In honour of Black History Month in the US, Ancestry recently launched more than 250,000 new historical records documenting early African American family history.
The new collections span more than a century and contain important details about the lives of African Americans who bravely fought in the US Civil War, document the transportation of slaves to and from the prominent slave ports of New Orleans in Louisiana and Savannah in Georgia and include poignant first-person accounts from former slaves.
Ancestry’s historical record collection now contains more than 3.2 million African American slave records. As 88%of the United States’ black population in 1850 was comprised of slaves, when extrapolated to its current population, nearly 35 million Americans alone may find a slave ancestor in Ancestry’s African American collections.
The African American Historical Record Collection on Ancestry.com.au includes thousands of poignant stories that bring this part of American history to life. One story outlines how Solomon Northup was lured from New York to Washington, DC with the promise of a job in a circus. Instead he was kidnapped, put on a boat to New Orleans and sold into slavery. His liberation in 1853 prompted him to write “Twelve Years a Slave, 1841-1853,” which became both a popular seller at the time and an important historical document. The ship record of his transfer to New Orleans, which also lists most of the cast of characters from his book, can be found in Slave Ship Manifests from New Orleans 1807-1860.
The new collections form part of the 60 million records already included in African American Historical Record collection – the largest online collection of African American family history records available. Some of the new and updated collections are:
- Slave Ship Manifests from Savannah, 1811-1860: Although the transatlantic slave trade was banned in 1807, the internal transportation of slaves remained, especially as the tobacco industry diminished in the North while the cotton industry boomed in the South. These port records document the arrival and departure of more than 10,000 slaves through the port of Savannah.
- Slave Ship Manifests from New Orleans, 1807-1860: Another important Southern port, this collection includes records for more than 100,000 slaves who arrived or departed through the port of New Orleans.
- Slave Owner Petitions 1862-1863: On April 16, 1862, President Lincoln signed an act abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia and allowing slave owners to petition for compensation for the loss of their freed slaves. These records contain the names of the slave owner and slave, description of the slave, claimed monetary value and more.
- Interviews with Former Slaves 1936-1938: In the early 1930s, an effort began to document the life stories of 3,500 former slaves. The result is a series of moving, individual accounts of their lives, as told in their own words.
- US Freedmen’s Bureau Records 1865-1878 (updated): The Freedmen’s Bureau was formed after the US Civil War to aid in reconstruction efforts. This collection contains hundreds of thousands of records relating to former slaves the Bureau helped find work, to establish schools, negotiate contracts, seek medical care, legalise marriages and more.
- US Colored Troops Service Records 1861-1865 (updated): Approximately 178,000 African American troops served the Union in the final two years of the US Civil War. Their compiled service records include enlistment papers, casualty sheets, death reports and correspondence.
These collections are available to World Heritage members.