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African American Lives 2 -- Hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
In Search of Our Roots -- Buy the companion book now from ShopPBS
Sharing Stories: One Family's Story
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Freedman Bank Records Georgia 1871 Milledgeville Georgia Genealogy research

A friend gave me a copy of the Freedman Bank Records he had received at a Genealogy workshop. His relatives were not listed and I didn't expect to find mine. I was hysterical with excitement when a search of my great-grandfather's name appeared with his information. Joseph Wiggins was one of the 480,000 clients of the Freedman Bank. Joe’s story begins at the Freedman Bank located in Atlanta, Georgia. On July 3, 1871, Joe Wiggins filled out a form to become a client of the Freedman Bank and listed his family information that we did not have. This is the oldest record we have of him. We knew his mother’s name was Fanny, but he listed his father’s name as Nat and deceased. Joe’s brothers were Louis and James and his sisters were Amy, Julia, Carrie and Martha. At the age of 22 years old, Joe Wiggins, took a bold step towards his future and in doing so he left us, his descendants, his hand print on history and our lives.

Joe was single and living on Marietta Street in Milledgeville Georiga. He gave his age as 22 years old in 1871. And, Joe could sign his name. As I examine his signature, I was full of pride to know he could write is name because during this time period it was not uncommon to be an illiterate Black person. Especially during slavery, it was against the law to teach a slave to read or write

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Major corporate funding for African American Lives 2 and its outreach initiatives is provided by The Coca-Cola Company and Johnson & Johnson. Additional corporate funding is provided by Buick.
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