snow, Judy Russell, Blaine Bettinger and Nicka Sewell Smith. Rather than pulling together their comments in one blog I decided to use the Legal Genealogist blog which is on the mark. It pretty much mirrors their comments.

I travel the road least travel with all of its curves, pits, holes, branches, hidden dips, etc. Hard but I rather travel down that road to keep learning, investigating and researching. One of the rules of genealogy if you remember and it is very simple, “Do not believe everything you read and hear”. Investigate and add value not negative baggage.

The ethics of criticism 

Posted: 18 Jan 2017 06:00 AM PST

Being nice versus being right

The genealogical community is a small one, as communities go. And, as with any small pond, something that makes waves is going to attract a lot more attention in our community than, say, even the largest-ever-built ocean liner would make churning its way around the oceans of the world.

Which makes it kind of hard, and kind of uncomfortable, when what we want to do, as genealogists, is disagree.

When what we need to be is critical.

In this context, The Legal Genealogist isn’t talking about criticism in the sense of censure or faultfinding, but rather in the broader sense: “the act or art of analyzing and evaluating or judging the quality of a … work …”1 And about being critical in the sense we can all aspire to: “involving skillful judgment as to truth, merit, etc.”2

CriticismLet’s say, for example, that you’re reading somehing in this blog. And you happen to have the knowledge and background in the subject being discussed that leads you to believe that I am just plain wrong.

It’s not that I hold a different opinion than you might based on facts on which we both agree. I’m not talking about a case where we’re dealing with the difference between “Andrew Jackson was one of the least effective Presidents!” and “No he wasn’t!”

What I’m talking about here is a case where I’m just wrong. Where, say, I’ve reached an erroneous conclusion or my work just isn’t up to snuff — or it simply doesn’t meet genealogical standards

Now you, as that smarter-than-I-am reader, have essentially two choices. You can ignore the error, stand silent, say nothing. Or you can call me out on it — tell me that I’m wrong.

Which, in this circumstances, is the ethical choice?

To which the only possible answer is, either one is.

There’s no ethical imperative, in genealogy or anywhere else, for every reader of a blog or an article or a journal to alert the author or the editor or the publisher to every error that makes it into print, online or off. If you don’t think a mistake is important enough for you to take the time to comment on it, then you can let it pass and that will have been an ethical choice.

There’s also no ethical prohibition, in genealogy or anywhere else, against any reader of that same blog or article or journal stating the disagreement with that blog or article or journal even in strong terms. If you do think a mistake is important enough for you to take the time to comment on it, then you can state your disagreement and that will have been an ethical choice.

That’s because the ethical rule here is one, necessarily, of flexibility. In the words of the Code of Ethics of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, “To protect the profession, I will act, speak, and write in a manner I believe to be in the best interests of the profession and scholarship of genealogy.”3

So each of us is free to choose, in any given situation, what we will and will not comment on — and remain ethical.

We are charged, of course, with striving for truth, acting honorably, and not publishing or publicizing as fact anything we know to be false. In the words of the Code of Ethics of the Association of Professional Genealogists, we do not “defame the profession (or) individual genealogists”4 — “defame” being a technical legal term connoting “a false statement purporting to be fact.”5

It’s certainly consistent with those goals to speak up, if we choose to, about errors in the facts or the methodology of another researcher.

But remember that the goal of publication is to expose our ideas: to get our facts and our methods and our reasoning out there for all the world to see. And by the very act of publication we’re inviting criticism. Asking others to review the work, take it apart, look for holes and supply information that perhaps we missed or to which we didn’t have access, and in so doing make the work as a whole better and more likely to stand the test of time.

Even here, in this ephemeral online context, my own “Rules of my road” for this blog state simply: “If I’m wrong about a fact, I’d like to know it. … So tell me when you know more than I do or I’ve just plain goofed.”6

There’s also a lot of room for variation in how we speak out when we do choose to do so. Criticism by its very nature can be rough and tumble. Go back and read some of the very best of the movie reviews by Roger Ebert, for example. He called one film “sickening, utterly worthless, shameful trash. If it is not the worst film I have ever seen, that makes it all the more shameful.” About another: “I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it.”7

No holds barred there.

Most genealogical criticism is somewhat more tempered and temperate — but there’s nothing in any ethics code that says it has to be. We may choose out of courtesy or manners or our own preferences to be delicate and polite — or we may choose to be Roger Ebert.

We’re not required to contact the original researcher or editor or publisher privately — though we may choose to do so, particularly if we want that person’s cooperation in making changes. And we’re not required to respond only in the original medium — if social media is a better platform for us, or an article in a competing journal is our forum of choice, those options are open too.

Yes, surely, there are times when silence is golden. In those cases, standing silent is an ethical choice. But speaking up in criticism of published work — whether a blog post, an article, a journal, a book, whatever — when truthful and factually based — is an equally ethical choice.

Being ethical doesn’t mean being silenced.


  1. ( : accessed 18 Jan 2017), “criticism.”
  2. Ibid., “critical.”
  3. Code of Ethics,” Board for Certification of Genealogists ( : accessed 17 Jan 2017).
  4. Code of Ethics,” Association of Professional Genealogists ( : accessed 17 Jan 2017).
  5. Wex, Legal Information Institute, Cornell Law School ( : accessed 17 Jan 2017), “defamation.”
  6. Judy G. Russell, “Rules of my road: 2017,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 3 Jan 2017 ( : accessed 17 Jan 2017).
  7. See Nolan Feeney, “7 of Roger Ebert’s Most Brutal Movie Reviews,” Time, posted 4 July 2014 ( : accessed 17 Jan 2017).
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