Xavier Magazine

Tapping Roots: Learning about yesterday brings job for today

Thomas Jordan attended his wife’s annual family reunion in 2008 and wondered why his own family didn’t do the same. Then he realized his father’s death, when Jordan was only 7 years old, had left an historical void. His immediate family didn’t know who their relatives were or where they came from.

So he decided to find out—to map out his family tree. But all he had to start with was the name of a man who might be the descendant of his grandmother’s sister. Felix Wilder. In Charleston, W.Va. Maybe.

Jordan found a phone number online and left a message, explaining he was Aunt Clara’s grandson. Wilder called back, and Jordan learned Wilder was the last surviving son of great Aunt Bee, his grandmother Clara’s sister.

From there, the floodgates opened. Wilder gave him the name of a cousin who died in 1995 at age 100. Jordan found the obituary online, which led him to King Hill cemetery in Georgia where he found not only the cousin’s grave but also the graves of his great-great-grandparents, James and Almira Webb. Both were born in the early 1800s, during slavery.

He also learned that his great-grandfather, Felix Jordan, donated the Jordan Grove Baptist Church in Roberta, Ga. Jordan had hit the jackpot. He’d found a connection to his past and a whole new family to boot.

“I’ve been meeting new family members who, until five years ago, I didn’t know I had,” he says. “Now I have literally hundreds.”

Jordan, a 1987 graduate who works at WCPO-TV in Cincinnati, is gaining recognition for his research skills. He has given presentations about genealogy on a TV show he hosts and has been invited to the Public Library of Cincinnati, the African-American Genealogy Group of Miami Valley and the Ohio Genealogical Society.

And it all started with a phone call.


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