Presenter's Bios

Alexander Bennett, Bernice
A lecturer, author, and family historian researching and documenting her African American roots. She is a Citizen's Archivist with the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, DC, and the producer and host of a weekly Blogtalkradio show - Research at the National Archives and Beyond. She has presented at national and local genealogical societies, and is a Coordinator of the DNA track and faculty for the Midwest African American Genealogy Institute.
Christmas, Shannon
An experienced genealogist specializing in genetic, colonial American, and African-American genealogy in Virginia and the Carolinas. He serves as a 23andMe Ancestry Ambassador, administrator of The Captain Thomas Graves of Jamestown Autosomal DNA Project, co-administrator of The Hemings-Jefferson-Wayles-Eppes Autosomal DNA Project. Shannon has a special interest in harnessing the power of autosomal DNA to verify and extend pedigrees, assess the veracity of oral history, and reconstruct ancestral genomes.
A trained urban planning and real estate consultant, Shannon has a Bachelor of Arts in Government from Harvard University and a Masters in City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Goodson, Noreen
Born and raised in Baltimore, MD; graduate of Morgan State College and Morgan State University; and elementary school teacher for 30 years in the Baltimore City Public School System. In 1981, she began researching her parents' families in Maryland, Virginia, and South Carolina. Currently the Corresponding Secretary of Baltimore's Agnes Kane Callum Chapter of AAHGS. Also a member of the Maryland Genealogical Society and of the historical societies of Maryland, Virginia, South Carolina, and Baltimore City. Currently researching the Goodsons' of Richland County, SC.
Harris, Alice F.
Alice F. Harris has been an active member of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society (AAHGS) for over ten years. In January 2010, Alice re-activated the Central Maryland Chapter of AAHGS in Columbia, Maryland, and served as Chapter President for seven years. In 2011, she was presented the AAHGS National President's Award for her service to the organization. In 2014, the Central Maryland Chapter was recognized as the AAHGS Chapter of the Year. Alice has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Russian, Master of Arts degree in Legal Studies, and a Juris Doctorate degree. She has taught African-American genealogy courses at Howard Community College and enjoys assisting others in their genealogy quests. Alice is passionate about genealogy and hopes to inspire others, particularly our youth, to learn more about their heritage.
Jones, Marvin T.
Marvin T. Jones is a documentary photographer and filmmaker specializing in corporate photography and videography. In his work, he has documented Haitian defense works for UNESCO, the developing nation of Somaliland, and Black communities in South America. Marvin is the founder and Executive Director of the Chowan Discovery Group who documents, researches, preserves and presents history of his native Winton Triangle, a 275 year-old mixed race landowning community. Through Chowan Discovery, Marvin has produced three documentaries on DC schools and teachers; erected 6 North Carolina Highway Historical Markers, placed his church's Rosenwald School House on the National Register of Historic Places, produced a stage production about the Winton Triangle, given many lectures, written several articles, and has given many broadcast interviews. Marvin is a member of the Central Maryland Chapter of AAHGS and lives in Washington, DC. Please visit and/or email:
Kluskens, Claire
Claire Kluskens is a reference and digital projects archivist specializing records with genealogical value. She spearheaded the completion of more than 330 National Archives microfilm publications, and now works on certain digital and description projects for the National Archives Catalog. She lectures frequently and has published extensively in national, state, and local genealogical publications. Claire has been a National Archives and Records Administration staff member since 1992 and has done genealogical research since 1976. She has a blog/website "The Twelve Key" at, This blog/website provides information about records in the National Archives.
Kostakos Petranek, Carol
Carol Kostakos Petranek - Serves as an Assistant Director of the Washington, D.C. Family History Center where she coordinates classes, conferences and community outreach projects. She is a Citizen Archivist at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. and volunteers as a Genealogy Aid in the Research Room. Carol is the Volunteer Coordinator for a FamilySearch/Maryland Archive digitization project of Probate and Estate Records.
Murphy, Shelley
Shelley Murphy, aka "familytreegirl", a native of Michigan residing in Virginia. She is a founding member & current President of the AAHGS Central Virginia & VP of the Central Virginia Genealogical Association. She has been a member of AAHGS since 2006, and holds memberships with the National Genealogical Society, Association of Professional Genealogists and Central Virginia History Researchers. She is also a Coordinator for the Midwestern African American Genealogy Institute (MAAGI), presents Genealogy 101 workshops at the local community college, and does presentations at state & national genealogy conferences. She holds a Doctorate of Management in Organizational Leadership & works as an adjunct professor for Averett University. Shelley's tagline is "Know your roots, they are long and strong."
