Decoration Day, May 1, 1865: Nation’s first Memorial Day

Happy Decoration Day!

The Good Genes Genealogy team remembers when our Maternal Great Grandmother Edna Robinson would rise early in Omaha, Nebraska with family members so that they would be the first at the cemetery to clean and decorate the humble grave markers. On both sides of my family, we visited the relatives who were buried primarily in Omaha’s Forest Lawn Cemetery. It was a solemn time, yet a memorable time for me as a child. 

Many family members who transitioned before Aunt Beverly had humble grave markers that were reminiscent of the enslaved grave markers of rocks or humble engravings on stone.


Little did I know that the humble celebration of the lives of our deceased relatives was born in the kind and respectful practices of Black formerly enslaved women and children. I was unaware because the stories that were passed along through the last century, focused on the well-earned service of U.S. military men and women. However, the origins of Memorial Day are historic, especially for African Americans whose ancestors lived in South Carolina. 

“Make sure you are telling the right story,” said Bishop Jack L. Bomar, presiding minister of Atlanta’s Hillside International Truth Center. On the eve of Memorial Day, Bomar reminded the in person and online, worldwide congregation, “Before it was called Memorial Day, it was originally known as Decoration Day.”


The Civil War was closing in April 1865 after the Union troops entered the city of Charleston, S.C. Historical accounts reveal that most of the white residents fled the city years earlier. The Black residents of Charleston remained to celebrate and welcome the troops, including the Twenty-First Colored Infantry. It was May 1, 1865 and the first-named Decoration Day later became known as Memorial Day. Even current-day accounts neglect to give credit where credit is due. However, noted historians are reviving the original founding of Memorial Day with great detail.

Historian David Blight retold the story:

During the final year of the war, the Confederates had converted the planters’ horse track, the Washington Race Course and Jockey Club, into an outdoor prison. Union soldiers were kept in horrible conditions in the interior of the track; at least 257 died of exposure and disease and were hastily buried in a mass grave behind the grandstand. Some 28 black workmen went to the site, re-buried the Union dead properly, and built a high fence around the cemetery. The

y whitewashed the fence and built an archway over an entrance on which they inscribed the words, “Martyrs of the Race Course.”

Then, black Charlestonians in cooperation with white missionaries and teachers, staged an unforgettable parade of 10,000 people on the slaveholders’ race course. The symbolic power of the low-country planter aristocracy’s horse track (where they had displayed their wealth, leisure, and influence) was not lost on the freed people. A New York Tribune correspondent witnessed the event, describing “a procession of friends and mourners as South Carolina and the United States never saw before.”

At 9 a.m. on May 1, the procession stepped off led by 3,000 black schoolchildren carrying armloads of roses and singing “John Brown’s Body.” The children were followed by several hundred black women with baskets of flowers, wreaths and crosses.

Then came black men marching in cadence, followed by contingents of Union infantry and other black and white citizens. As many as possible gathered in the cemetery enclosure; a childrens’ choir sang “We’ll Rally around the Flag,” the “Star-Spangled Banner,” and several spirituals be

fore several black ministers read from scripture. (“The First Decoration Day,” Newark Star Ledger).

This grave marker is of an unknown slave. It was placed on this tree after likely being tossed in a Florida storm.

54th Massachusetts Infantry

The Colored 21st Infantry and the Colored 54th Infantry are both credited for its direct and indirect involvement in the celebration of the first Decoration Day. From the archives of the University of Southern California:

Assigned to command the assault on a South Carolina Confederate fort during the battle at Battery Wagner in July 1863, the 54th Massachusetts Infantry of the Civil War was composed primarily of freed black slaves from northern Union states.

Though the siege was unsuccessful, the heroism of a number of members of the infantry drew the attention of the nation. In particular, Sgt. William Carney risked his life to lead the troops forward, erecting the Union flag. He suffered two bullet wounds but survived, going on to become the first African American to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor for his unprecedented courage.

