Research Team and Trip

Website and Research History

Written by AtlasFamilyOrg on .

This website and the genealogy research it contains has been a work in progress for over 30 years.

Initially, the genealogy for the Atlas family of East Carroll Parish, Louisiana was the result of research complied from two sources:

Research compiled by John Wesley Atlas. John spent time with family members and obtained documentation from the National Archives in Washington, DC and the East Carroll Clerk of Court Office in Lake Providence, LA. From this research, he compiled a tree that was distributed to the family at the 1985 reunion in Memphis, TN and was primarily focused on the King Atlas, Jr. line through his son Louis Balfour/Bareford Atlas, Sr.

Research by from Timothy Phillips, Sr. Timothy created an outline of the descendants of Mary and Thomas Atlas based on information he had received from his mother and family members. He distributed this report to family members in 1998 in preparation for the 1999 reunion in Milwaukee, WI.

1999 Reunion Group Photo, Milwaukee, WIAt the 1999 reunion in Milwaukee, WI (photo left), Nicka (Sewell) Smith got the idea of creating a family website and also to maintain the family history on an ongoing basis. The result of these ideas was the first of several websites which eventually became AtlasFamily.Org. At this time, the website featured a list of email addresses, a small amount of genealogy, and a history of the family reunions.

At the 2001 reunion in St. Paul, MN, the first updates were made to the family file, which, at the time, was a compilation of the work done by John Wesley Atlas and Timothy Phillips, Sr. The total number of individuals in family file was approximately 400 people and it focused primarily on the entire line of King Atlas, Jr.

At the following reunions (2003, New Orleans, LA; 2005, Detroit, MI), more updates were made to the family file. By 2005, the family file had reached 700 people. This was due, in part, to utilization of the Internet and websites which provided census, birth, marriage and death records for the United States. In addition, Nicka made an effort to contact and locate unknown family members by forming connections with the “family historian” on several branches of the family tree. She also created an e-mail list and Yahoo! Group to maintain contact, send out announcements, and obtain more genealogical information from family members.


In 2006, Nicka continued research with the creation of the Annual Atlas Family Research Trip. This trip was started as a means to locate the last slaveholder of King Atlas, Sr., the oldest traceable ancestor of the Atlas family, as well as to meet relatives and gather more genealogical information. Jean Denton-Thompson accompanied her on this trip. Subsequent trips took place in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, and 2012.  For more information on the annual research trip, please About Us > Research Trip.

2006 marked the creation of the Civil Rights Archive at AtlasFamily.Org. This section was created to acknowledge family involvement in the American Civil Rights movement and features the Thompson Sisters of New Orleans, LA and Rev. Francis Joseph Atlas, Sr. of Lake Providence, LA. To access the archive, please visit Media > Civil Rights Archive. 2006 also marked the beginning of the monthly family newsletter that captured vital events (births, deaths, etc.) in the family as well as announcements about reunions and events.

East Carroll Parish, LA Courthouse, Circa 1901As a result of the first research trip, and the assistance of family members, the family file increased to 1,447 family members by February 2007. That same year, a new section of family genealogical documents was created. This was done so family members had the ability to download, save and/or print documents related to their ancestors. To date, more than 75 documents are available on the site. To access the documents, please visit the Genealogy > Historical Documents.

By the end of 2007, AtlasFamily.Org had carved a niche as a unique family website. Family members were able to view and print the family tree, kinship lists, genealogy documents and a narrative of the origins of the family. Additionally, they could view video and photos, participate in and sign up for a private message board all in one place.

2008 also marked the creation of the Atlas Family YouTube channel to host a collection of videos specific to the family, African American genealogy, and the northeastern Louisiana area. Videos from the 2008 research trip were some of those first posted. In addition, a blog was started to track the progress of the family history project as well to post interesting information about the Northeastern Louisiana area. 

2009 marked the shift from the private messageboard hosted at AtlasFamily.Org to a group hosted at Facebook.Com. To date, more than 250 family members participate in the group with many who have become “friends” and have sought each other out merely because of like ancestry.

In June 2009, the genealogy research team raised funds and administered a genealogical DNA test from company African Ancestry on a direct male descendant of King Atlas, Sr. to determine his African country of origin. The family member that was selected was Lawrence Atlas, son of Willie Mae and Rev. Francis Joseph Atlas, Sr. The result of the DNA test came back with a 100% result for the Bamileke tribe of Cameroon.

The research team was invited on a trip with other African Americans with DNA traced back to Cameroon during December 2010 and December 2011. Nicka and Jean participated in the trips which included visits with chiefs from the Bamileke, local dignitaries, the Hon. Philemon Yang, Prime Minister of Cameroon, and the Robert Jackson, US Ambassador to Cameroon. Details of the trip were captured in the documentary If These Waters Could Talk which was released at the 2011 reunion in Baton Rouge. 

About the Research Team

Written by AtlasFamilyOrg on .

John W. Atlas and Timothy Phillips, Sr.

