“We were hearing the story of our ancestors, learning of their history – our history. Then we toured the grounds; walking in their footsteps, being handed back a part of our soul that we didn’t even know was missing.”

- Angela Wilson, Sotterley Descendant. 

The mission of the Descendant’s Project is to grow an official registry of all people whose ancestry is connected to our site’s 300-year history, whether enslavers, the enslaved, workers, free and allied families.

We hope to encourage enrichment through their stories, engaging Descendants’ and their families in our vision, mission, operations, events, support and leadership. 

Stories from Descendant perspectives and their research add richness to our programs and the lives we reach, teach and touch.  

How it started

Historic Sotterley trailblazers Agnes Kane Callum and John Hanson Briscoe built a strong foundation and set a tone for our Descendant program which was formalized in 2017.

In John’s words, “We talked about that history; her people, my people.  We came forward in a positive way. We link our ancestry. But to teach lessons, and to preserve this whole story here, not just the slavery that took place here.  But the economic, cultural and social history that ties both of our families together. Both of who we are very proud of.” 

At the heart of why Historic Sotterley is both important and truly unique, is the involvement of our Descendants in our day-to-day interpretative and preservation decisions, activities and events and in the development of our educational programming.

Our Descendants model to the greater world how people from disparate backgrounds and who have experienced different realities can come together to foster understanding and healing in these troubled times.  Their ancestors defined Historic Sotterley’s past, but it is our Descendants who are shaping our present and our future. 


  • We currently have over 300 self-identified Descendant’s living in 30 states and across 6 countries.   
  • Four Descendants currently sit on our Board of Trustees representing ancestors who were enslaved, enslavers and 20th Century laborers.
  • Our Descendants are involved in projects across the county including the Africatown "Clotilda Descendants", Riversdale House Museum, Cremona Plantation, Dela Brooke Plantation, Deep Falls, White Marsh Manor, GU272 Descendants Association, James Madison's Montpelier, Concord House Museum and the East Coast Genetic Genealogy Conference.
  • Descendants are involved in the Big Conversation.
  • In August 2024, our Descendants will be involved in a first of its kind archaeological study of our Slave Dwelling which will aid in the interpretation of this unique building.

The Descendant Project is formally launched during the Slave Dwelling dedication to Trustee Emeritus and Sotterley Descendant Agnes Kane Callum.

The Slave Dwelling exhibit awarded the Maryland Preservation. 

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Nu Zeta Omega Chapter recognised Descendants at the Martin Luther King Day of Service at St Mary's College of Maryland for our work as a 'Community Connecting Link'.

Descendants and Common Ground programs awarded the 2021 Free Press Prize for Leadership by the Underground Railroad Free Press.

Descendants asked to speak at the 2021 Slave Dwelling Project conference.

Descendants asked to speak as a panel at the American Alliance of Museums Conference in Boston.

Descendants attended the Maryland Estonian Exchange Council, Inc delegation visit establishing a sister city link between St Mary's County and the Parnu County in Estonia.  

Two Descendants participated in the first Descendant Community Social Lab at Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture

Descendant Map (1)

The program today

Descendants are presenters in our Common Ground programming, and their willingness to share their stories allows for a more personal connection to, and understanding of, the realities of our shared past. Descendants have their own private Facebook page, allowing them to strengthen their ties to Sotterley and to each other.  

Our Descendants serve on many of our volunteer committees and take leadership roles in our Interpretative and programming decisions.  

Whether you know you are descended from Historic Sotterley’s people or suspect you might be, you are welcome to join our Descendants’ Registry, visit and keep in touch. 

Sotterley Descendants Portrait Project: Sharing our Common Humanity

Artist Nicole Stewart has embarked on a two-year journey to paint as many registered Sotterley descendants as possible (somewhere between 50 and 100) for upcoming museum exhibitions.  (Dates and locations of exhibitions to be announced.)
You can have an in-person preview of the newest portraits at Historic Sotterley during this year's August 24 Day of Unity and Healing. We hope to see you then!  If you are a descendant and are not yet registered, do so today!
You can follow Nicole Stewart on this journey on her social media below.

Other ways to get involved in the Descendant's Project