In tracing her family history, Taneya Koonce discovered stories about her African American ancestors in records going back to the late 1700s. Many were enslaved. She followed the path of some descendants from North Carolina to New York in the Great Migration.
The Internet Archive is among the many sources that Koonce has relied on in her research. From her home in Tampa, Florida, she regularly accesses the collection’s online yearbooks, newspapers, location histories, and government records to piece together her family’s story—and has also contributed material in hopes of helping others.
“As a genealogist and family historian, the breadth of digitized materials in the Internet Archive is essential to my research and an invaluable source of information in my family history quest,” said Koonce, who works as an information scientist at an academic medical center.
Koonce began to record stories in her family by interviewing her grandmothers nearly 30 years ago. She learned about several siblings of her maternal grandmother who died in infancy and the hardships they faced in life. Rediscovering her notes from those conversations after they died, Koonce began to dive into genealogy in earnest in 2005.
Her interest turned from a hobby to a passion in recent years. Koonce maintains a family genealogy website, created a web database for research of Koonce surnames from all over the country, publishes on her genealogy blog, and runs a collaborative genealogy-focused online community, the Academy of Legacy Leaders.
Having found so many historical items on the Internet Archive, Koonce teaches others how to use the collection in their own research. She’s active in genealogy societies, frequently presenting to others about the wealth of materials online.
Koonce applauded the Archive for preserving New York voter lists that helped her find one of her ancestors. After researching slaveholders by the name of Koonce, she connected with a man in Wisconsin who had published a “Koonce to Koonce” newsletter on the family’s history. With his cooperation, Taneya digitized and uploaded the newsletter to the Archive to preserve it for others. She always documents her findings, should they be of interest to others pursuing their family history.
“I specialize in helping family historians be very cognizant about planning for the future and leaving a legacy,” said Koonce, who has presented about the importance of saving family history research for the next generation. “One strategy is sharing material on the Internet Archive. I want to help educate people that it is a library. It’s dedicated to preserving content for the future. If we can contribute information to the collection, we can spread the word about what we’re doing and make sure it’s long lasting.”