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Genealogy festival to feature author and historian Baker

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Author, genealogy expert and historian John F. Baker Jr. will be the featured speaker at the upcoming Granville Genealogy Festival in Jackson County. SUBMITTED

Author, genealogy expert, historian and Springfield native John F. Baker Jr. will be the featured speaker at the annual Granville Genealogy Festival on Saturday, April 8.

Baker is the author of "The Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation: Stories of My Family's Journey to Freedom." When Baker was in the seventh grade, he discovered the story of his ancestors when he saw a photograph of four former slaves in his social studies textbook. Months later, he learned they were his grandmother's paternal grandparents, Emanuel and Henry Washington, who were once enslaved on Wessyngton Plantation.

The plantation was founded in 1796 by Joseph Washington, a distant cousin of President George Washington. Baker has interviewed dozens of individuals ranging from 80 to 107 years old to collect their oral histories. He studied more than 11,000 documents to trace the lives of his ancestors, the Washington family and more than 300 other African Americans enslaved on Wessyngton Plantation, the largest tobacco plantation in America. After more than 30 years of extensive historical research, Baker has created a groundbreaking work in African American history and American history.

The Tennessee State Museum has created a traveling exhibit based on Baker's book that will be at Granville Museum through June 3. The exhibit is open Wednesday through Friday from noon until 3 p.m. and on Saturday from noon until 5 p.m. The exhibit will also be open on April 8 from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. as part of the Granville Genealogy Festival. Baker will speak at the Granville United Methodist Church on April 8 at 11 a.m.

The festival will also feature the following speakers: Joellan Hall on "How to Access the Largest Genealogy Library in the World" at 9:30 a.m.; Edie Williams and Linda Coffey on "Family Connections: Finding Missing Family through DNA" at 10 a.m.; Tennessee State Museum's Rob DeHart on "Slavery in Tennessee" at 11:45 a.m.; Robert Brown on "Early Raglands in Jackson County" at 1 p.m.; and Michael Bertrand on "Region, Race and Memory: Inheriting the Civil War Conversation" at 2 p.m. In addition, the festival will feature "How to Do Genealogy Research" by Ron Dishman and "Genealogy Research of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints" at the Granville Museum.

The Granville Genealogy Festival will be held in conjunction with the grand opening of "1940s in Granville" with World War II reenactments, Freedom Belles, World War II musical shows, the "Up to 1950s" Antique Car Show, wine festival, crafts, craftsmen, music, great food and more. To learn more, call (931) 653-4151 or visit

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Edie Williams, festival, genealogy, Granville, Joellan Hall, John F. Baker Jr., Linda Coffey, Michael Bertrand, Rob DeHart, Ron Dishman
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