We greatly enjoyed having Tony Burroughs as the speaker for our 2011 Got Ancestors?! Genealogy in Black & White and Blue & Gray seminar. I met Tony again at the recent FGS 2013 conference in Fort Wayne, Indiana and he mentioned to me a new project he’s been working on. This project is to try and identify by name the Black sailors who took part in the (naval) Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812. As noted below, Tony himself has recently identified that one of his ancestors – Oliver Perry Smothers – was a sailor on board Commodore Perry’s ship during this battle.

Below is what he sent me about this project.


Project to uncover heroes hidden for 200 years

On the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Lake Erie, Tony Burroughs, founder and CEO of the Center for Black Genealogy, announces “Hidden Heroes: Identifying Blacks in the Battle Lake Erie.” September 10, 2013 marks the 200th anniversary of one of the most famous battles in U.S. Naval history that took lace during the War of 1812. Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry captured an entire British fleet for the first time in world history. Estimates were 10 to 25% of the approximate 600 men were Black, but because naval records didn’t indicate race historians have only been able to identify ten by name.

Hidden Heroes will coordinate researchers to determine which men in the battle was Black. Several genealogical societies have agreed to help research and the project is seeking additional societies and researchers. Hidden Heroes is similar to a project that identified African Americans in the Civil War Navy for the National Park Service’s Civil War Soldiers and Sailors website.http://www.nps.gov/civilwar/soldiers-and-sailors-database.htm.

Hidden Heroes will correct another lost chapter in American and African American History. When the project is completed the names of these heroes will be on the Internet for free public access. This will enable historians to correct history and enable descendants to learn of their ancestor’s heroic deeds.

After a seventeen year search Tony Burroughs found evidence proving his sixth generation ancestor, Civil War veteran Oliver Perry Smothers, was the son of Charles Smothers. Charles Smothers’ application for Bounty Land indicated he served on Commodore Perry’s flag ship, the Brig Niagara. Smothers later named his son after Commodore Oliver Perry. This evidence qualified Burroughs to be admitted to the General Society of the War of 1812. Burroughs is possibly the first African American to be admitted to the society for an African American ancestor who fought in the Battle of Lake Eire.

Project Director – Tony Burroughs, FUGA

Burroughs is founder and CEO of the Center for Black Genealogy. He is an internationally known genealogist who taught genealogy at Chicago State University for fifteen years and author of the best selling Black Roots: A Beginners Guide to Tracing the African American Family Tree. He is also Vice-President of the Board of Directors of the Illinois Genealogical Society.

Advisory Board

Ed Moore – Retired three-star Vice-Admiral and the highest ranking African American in the Navy when he retired in 2001.

Captain Bill Pinkney – Master of the Freedom Schooner, AMISTAD, a reproduction of the 19th century slave ship Le Amistad and first Black man to sail solo around the world

Michael N. Henderson- Lieutenant Commander, USN, Retired, Past President – Button Gwinnett Chapter, Georgia Society, Sons of the American Revolution, member, General Society of the War of 1812

Scott Forsyth – Retired archivist, National Archives, Great Lakes Region

Samuel W. Black – President, Association of African American Museums & Director of African American Programs at the Senator John Heinz History Center

Dr. Iva E. Carruthers – President, Kwame Nkrumah Academy Board of Trustees; Professor Emeritus and former Chairperson of the Sociology Department, Northeastern Illinois University

Pat Van Skiak – Manager, Genealogy and Local History Collection at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

Kathleen Bethel – African American Studies Librarian at Northwestern University

Cristal Simmons – Epidemiologist and former president Afro-American Genealogical & Historical Society of Chicago, Inc.


Family Search – Genealogy Division of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Fold3 – Military Records Division of Ancestry.com

Allen County Public Library – Fort Wayne, Indiana

The Center for Black Genealogy www.blackgenealogy.org is a nonprofit educational institute designed to advance the scholarship of African American genealogy and promote genealogy research and preservation throughout the African Diaspora. The Center will offer an array of educational programs, scholarly research, oral history, publishing, and advocacy plus a genealogy research database, library, archives, museum, and preservation service center, thereby institutionalizing Black genealogy research. The Center believes that in addition to names, dates and places, the values families have used to survive should be researched and codified to help current and future generations improve humanity.

Tony Burroughs, FUGA Author, Black Roots: A Beginners Guide to Tracing the African American Family Tree