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Bishop Jack Bomar shares his family's history and spreads the love

Genealogy Group Think: It works

Initiating a genealogy group is an awesome endeavor. On Sunday, March 10, 2024, it happened at my home church, Hillside International Truth Center.
I expected about 25 persons; we more than doubled that number. We had a common interest: To explore and gain ground in learning our collective and individual family histories. The majority of Atlanta’s Hillside International Truth Center’s congregants are African American. That’s why the forming of our monthly in-person gatherings to share and learn more about how to effectively locate our ancestral loved ones, is vitally important since African Diaspora family history researchers experience the greatest hurdles in obtaining our honest histories.
Here’s what we accomplished in our first meeting:

  1. We gathered for the divine purpose of briefly sharing our stories, new information, exchanging research tips for newbies to seasoned researchers.
  2. We learned more about the genealogy journey from one of our members, Valerie Tolliver, whose story was told in an informative video segment, as part of a recently released documentary, “Roots Revealed.”
  3. We were blessed and encouraged by our Presiding Bishop and Pastor Dr. Jack L. Bomar, who also experienced breakthroughs in his family history.
    Bishop Jack Bomar shares his family's history and spreads the love
    Bishop Jack (white suit) greets fellow family ancestry and genealogy researchers


  4. We established that our hourlong+ meetings will be held every second Sunday (except for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day) from noon – 1 p.m. Our meeting location is the King Chapel, named in honored of the church’s founding minister, leader, and historic ancestor, Dr. Barbara Lewis King.
  5. We will set our future agenda, share online resources, encourage knowledge sharing, provide deep support for our newest researchers, collaborate with each other on our established projects, and  celebrate successes, especially when “brick walls” are broken through.
  6. We will learn more about joining relevant genealogical societies and related groups, visit historical sites, and invite our local library genealogy leaders to assist us.

In all, we will share more insight on how to access online learning, and also provide a supportive and exhuberant genealogy group that will aid us in sharing our family histories.
Stay tuned: The best is yet to come.
Thank you.

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The DNA and Mental Health Benefits in Genealogy and Ancestry research

Join us for the free, final weekend workshop

The Good Genes Genealogy Services duo and Atlanta’s Hillside International Truth Center team up for the last weekend of the free genealogy workshops. The hour-long session is designed to inspire the beginners to seasoned genealogy researchers, and provide everyone with the tools to dig deeper into their families’ colorful histories.

Join us, Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023!

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Key to breaking “brick walls”: Ancestry and genealogy information collectors

Some genealogy and ancestry guides and books used by GGGS’ Ann Wead Kimbrough for her research.

Get forms for family research

Go to the Good Genes Genealogy Services website and utilize the forms that we made available especially for participants in our two-part Sankofa Genealogy workshop in partnership with Hillside International Truth Center.

Since the first workshop on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2023, several participants have telephoned, texted, emailed and visited their relatives to gather information needed for their individual family searches. It is healing and helpful for your family and friends to discover their histories.

Way to get the book?

  1. Go to Good Genes Genealogy Services‘ website.
  2. Then go to the Genealogy Store link.
  3. Select e-book.
  4. Customer information will be available to be populated for completion of the $5 workbook.

Thank you!

Please join our Hillside family in this month’s Sankofa activities and fellowship.

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Legacy partners present free, Third Annual Sankofa Genealogy workshops

Get your e-workbook

Join us at 10 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 11, 2023, for a valuable workshop via Zoom designed to prompt participants to find their “lost” loved ones and gain joy, satisfaction, identity and spiritual uplift on the journey. The workshop focuses on Black Genealogy and Ancestry family research and more.

Sankofa Genealogy workshop attendees are asked to purchase the companion workbook. Go to our website and select “Genealogy Store.” You will be able to download your copy after selecting the book cover image (see below) to pay for your book. All proceeds offset our free and low-cost, year-round genealogy consulting services. Kimbrough and Owen are the co-authors and Veverly Byrd-Davis is the book designer and illustrator of the cover.

Part two and final 2023 Sankofa Genealogy workshop will be held at the same time, Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023. Details will be provided next week.

Partners sponsoring this workshop.

