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Lemon Project Genealogy Research Initiative

Monthly Meetings

Lemon Project Genealogy Initiative Presents the Summer Sankofa Series
Are you ready to dive deeper into your family history? Well, we invite you to join us for our summer genealogy workshops! The Summer Sankofa Series is an opportunity for family historians to collaborate and learn more about genealogy research.  

If you’ve participated in our genealogy workshops, you will be ready to join a community of genealogists dedicated to documenting and sharing their stories in an open forum. Together, in the spirit of Sankofa, we are connecting the past and present as we seek to know more about the lives of our ancestors.  

The Lemon Project Genealogy Research Initiative provides family history research workshops and consultations to our descendant community in Williamsburg and the Greater Tidewater area. The continuing education workshops are free to the public and held virtually

The Lemon Project fellow is conducting specific research on enslaved people with ties to William and Mary. Many known and unknown African Americans helped build, maintain, and move the university forward – we want to ensure their stories and lives are never forgotten.

Through This Soil: Finding & Tracing the Family Land, Summer Sankofa Series Workshop with Nicka Sewell-Smith. Register here.

June 8, 2023 at 6:30 pm ET

The Summer Sankofa Series, presented by the Lemon Project Genealogy Initiative, kicks off our third year with a virtual genealogy workshop, "Through This Soil: Finding and Tracing the Family Land" by Nicka Sewell-Smith on June 8 at 6:30 p.m.

Black Americans who emerged from enslavement were eager to take advantage of all the rights and privileges of their newfound citizenship. One of the rights they often pursued was owning their own land. In this session, learn how to identify if an ancestor owned land, how to trace the chain of ownership of land that's been in a family, and how to break down details mentioned within land records to glean more information on those mentioned.

Nicka Smith is a host, consultant, and documentarian with more than 20 years of experience as a genealogist. She has extensive experience in researching the enslaved and their communities and is a valued expert in genealogy research along the Mississippi Delta. 

Nicka has diverse and varied experience in media with a background in audio, video, and written communications. She's appeared on TODAY Show, CNN, MSNBC, was featured on an Emmy winning episode of the series Who Do You Think You Are, and has been interviewed by Oakland Tribune, The Undefeated, National Geographic, and TIME. She is the host of BlackProGen LIVE, an innovative web show with more than 130 episodes focused on people of color genealogy and family history.  

She is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, a member of two lineage societies (Sons and Daughters of the Middle Passage (SDUSMP) and the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR)), and a past board member of the California Genealogical Society (CGS) and the African American Genealogical Society of Northern California (AAGSNC). Nicka served as the chair of the Outreach and Education Committee for AAGSNC, and is the former project manager for the Alameda County, CA Youth Ancestral Project where more than 325 youth were taught the value of family history.  

Additionally, Nicka is the family historian and lead researcher for the Atlas family of Lake Providence, East Carroll, Louisiana, and guides and coaches an active group of family historians at the Who is Nicka Smith Patreon community. 

Researching Free People of Color in NC and VA: 1800 – 1865, Summer Sankofa Series with Renate Sanders. Register here.

July 13, 2023 at 6:30 pm ET

 Summer Sankofa Series 2023, hosted by the Lemon Project Genealogy Initiative, continues with "Researching Free People of Color in NC and VA: 1800 – 1865," a workshop by Renate Yarborough Sanders, on July 13 at 6:30 p.m. over Zoom. This presentation focuses on the lives and circumstances of Free People of Color in Virginia and North Carolina, laws enacted to control them, and record types for researching this population. 

Renate Yarborough Sanders is the descendant of formerly enslaved ancestors, enslavers, and free people of color. She authors two blogs: “Into the LIGHT” and “Genea-Related;” and produces a “(Mostly) African American Funeral Programs” online database.  

Renate is a member of the National Genealogical Society, the North Carolina Genealogical Society (Publicity Director), the Afro-American Genealogical and Historical Society (member of National Editorial Board and Vice-President and Newsletter Editor for the Hampton Roads Chapter), the Wake County Genealogical Society, and the Tyrrell County Genealogical and Historical Society. She is also a member of the lineage society, “Sons and Daughters of the United States Middle Passage.” Renate cohosts “Let’s Talk North Carolina Genealogy,” an online platform and YouTube show, presenting genealogy programing and virtual events for North Carolina researchers; and she has served as panelist and guest on numerous web shows and podcasts. Renate has provided genealogy education for several institutions of higher learning, businesses, and descendant groups, and is an instructor for the Midwest African American Genealogy Institute (MAAGI). Her research has been featured on PBS Radio and in a National Geographic cover story and podcast. Currently, Renate is engaged in researching descendants of enslaved persons owned by Wake Forest University (then College).  

Renate lectures on a variety of genealogy topics but specializes in teaching beginning to intermediate research methodology and sharing specific techniques for researching ancestors of color – both pre- and post-Emancipation. She is a retired elementary school educator, mother of two daughters, and grandmother of three beautiful granddaughters (and a granddog).

African American Newspapers in Genealogical Research, Summer Sankofa Series Workshop with Tim Pinnick. Register here.

August 8, 2023 at 6:30 pm - 7:30 pm ET

Summer Sankofa Series 2023, hosted by the Lemon Project Geneaology Initiative, concludes with "African American Newspapers in Genealogical Research," a workshop presented by Tim Pinnick, on August 8 at 6:30 p.m.

African American newspapers quickly became the voice of the community after emancipation. They were used in a variety of ways to inform, uplift, and unite the race north and south of the Mason-Dixon Line.  Locating available resources is vital to the African American research process.

Tim Pinnick is an article writer, national speaker, and author of the book, “Finding and Using African American Newspapers”. From 2006-2020 he taught as an associate instructor in the biennial “Researching African American Ancestors” course at the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research. In 2019 and again this year, Tim was the coordinator and facilitator of a landmark workshop course at the Institute entitled “Building an African American Research Toolbox”.  He has also accepted instructor assignments as part of the inaugural Midwestern African American Genealogy Institute in 2013, and more recently has been part of the faculty for the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh, Texas Institute of Genealogical Research, and Genealogical Institute on Federal Records.   

A lover of history, he has presented papers at four large history conferences, and over the years has served on the board of three genealogical organizations.  Tim is the Co-Chair and Lead Researcher for New Hanover County Community Remembrance Project, which partnered with the Equal Justice Institute to conduct a Soil Collection Ceremony in November of 2021 to honor the victims of the 1898 Wilmington Massacre & Coup. 

Spring 2023 Lemon Project Genealogical Research Roundtable – Monthly Meetings


The Lemon Project Genealogical Research Roundtable is an extension of the Genealogy Show & Tell sessions started as part of our first Sankofa Summer Workshop Series. The roundtable is a collaboration of genealogists and family historians at all levels of expertise. The session will focus on slavery and post-emancipation eras. Of course, genealogical research leads us down many paths and places, but ties to Virginia are the focus of this group.



 The roundtable will meet monthly with the goals to:

  • Discuss genealogical research challenges and find solutions
  • Assist new family historians on how to get started
  • Share resources and research findings

The Lemon Project Genealogy Initiative focuses on finding descendants of people enslaved by William & Mary. During these sessions, we hope to connect with people who have ties to W&M pre- and post-Emancipation.

The meetings will be informal, and everyone will be able to contribute. The meetings will be held virtually via Zoom, with potential in-person research sessions in the future. Register here to participate

Meetings will be held on the third Thursdays from 6 – 7 pm on the following dates:

  • January 19th
  • February 16th
  • March 16th
  • April 20th
  • May 18th