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Prince Albert Hill
Pittsburgh Courier
Sat, Jan 22, 1938
“Death of P. A. Hill Shocks State – Grandmaster of Masons and Brilliant Fraternal Leader Dies Suddenly” reads the headline of a 1938 article from the Pittsburgh Courier. I was stunned by my accidental find; three years and countless research hours into my genealogy hobby and I discover this clipping from an online newspaper archive listed among the results of a Google search one Saturday morning.

My stomach knotted with anticipatory excitement as I continued reading: “Former Slave Parentage to Grand Master – P. A. Hill, who at his death was 75 years of age, was born of slave parents in Lavaca County, Texas, later attending Howard University in Washington, D. C. …at the time of his death there were 11,000 [Mason] members under his jurisdiction.”

For a genealogy researcher of African American descent, such an article spanning a full newspaper column length (including a photo!) is especially significant.

Prince Albert Hill, or P. A. Hill as he was known, is my great, great grand-uncle and before my discovery of this newspaper article I knew very little about the man who raised my great grandmother, Ora Lee Hill. His death certificate stated simply that he was a fraternal organizer and census records revealed that P. A. Hill adopted my great grandmother and several of her siblings after the death of their father (Prince’s brother) and mother during the 1918 flu pandemic.

Prince Albert Hill-- Prince Albert Hill
Prince Albert Hill Death Certificate
1920 United States Census

Though I knew nothing of Prince’s attendance at Howard University—my alma mater—prior to reading the article, I now suspect he inspired the generations of Howard graduates scattered throughout my family tree. I would not have known about Prince Albert Hill had it not been for a little green leaf on the television screen piquing my curiosity and beckoning me to discover my family history on 

Two years later, I am still completely surprised by how genealogy research has transformed the way I regard my personal identity and family history and, consequently, how I relate to American history—through the eyes of my ancestors who lived ordinary lives simultaneously with the historical figures and notable events headlining textbooks. What an amazing journey it's been so far. I can't wait to see what else I will discover.