Founders/Originators of the Atlas Family History Project

Left:  John W. Atlas, PhD - Atlas Family History, Volume I (1985)
Right:  Timothy Phillips, Sr. Atlas Family History, Volume II (1998)

AtlasFamily.Org Genealogy Research Team

AtlasFamily.Org Genealogy Research Team

Left to right:  Jean Denton Thompson, Gene Rosby, Sr., Nicka Smith, and Raichel Brown.

NickaSmith-Bio-PhotoNicka Smith | Lead Researcher, Family Historian

In 1985, Nicka Smith became intrigued with a family tree that was prepared by her first cousin, John W. Atlas, PhD. In 1999, she discovered that her cousin’s work had not been updated and decided to continue his efforts.  The result was AtlasFamily.Org, and its affiliate websites, which have served as an outlet for family members to discover their lineage and for the family’s research team to share their findings with the family and the world. 

In 13 years, Nicka has lead efforts which have traced the lineage of 9 generations and over 2,200 people (living and dead) in more than 22 US states and 4 countries worldwide.  Nicka's efforts have also lead the family back to their earliest traceable ancestor's country of origin where they met two chiefs of their ancestral tribe, the Bamileke, of Cameroon. 

Nicka lectures and mentors both young and old on genealogical search techniques and has become an expert resource for genealogical research in the Northeastern Louisiana area and for sharing genealogy with youth.  She is the chair of the Outreach and Education Committee for the African American Genealogical Society of Northern California (AAGSNC), and is a board member of the California Genealogical Society (CGS).

Nicka is also an accomplished communications professional and photographer

JeanDentonThompsonJean Denton Thompson | Assistant Researcher

Jean has always been a force to be reckoned with.  Despite her small stature, her tenacity for making sure the rights of minorities in the United States is not only admirable, but legendary.

Jean was first involved in the US Civil Rights Movement through the youth chapter of the New Orleans NAACP from 1959 to 1960. Later, she sought deeper involvement in the movement through membership in the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) from 1960 to 1966. While in CORE, she participated in a number of integration and voter registration activities.  Notably, she was involved in a CORE sponsored Freedom Ride on May 24, 1961 where Jean and others rode a bus from Montgomery, Montgomery County, AL to the Trailways Station in Jackson, Hinds County, MS. Once she entered the white’s only waiting room, she was immediately arrested and served time in jail for the act.  At this end of the Civil Rights movement, Jean’s arrest record for “breach of peace” became a subject of folklore because of it’s length.

In addition to her work with Civil Rights, Jean also has been active in the autism and special needs community.  She is retired from work as a social worker for the disabled and is a former board member of Community Resources for People with Autism, in Easthampton, MA, a division of the Association for Community Living, in Springfield, MA.

RaichelBrown-Bio-PhotoRaichel Brown | Assistant Researcher

Raichel is an activist at heart, and it shows through her many activities in the Twin Cities community.  Unfortunately, this was not by chance.

On July 17, 1997, Raichel, her siblings, and niece, were the innocent victims of gun violence.  As a result, the family created the non-profit, Bobby Brown’s Violence Prevention Initiatives, which runs non-violence programming for the youth in the Minneapolis area in an attempt to turn the negative tide of gun violence.  Since 1997, they have run yearly basketball clinics and events for up to 150 children where coaching, mentoring, and parenting workshops have transformed a community.

Raichel also serves on the Crime Victims Reparations Board for the State of Minnesota.  The board was established in 1974 to assist crime victims in Minnesota in restoring at least a portion of a victim’s economic losses resulting from the crime committed against them.

GeneRosbySr-Bio-PhotoGene Rosby, Sr. | Assistant Researcher

Gene was the key to expanding the genealogical research on the Andrew Atlas branch of the family through his connection to Rev. Francis Joseph Atlas, Sr. and his descendants.  Through this connection, the descendants of both Andrew and King Atlas, Jr. began to interact on a regular basis after a lack of contact.

Gene is champion for social services within the Baton Rouge community and is formally retired from the state of Louisiana’s Department of Social Service’s Foster Care and Home Development Section.  He currently works part-time as a licensed clinical social worker.  He is also former board chairman of the Community Association for the Welfare of School Children.

Leslie Ramsey TateLeslie Ramsey Tate | Website Maintainance

About the Research Trip

Written by AtlasFamilyOrg on .

In 2006, the AtlasFamily.Org Genealogy Research Team was formed in an effort to utilize family members time and talents to gather more genealogical information.  Initially the team would only convene for research trips.  Now, the team continues it's research efforts throughout the year (through a blog) as well as on yearly research trips.

Yearly research trips last two weeks, take place in various locations of genealogical interest, and are entirely funded by the research team and family members. During the trip, the team maintains a blog, takes photos, films video, interviews family members, and collects information to add to the family file.

The family file increased from 400 to over 3,000 people as a direct result of yearly research trips.  Additionally, the team has produced three volumes of family history and four reunion DVDs to share what has been learned and discovered with current and future generations.

Research Trip Blogs and Photos