Polk, Erwin
Erwin Polk earned a Bachelor of Science, Degree in Business Administration from Morgan State University, in Baltimore, Maryland.
His genealogical research made it possible for him to be interviewed by Bryant Gumble on the "Today Show". He has been featured in the Wilmington News Journal regarding the history of his family and a memorial service for his great grandfather Thomas Elzey Polk Sr., a 9th Cavalry Regiment Buffalo soldier. He was interviewed for another News Journal Article for the Sunday, August 16, 2009 edition regarding a celebration of 200 years of Freedom in the United States by his Polk Ancestors.
Erwin has completed a fourteen-page booklet explaining Juneteenth and why it should be celebrated by Americans, for the Delaware Juneteenth Association. He regularly speaks at schools and to youth groups on Buffalo Soldiers, genealogy, as well as rock and mineral collecting. Erwin is a member of the AAHGS Delaware Chapter as well as the AAHGS Agnes Kane Callum Baltimore Chapter, and a former Board of Governor for the Delaware Genealogical Society. Erwin is a member of the Thomas Elzey Polk Sr. Salisbury, Maryland Chapter of the Ninth and Tenth (Horse) Cavalry Association of Buffalo Soldiers.
Raji, Angela Walton
A founding member of, Ms. Walton-Raji is also a genealogist specializing in information for beginners, via daily and weekly online genealogy chats on AfriGeneas. As host of a weekly genealogy podcast, a number of instructional videos and as an expert consultant on video documentaries, Ms. Walton-Raji combines her skills as a genealogist with a warm on camera personality that brings comfort to her viewers through and her instructional videos on YouTube, while providing them with useful information. She is a published author, host of 3 blogs, in addition to a 10-year ongoing message board, 3 websites, and The African Roots Podcast ( A researcher with national reputation, Ms. Walton-Raji's talents have been recognized by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, for over a decade.
Schablitsky, Julie M.
Julie M. Schablitsky, PhD is the Chief Archaeologist and directs the Cultural Resources Section at the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration. She holds adjunct positions in the anthropology department at the University of Maryland and Museum of Natural and Cultural History at the University of Oregon. Her expertise includes historic archaeology, African America, military sites, and transportation landscapes. Dr. Schablitsky's research on African American archaeology includes: the study of African American spiritual practices at the Jackson Homestead in Montgomery County; the Serenity Burial Ground in Charles County; and the discovery and excavation of the Belvoir Slave Quarter in Anne Arundel County. Currently, she is studying and excavating the Simon Hill Cemetery, an African American Baptist Burial Ground in Prince Georges County, that dates between the 1880s and mid-20th century.
Ward, Kerry
Kerry Ward is a liaison specialist with Veterans History Project (VHP) of the American Folklife Center at The Library of Congress. As part of the Program Coordination and Communications team, she focuses on program planning, developing and implementing strategies for building the archival collection, managing public and private partnerships, and creating a national and focused communications strategy. Participate in VHP throughout the year by sharing the veteran in your life's wartime memories with the nation's library. To learn more about the Veterans History Project, visit the website at
Whitehead, Karsonya (Kaye) Wise
Karsonya (Kaye) Wise Whitehead is an Associate Professor of Communication, African and African American Studies in the Department of Communication at Loyola University Maryland and the host of Today With Dr. Kaye on WEAA 88.9 FM. She is the author of four books including RaceBrave: new and selected works, which was selected by the Baltimore Sun as one of the 2015 Top Ten Summer Reads; Notes from a Colored Girl: The Civil War Pocket Diaries of Emilie Frances Davis, which received both the 2015 Darlene Clark Hine Book Award from the Organization of American Historians and the 2014 Letitia Woods Brown Book Award from the Association of Black Women Historians; and, Letters to My Black Sons: Raising Boys in a Post-Racial America. She is also a K-12 Master Teacher in African American History, an award-winning former Baltimore City middle school teacher, a three-time New York Emmy-nominated documentary filmmaker, and a 2016-2017 guest commentator and Op-Ed columnist for WYPR 88.1 FM and the Baltimore Sun. Whitehead created the Say Her Name syllabus, the Clinton syllabus, the Trump Syllabus K12, and the A Day Without A Woman Syllabus. She was the guest editor for the fall 2016 special "#BlackGirlActivism" edition of Meridians journal. Dr. Whitehead can be reached by e-mail, via twitter @kayewhitehead, or at her website
She lives in Baltimore with her family.