Ann Wead Kimbrough and Mark Owen, first cousins and genealogists of GGGS, will facilitate the workshops for the third year.
Workshop partner leadership: Presiding Bishop Jack L. Bomar, Rev. Sharon Hodnett (Zoom ologist) and Dr. Marian Gamble (Assisting Zoom ologist)

Zoom meeting details

Meeting ID: 861 4830 0328
Passcode: 02112023
Dial: 929 205 6099 US

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It’s here! Your next e-workbook is ready in time for our exciting Sankofa Month Genealogy workshop

The Good Genes Genealogy Services Team is pleased to offer our third annual Black Genealogy workshops, 10 – 11 a.m., Saturdays, Feb. 11 and 18, 2023, in partnership with Hillside International Truth Center, Atlanta, GA. We remain in a virtual setting via Zoom.

Meeting ID: 861 4830 0328
Passcode: 02112023
Dial: 929 205 6099 US

Hillside’s leadership generously is offering our workshops for free. Cousins Ann Wead Kimbrough and Mark S. Owen, genealogists, are the facilitators for their church’s genealogy workshops. The workshops are open to our worldwide audience.

Kimbrough and Owen specialize in “breaking down brick walls” to find the “hard-to-find” Black ancestors whose histories are usually intertwined with others from contrasting backgounds, such as former slave owners. Kimbrough and Owen have several success stories in helping genealogy workshop participants and other clients to locate their “lost” loved ones. Hillside’s Presiding Bishop Jack L. Bomar, is among those who learned a “great blessing” of family history through the Good Genes Genealogy Services’ research about his family.

Sankofa Genealogy workshop attendees are asked to purchase the companion workbook. Go to our website and select “Genealogy Store.” You will be able to download your copy after selecting the book cover image (see below) to pay for your book. All proceeds offset our free and low-cost, year-round genealogy consulting services. Kimbrough and Owen are the co-authors and Veverly Byrd-Davis is the book designer and illustrator of the cover.

As a preview to the first workshop, we will explore the “natural” and online ways to find your ancestors whose heritage is from the African diaspora. Participants will also learn helpful tips and receive encouragement from the valued benefit of locating and celebrating our individual and collective Black family ancestries.

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We are our ancestors!

From Hillside International Truth Center, Atlanta, GA
Remember the delicate egg and its role in our ancestry. Photo credit: Ann Wead Kimbrough, 2017
      Every cell in your body re-presents an Ancestor. These cells are encoded with the soul-print of your ancestors. You are the embodiment of those who came before you. They came before you, and they are with you now. All eternity is in the present now. No separation. Your existence is re-presenting the past in the present moment. You are creating and shaping the future as a future ancestor. Be bold and unapologetic about it.       I am the future of my past. I am the very existence of all that was before me. I am here, right now, to carry forward the legacy, the collective soul intent of my ancestors. I rest in the now, knowing that I am right where I need to be. I am fully connected with All That Is. I belong. I am enough. I am now. Thank you, Order, in me, through me, as me, around me, through the Christ within. And so it is.      So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27 
 Daily Thoughts from the HillCopyright: Hillside International Truth Center, Inc.Bishop Dr. Jack L. Bomar – Executive BishopBishop Dr. Barbara L. King – Founder

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Spiritual nuturing reminds us to keep on keepin’ on in family genealogy research

Saturday, May 15, 2021 I AM MY ANCESTORS      
 In life, there is no separation. There is no separation from the past, the present, and the future. We are the center of it all. We are the life of God that lived as our ancestors. They passed their life on to us. Who they are is encoded in our DNA, cells, soul, and physical features. We are who they are. We are one and the same. We too are here to impress our collective soul-full imprint upon the earth.    

I am part of a never-ending story of the mighty miracle of this thing called Life. I am a miracle to behold. A miracle to extend to the world. I am a wisdom keeper and a revealer of what is sacred and precious about Life. Every aspect of my journey is significant. I celebrate it and let God multiply its blessings. Thank you, Power, in me, through me, as me, around me, through the Christ within. And so it is. I am reminded of your true faith, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure now in you also.2 Timothy 1:5 Daily Thoughts from the HillCopyright: Hillside International Truth Center, Inc.Bishop Dr. Jack L. Bomar – Executive BishopBishop Dr. Barbara L. King – Founder Minister/World Spiritual Leader Renew/Subscribe: Address Change/Mailing Questions/Did not receive – Contact: 

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Daily Thoughts from the Hill
Hillside International Truth Center, Inc.
2450 Cascade Rd. SW
Atlanta, GA 30311

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