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How one African American historian is recovering her family history

PHILADELPHIA — Thanks to her grandmother, Joyce Mosley has always known her family’s rich oral history. Her grandmother passed down stories of her family, preserving crucial information about her ancestors generation to generation.

Over the years, Mosley, a historian, continued to do research on her family, learning that her ancestry included some of the first free African Americans in Philadelphia.

At this year’s Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society national conference outside Philadelphia, she taught others how to organize documentation, marriage and death certificates, obituaries, on their families.

“I wanted to leave for the rest of my family a documented history going back as far as I could go in this country,” Mosley told WHYY’s “Movers & Makers.”

Mosley’s family members were among the founding members of Cheltenham Township just outside Philadelphia, where they lived, worked and married into a racially diverse Quaker community. They are also among the families who founded several African American churches in Philadelphia. They were teachers, doctors, lawyers and business owners, and many took on roles as abolitionists and community leaders.

“When you’re doing any genealogical [research], especially on African Americans, start with yourself,” Mosley advised, adding that it was best to interview the oldest member of your family and start collecting obituaries.

Mosley sat down with WHYY in her home to go through her impressive findings on her family.

Video shot by Erika Schroeder and Gary Lindstrom; edited by Pete Scaffidi; and audio by Dan Rosenthal. This report originally appeared on WHYY’s “Movers & Makers.”

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