In October 2014, the Central Maryland Chapter received the Chapter of the Year award at the Society’s Annual National Conference. This award is bestowed on an AAHGS chapter who has made outstanding contributions to the AAHGS mission to preserve African American history and genealogy through sponsorship of quality chapter programs, activities, and services over the past year.

Central Maryland Chapter was selected the 2014 Chapter of the Year, based on the chapter’s outstanding contributions to the AAHGS mission. The chapter has been on a mission this year to teach, inspire, and promote genealogical and historical research in the community. A relatively small chapter when chartered, as part of their mission the chapter set out to increase their membership to at least 50 financial members. The chapter initiated an ‘Each One Bring One’ promotion; fun activities such as genealogy challenges and genealogy crossword puzzles; QuickSheets, Genealogy at a Glance, and other research guides as door prizes; a genealogy book club; classes for beginners; and mentoring. The chapter has grown to 52 financial members and, more importantly, has established a niche as genealogy trailblazers in the local community.  [Taken From: AAHGS  News  September/October 2014]

Our Members

The CMC chapter and many of its members have been recognized by AAGHS for their contributions to researching, documenting, and preserving African American history and/or genealogy.


Robyn Smith was awarded the  Paul Edward Sluby, Sr. /Jean Sampson-Scott, Meritorious Achievement Award.  This is  the second highest award that can be bestowed by AAHGS upon an organization(s) or person(s) who has exhibited distinguished performance through a significant and measurable contribution to African American history and/or genealogy within the past two years.

Smith has been researching her family and others for 20 years. An engineer by day, she applies those research and problem-solving skills to the field of genealogy. She specializes in Maryland research, African American, slave research, and court records. Robyn promotes the documentation of communities and emphasizes the use of proper genealogical standards. She taught an Advanced African-American Genealogy course part-time at Howard Community College in Columbia, MD from 2008-2015. She also lectures and writes about family history research.

Smith is the author of numerous genealogy articles and a popular genealogy blog called Reclaiming Kin. In 2015, she published the book version of her blog, “The Best of Reclaiming Kin.”


Melvin J. Collier was awarded the  Paul Edward Sluby, Sr. /Jean Sampson-Scott, Meritorious Achievement Award.  This is the second highest award that can be bestowed by AAHGS upon an organization(s) or person(s) who has exhibited distinguished performance through a significant and measurable contribution to African American history and/or genealogy within the past two years.

A native of Canton, Mississippi, Collier has been conducting historical and genealogical research for over 25 years, starting at the age of 19. He is a former civil engineer, who used his passion for African American history and historical preservation to foster a career change. He then earned a Master of Arts degree in African American Studies, Clark Atlanta University, in 2008, with additional graduate coursework in Archival Studies from Clayton State University. For seven years, he worked as an archivist/library associate at the Robert W. Woodruff Library – Atlanta University Center. He now works for the Department of Defense in the Washington, D.C. area.

Collier has appeared on the NBC show, Who Do You Think You Are, as one of the expert genealogists on the Spike Lee episode (2010). He has given numerous presentations on genealogy, slave ancestral research, and genetic genealogy at many events and conferences around the country. He was also a guest speaker for African Heritage Day at the 2017 RootsTech Conference in Salt Lake City. He maintains a genealogy blog, Roots Revealed.

The Afro-American Historical and Genealogy Society (AAHGS) also awarded Collier with the 2012 Marsha M. Greenlee History Award. Collier is the author of Mississippi to Africa: A Journey of Discovery (2008), 150 Years Later: Broken Ties Mended (2011) and Ealy Family Heritage: Documenting Our Legacy (2016).

Jerome V. Spears was awarded the Elizabeth Lewis-Clarke AAHGS Genealogy Award (2016). This award is presented to a person or persons for original research in support of African American genealogy. The nomination is judged on scholarly and original research and must document the genealogy of African American ancestors.

Jerome, a native of Baltimore, Maryland, accelerated his genealogical research efforts back in 2009.  His undergraduate (Morgan State University) and graduate (University of Hawaii) degrees in Geography have served him well in assisting his approach of  meticulously positioning his ancestors within the historical context of “place” and “time” in order to uncover and reveal some remarkable and amazing family history discoveries. In 2015, he documented the history of his eight linear ancestral families – rising out from slavery in southern Maryland to freedom (and beyond) – in a nationally award winning manuscript entitled “I’ve Got Your Back.”

Jerome currently gives national-level presentations on genealogy, DNA applications, methods, and tools, including making maximum use of “Sibling Summation” techniques. He also addresses GU272 revelations/discoveries, Historic Sotterley Plantation insights, and using DNA to discover and successfully contact elusive distant African (Yoruba) cousins from Nigeria. He was one of the virtual presenters for the RootsTech Connect 2021 conference which hosted over one million participants from around the world; all studying and learning about their various family histories.


Marion Woodfork Simmons received the Paul Edward Sluby, Sr. Meritorious Achievement Award during the national convention of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society (AAHGS) on October 6, 2012. The Meritorious Achievement Award is the second highest award that can be bestowed by AAHGS. It is presented for distinguished performance through a significant and measurable contribution to African American history and genealogy. Ms. Simmons was recognized for her tireless efforts to promote the awareness, documentation, and preservation of family and local history.

She is the owner of Woodfork Genealogy LLC in Burtonsville, Maryland whose mission is to empower ordinary people to take an active role in preserving family and community history. In 2009, she initiated the Union High History Project to preserve the history of Caroline County Virginia’s only high school for Negroes during segregation. She interviewed and collected information and artifacts from over 100 alumni, faculty, family and friends. The final result of the project was a self-published book titled Memories of Union High: An Oasis in Caroline County, Virginia 1903 to 1969. Ms. Simmons was recognized as a finalist in the African American non-fiction category for the 2012 National Indie Excellence Award, and has received local acclaim for her book.

Ms. Simmons frequently speaks to genealogy groups on the importance of preserving family and community history.


Alice Harris, past president of Central Maryland Chapter of AAHGS, was presented the AAHGS President’s Award.  The award is presented to a member who has rendered outstanding service to AAHGS for a minimum of five (5) years at a personal sacrifice of time. This nominee has, in addition, contributed immeasurably to the Society’s growth and well being.

In the fall of 2009, Alice initiated steps to reactivate Central Maryland Chapter (CMC) which had been inactive for many years.  The first meeting for the newly revived chapter was held on January 23, 2010, with Alice as the chapter president.

Alice led CMC for seven years. Under her leadership, the organization tripled its membership and garnered considerable notability for its programs, workshops, visits to local repositories, and other activities. In October 2014, CMC was recognized by AAHGS as the Chapter of the Year “for outstanding programs in support of the mission”. Alice’s term as President ended in 2016;however, she still is very active in the chapter.