Were Your Ancestors AOI Members? Or, perhaps, members of the Association of the Oldest Inhabitants (Colored), Incorporated*?
Your ancestors may have been AOI members. Want to find out? This may save you a trip to the Kiplinger Library of the Historical Society of Washington, DC or save a phone call to their research librarians. In September 2008, the AOI Board of Directors approved, in concept, the Sesquicentennial Project. As envisioned, this initiative would index all names found in the AOI Archives housed in the Kiplinger Library of the Historical Society of Washington, DC (Finding Aid MS422) to be completed by the AOI’s Sesquicentennial, December 7, 2015. The goal of this project is to provide a means to identify the location of past AOI members’ references in the more than 50 linear feet of the association’s archives. This should provide assistance to researchers and AOI member’s descendants searching for biographical and genealogical information about past AOI members.
In order to help determine the ‘usefulness’ of this information, users should keep in mind the following: Membership Applications, particularly between 1890 and 1916 offer the most biographical information as, it appears, the organization was more interested in a member’s ‘lineage’ than at other times. Biographies are the richest in detail and usually have been compiled by the member themselves or by another researcher. These two categories of records provide the greatest amount of information. As of July 14, 2009, only membership applications through 1973 are included. More recent records have not been indexed but may be found in the "Financial Issues" folders in Container 18 and greater.
Membership Rosters, Pamphlets, and Minutes often only provide a passing reference to the name. Articles may or may not provide in depth information as the subject of the search may not be the subject of the article. Obituaries, photocopied from the Washington Post, Evening Star and other papers, may provide insight into ancestor’s accomplishments, but often are already part of a family’s records. Membership Certificates often provide only the member’s name and date they joined the AOI. Photos may be of the individual or a group photo.
When using the HSW Finding Aid and the AOI Name Index, please report any errors, corrections or comments to the AOI at email@example.com.
Use the ‘FIND’ feature of Adobe Acrobat Reader, type in the name of the target person and use the accompanying information to determine the ‘type’ of information on file and whether the name in that type of document may be helpful to your inquiry. The search results identify the Container Number, File Folder Number and ‘Type’ of information on file with an additional ‘Comment’ when appropriate. The member’s Date of Birth, Place of Birth, Date of Death and Date Joined are provided if available. If the member’s Title or position in the organization is not readily apparent (President, Vice-president, Recording Secretary, etc.), it is assumed they are simply a Member.
To view and search the AOI Name Index (1865-1992), click here: AOI Sesquicentennial Project
Over the years, there were gaps in the AOI's membership files. The AOI Sesquicentennial Project captured as many membership records as it could from the AOI files in MS422. Since 2005, the membership records have been maintained in spreadsheets "inherited" from a mailing list that until 2005 had been maintained by the staff of the Historical Society of D.C. This Legacy Membership List has been recreated from those records and while the earliest "Date Entered" is 2005 (the year we imported the list), many of the members listed here have been members well before that date... some even overlapping with the Sesquicentennial Project. Note: the "Level" column used for Full Membership (blank) vs. Associate Member has also been used to indicate deceased members. Names on this list may include those of deceased members if they died after this listing was finalized. If you would like to view the AOI membership up to and including mid-2022, you can view it here: AOI Legacy Membership (<2005 to mid-2022).
To view a recent version of AOI's Finding Aid in the Kiplinger Research Library of the Historical Society of Washington, D.C., click here: AOI Finding Aid - Collection Index.
While not directly related to the AOI's mission or membership, if you are interested in genealogical research or want to explore another list of DC residents' names, you may want to check AOI's compilation of The District of Columbia's War Dead 1917-1918 which was assembled from sources including the DC War Memorial, "Soldiers of the Great War," the DC World War I 16th Street Tree Memorial according to the "National Capital Press" and accounts from the "Washington Post." To see a copy of the marker lay-outs according to National Capital Press, click here: WWI Tree Map.
And you never know what historic treasures your attic, basement and family scrapbooks may turn up. AOI member Virginia Baxter of Fairfax, VA recently found the July 4, 1911 invitation to a "House Warming" at the Old Union Firehouse believed to the be first time the AOI officially met at the location they "inherited" from the Veteran Volunteer Firemen's Association (see tab on this page). Here is what Virginia found:
Genealogists & Family Researchers
The District of Columbia does not have its own genealogical society but has resources via the DC History Center (formerly the Historical Society) and the DC City Archives. However, if you're from Prince Georges County, as many DC residents are, you have a great research organization to call upon: The Prince Georges Genealogical Society.
Here are links to other DMV historical societies:
The Montgomery County, Maryland, Historical Society: montgomeryhistory.org
The Arlington, Virginia, Historical Society: Arlington Historical Museum – Arlington Historical Society
The Maryland State Archives: Maryland State Archives
*The AOI Continues to Seek More Information of its African American Counterpart
Though rumored to have met jointly to welcome back the District of Columbia's World War I returning veterans, there is no documented evidence that the Association of the Oldest Inhabitants of the District of Columbia and the Association of the Oldest Inhabitants (of the District of Columbia Colored), Incorporated ever met. The latter was founded in 1913 as a "parallel African American organization" based upon the tenets of the AOI -- in fact with identical Letters of Incorporation -- but with a slightly different organizational structure and different goals.
Of particular note have been the remarkable developments of the AOI's quest for the location of the records of the AOI (Colored), Inc. AOI Seeks Members and Records of AOI Colored, Inc., first publicized in 2010 by John Kelly in "Gathering of Segregated 'Old Timers' Group a Mystery" and his Feb. 2012 follow-up story "A Snapshot of D.C.'s Segregated Past Comes to Light in a Roundabout Way" detailing this story of curiosity, persistence and serendipity. A link to the Moorland-Spingarn Library's Manuscript Collection can be viewed here.
More information about the Oldest Inhabitants, Incorporated (the shortened moniker of the AOI of DC (Colored), Incorporated) can be found throughout this web site.
At its regular luncheon meeting on November 17, 2022, when DC author Derek Gray spoke on his book, "The NAACP in Washington, D.C. from Jim Crow to Home Rule," several AOI members joined in a photograph to celebrate an historic artifact that member Sherri Sewall brought with her to the luncheon. The framed ceremonial Resolution celebrates and honors the AOI (Colored), Incorporated's founder and first President Jerome A. Johnson. Sherri's great-grandfather, George T. Sewall, was a signatory on the certificate (pictured and transcribed on our Home Page) and she is pictured here along with: (L-R) Patricia Tyson of the Military Road School Preservation Trust, Carrolyn Chapman Michell AOI's Treasurer, Sherri Sewall, Theresa Saxton of the Military Road School Preservation Trust and Dayo Akinsheye Past-Principal of the Marie T. Reed School and widow of the U.S. Colored Troops Cadet Academy founder Dexter Akinsheye.
Click here for a chronology of AOI's efforts to locate the records of the AOI (Colored), Incorporated.