Maddy McCoy, Founder
Maddy McCoy, Founder
I understand roots. I understand the importance of knowing where you came from.
I was adopted as an infant and raised in Montgomery County, Maryland in a loving, Jewish family that supported my passion for finding my biological family. When I was in my late 20s, I took on the daunting task of looking for my biological mother and father.
In 2001, I received an extensive family history from my biological paternal grandmother with a note that simply said “enjoy…these are your people.” The connection with my biological roots – a grounding in the past – brought my identity closer to a sense of completion. The answer to the question “Who am I?” became clearer, and helped me to heal. Finding and meeting my extended biological family and learning about my heritage has profoundly changed my life.
This foundational connection spurred my return to school to obtain a degree in public history, during which time I was drawn to the challenging work of identifying African American ancestors and communities, both enslaved and free.
While researching the identities of presumed enslaved individuals buried in an historic African American cemetery in Fairfax County, Virginia, I made a significant discovery. I unearthed vital data that enabled me to connect naming and kin patterns across a much wider historic landscape. My research results confirmed the first names of many enslaved and their traditionally elusive last names. From there, I was able to conclude that only five percent of enslaved individuals in Fairfax County shared a last name with their slaveholder. This discovery challenged a long-held theory that slaves took, and were identified by, the last name of their slaveholders.
Systemic racism has denied enslaved individuals a known and valued identity. The denial of a history is the denial of an existence and the denial of space within the national narrative. This is a denial of Black humanity that impacts Black history and Black genealogy.
My experience in the field has resulted in a wealth of earned knowledge of both local history and historical familial connections. I have an intuitive understanding of how historic records can provide a voice to the intentionally silenced and the historically excluded.
My role is to be an advocate. I established Slavery Inventory Database to carry out a mission to recover the identities of these human beings and restore them to their living families – to breach the wall of slavery so that people may better understand their roots and restore important foundational connections. I believe this work must be done to create a more just, equitable, and empathetic society. Ultimately this work benefits us all – we must heal together and grow together.
As I do this work for others, I continue to do this work for myself. Through my research I have discovered that my biological maternal ancestors were early Maryland settlers and slaveholders. This discovery not only affected me personally, but changed how I approach SID’s work. I am obliged to enter into difficult discussions and help people better understand and connect the present we live in to the past that created it.
2010 Distinguished Service Award
Fairfax County, Virginia Slavery Inventory Database
Virginia History Commission
2007 Exceptional Service Award for Historic Research
Fairfax County, Virginia Public Library
Commissioner, June 2017 – present
Historic Alexandria Resources Committee, Alexandria, Virginia
Fairfax County Cemetery Preservation Association (FCCPA), Virginia
Fairfax County African American Cemetery Group, Virginia
Gunston Hall Seeds of Independence Historic African American Research Committee, Gunston Hall, Virginia
City of Alexandria Archaeology’s Fort Ward Historic African American Community Research Committee, Alexandria, Virginia
Soil Tilled by Free Men: The Formation of a Free Black Community in Fairfax County, Virginia
The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 125, No. 1 (2017): 38-67.
May 2009 – January 2011
Woodlawn on the Eve of the Civil War: A Changing Cultural Landscape, From plantation slavery to an integrated community: 1846-1865, The Interpretation and Education Fund of The National Trust for Historic Preservation in cooperation with The National Endowment for the Humanities and The Jessie Ball duPont Fund National Trust for Historic Preservation
Fairfax County History Commission Historic Research Grant for the Fairfax County, Virginia Slavery Inventory Database
Association of Professional Genealogists
Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society
Association for Gravestone Studies
Christopher Milko, Researcher
Christopher Milko, Researcher
My lifelong passion for history has taken many forms over the years, but I have never shied away from getting my hands dirty.
From helping to restore historic homes to their former beauty in New England to exploring lost cemeteries along the Mid-Atlantic, I continuously strive to uncover the truths lost to history.
As a motivated, independent learner I take a unique approach to this work, often weaving together lessons from what might appear to be unrelated disciplines.
Currently I am spending much of my time researching documents in historic archives than with historic structures. I am able to uncover as much from reading 18th century deeds as I am from reading long-lost landscapes. My personal work includes exploring connections between art and labor movements.
As an integral member of the City of Alexandria’s Equal Justice Initiative’s Community Remembrance Project Research Group, my most recent work includes helping to research and write the narratives detailing two, recorded, fatal lynchings in Alexandria, Virginia.
Simone Jacobs, LCSW-C
Simone Jacobs, LCSW-C
I am a therapist in Takoma Park, Maryland and run the group practice Takoma Therapy. I have spent my career as a therapist working with adult survivors of childhood abuse and neglect. My focus is working with African American women helping them to explore the intersections of race, gender and intergenerational trauma.
I recently co-wrote and published a book called Understanding the Paradox of Surviving Childhood Trauma. This book – while not specifically about racial trauma – explores responses to interpersonal traumatic experiences. This work sparked my interest in working with Black women because, in my therapeutic experience, I found that traumatic responses to ongoing systemic racism and racial oppression were rarely addressed.
My work is also influenced by my own family history. I have a multicultural background – my mother is white and English and my father is Black from Oklahoma. My father’s family history is firmly rooted in the enslaved experience. Family members were purchased by Creek Native Americans from Alabama and moved to Oklahoma. Upon emancipation they were granted Creek citizenship but, the 1970’s, that citizenship was rescinded.
This family history was identified and provided to me and my family by Maddy McCoy. It has helped provide context for my continued interest in this work, fostering the desire to support others in connecting the dots between the past and the present.
“Maddy’s meticulous research uncovered the names of dozens of unknown enslaved individuals held by John Carlyle… this enabled us to understand and tell the site’s full story.”
– Susan Hellman, Historic Site Manager, Carlyle House Historic Park