This debut genealogy traces the history of the author’s African-American family as well as that of his ancestors’ enslavers.
Roulhac was born during World War II and grew up in Florida, where his first job was picking cotton with his mother. Now a federal administrative law judge, he wrote this ambitious history to pass on “the legacy of my enslaved ancestors who overcame unspeakable conditions as the property of whites” to become property and business owners themselves. Unlike most works that trace African-American roots, which rely mostly on oral histories and census records, this book has an additional, invaluable source: the 1894 Genealogical Memoir of the Roulhac Family in America, which tells the story of the author’s white ancestors. The Roulhacs were originally from France, and in America, they owned slaves, fought for the Confederacy and were active in Reconstruction. In Part I, “Slave Genealogy,” Roulhac quotes from and comments on the Memoir and consults original sources such as wills, census records and slave schedules to emphasize the white family’s slave transactions. For Roulhac, this yielded “a startling reminder of my ancestors’ reality.” He saw his great-great-grandparents and great-grandfather listed “on the same yellowed pages as ox carts, bay horses, and sorrel colts, priced down to the penny, for quick sale.” Part II, “The March to Freedom,” follows the African-descended Roulhacs and their struggles to escape “a legacy of repression,” drawing on original sources such as depositions, pension applications, military records and the like. One African-American Roulhac branch immigrated to Liberia in west Africa, which provides an intriguing addition to the story. Appendices include additional genealogical information that will likely be most useful to Roulhac family researchers. The author doesn’t address in detail the blood relationships between the white and black Roulhacs, several of whom the author describes as “mulatto.” Indeed, the author’s commentary can sometimes be thin, and as a result, readers are left to draw their own conclusions about much of the information here. That said, when a family rises so high in just a few generations, it tells its own story—one that’s nothing short of inspiring.
A proud tale of American success and a valuable genealogical resource.