"I know this is the internet age, but all kinds of stuff is out there," Hamilton said to a large crowd at the library.
Hamilton, who is a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, said that military records are a particularly good place to begin research, especially if one thinks a relative may have been drawing a pension. She said the only issue with that is that it could involve a trip to Washington D.C.
"African-Americans have fought in every war," Hamilton said.
She recalled the story of one man identified as Charlie Carr, who was brought to the U.S. from the Congo in 1858 aboard the slave ship "The Wanderer." It landed at Jekyll Island and the slaves dispersed across the southeastern coastal region. During her research on him she uncovered papers where he explained conditions aboard the ship. He wrote about the number of slaves who were found dead in the mornings during the crossing and had their bodies dumped overboard.
"Six years later he joined the U.S. Army," Hamilton said.
She also reminded the audience that Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation did not free all slaves, only slaves that were held in states that did not secede from the Union.
"A lot of African-Americans went to church with their owners," Hamilton said. Of course, an issue there involves the fact that often times the slave was identified solely by first name, like "Ol' John."
She said Social Security applications, old city directories, a search of wills that are on file in any county, land records, and immigration records were also helpful along with Census data.
One woman in the audience said tracing Census data on slaves could be very tricky because during her research she found a man who was listed in three different places in the same Census year.
"You need to know the history of where your people came from," Hamilton said.
She said that during the era of the Works Progress Administration almost a century ago, workers came South to record stories of some of the most elderly of freed slaves and that information is available through the Library of Congress.
Rome historian Russell McClanahan also told the crowd the Rome Area History Museum has registry books of slaves that were held by locals.
"You've got to remember that slaves were property, most prized property," McClanahan said. Records were frequently kept whenever a slave was leased out for whatever purpose, and McClanahan said those registries were found a number of years ago and will be kept up front at the museum for a couple of weeks following the Saturday workshop.
As Hamilton concluded her program, she recommended three print publications for people to get help in tracing their lineage including "Black Roots" by Tony Burroughs, "Finding a Place Called Home" by Dee Parmer Woodtor and "The Family Tree Tool Kit" by Kenyatta Berry.