Posted by afechter on May 13, 2010 in Website

Yesterday we released a new project to be indexed, the Slave Ads and Abstracts from a Natchez, MS newspaper, 1823-1849.  This project comprises ads and articles mainly regarding the selling of slaves and looking for runaway slaves.  It is sad, and odd, to see the ads selling people and having people willed to others as if they were property – looking at these records provides an interesting view into the past.   To learn more about keying this project you can refer to the online help article, or post a query on the message board.

The World Archives Project is a community keying initiative that helps preserve records and bring indexes online free.  To find out more about the project and to download the keying tool, click here.


Anna is the Community Operations Manager for In this role her main responsibility is managing the World Archives Project. You can send an email to Anna at afechter@ancestry dot com.


  1. There was no “selling people and having people willed to others as if they were property” – the simple fact is that they *were* property.

    That is the simple historical fact; no matter how we may feel about the morality of it today.

    If you are so concerned with preserving the past then please try and preserve all of it- the good and the bad.

  2. afechter

    Andy, I agree – they were considered property which is today, for most of us, a foreign concept. History is history and we do strive to preserve it no matter how we feel about it. Reading through the Criminal registers,, as we indexed them was equally a little offputting as we saw the injustice of the sentencing. Both projects are very captivating content!

  3. Jay Kay

    Attending a lecture some years ago, we were told that “one should not imbue yesterday’s events with today’s morality”. Indeed one can sometimes turn things upside down and suggest that today’s events ought to be imbued with yesterday’s morality!

    I personally bemoan the proliferation of euphemisms in today’s language. Too many people “pass” instead of die – since when did we obtain Passing Certificates in place of Death Certificates? If folks don’t like the routes or results of their research then take up flower arranging or clean the kitchen floor!
    Jay – London, England

  4. Jo

    No, Andy, you’re wrong.

    They were persons considered to be property and treated as if they were property by law and by some people but by no means all people, just as unborn children today are persons considered to be a clump of tissue by law and treated as if they are a clump of tissue by some people but by no means all people. In neither case does their consideration or treatment as less than human make it true.

    Therefore, the language afechter used both times, “as if they were property” and “they were considered property,” is correct.


  5. I would differ; just because they were persons (and no one, to the best of my knowledge is claiming they weren’t) didn’t exclude them from being property as I’ve never seen it said that the terms were mutually exclusive.

  6. Annette

    That slavery was an infamous and evil system was recognized here in America and in England prior to the Civil War. Churches split over the issue. Families split over the issue — several of my families left the south for Missouri in the 1840s, and one of the reasons was they could no longer justify the owning of other human beings. The fact that I have slave holders in my tree is not something of which I am proud (it is a fact that I live with), and I am clearly on the side of my ancestors who repudiated the system. So, it was recognized as immoral back in the day when it was still legal, and I think the phrasing of the original blog is the correct one.

  7. Deborah

    Legally speaking, even females were considered chattel (personal property)not in the too distant past. Legality has nothing to do with morality (as is so very evident in some of our present laws). So legally speaking, females & slaves were considered personal property at one time. The morality was subjective. It’s history so it needs to be treated as such – no matter whether we feel it was immoral or not.

  8. Mavis Sager

    In my family search I found that my ancestors had slaves, and about 10 years ago or so, our family met with some of their descendants….none of us can change what happened then…only respect each other today…and in parts of the world today, there is STILL slave trade, so it isn’t necessarily all in the past

  9. Melanie Pennock

    I always knew that some of my family originally came from Jamestown and surrounding areas in Virginia. I just assumed they were not slave owners. Silly me, of course they were, many owned large plantations. I was shocked, to say the least.
    I decided that I can no more be responsible for things my ancestors did than they can be for my actions. That said, it cannot be justified in any way! I don’t know how you found descendants of those slaves, Mavis,but you have given me food for thought.

  10. Nettie at IrishStewTxTies

    OK, People, slavery did not originate in America. ALL thru history, one group conquers another takes its riches and enslaves its people. Slaves built the Great Pyramids. Of American slave practices, know these facts. America couldnt sail the seas at that time. The ENGLISH and PORTUGESE ruled the oceans as merchants. America was just ONE of their retail mkts. Tribes of natives helped merchants capture other tribes for $ and to take over the other tribal lands. Spielberg’s movie AMISTAD is well written. Most human life had NO value at that time, while slaves WERE considered valuable. YEP, Deborah is correct inthat women and slaves were considered property in America. Melanie correct that some NORTHERNERS also owned slaves. Not ALL Southerners BEAT their slaves; many loved them, worked and lived beside them, embraced them. Read our home page story of KANSAS Plantation at Inverness, Mississippi and of our life in South. As it turns out, BLESSED are the decendants of those who made it to America by whatever means. In just a few generations, such a decendant can aspire to the HIGHEST position in the land, President. We must embrace our DIVERSITY as Americans and use it to bring WORLD PEACE. If not us, who will? A sample of EVERY nationality on Earth is represented here! I say MOVE on and get busy with FUTURE. Exploitation is the tool but greed is the demon. Most historical events including ALL wars are motivated by GREED. Mavis is accurate inthat human trafficing is alive and well.

  11. Robert E. Martin-Annett

    It is most unfortunate that you only accept MicroSoft Systems/Platform for your: ‘World Archives Project’. I have several ‘original NAT’ records I would like
    to ‘contribute ‘ to this ‘Project’. Let me know when Apple/Mac 10 OSX System/
    Platform will accept these records RE: ‘World Archives Project’. Thank-you.
    P.S.: There are many other subjects I can ‘contribute’ to but if you cannot
    acknowledge the existence of Apple/MAC, suppose this is your loss and the
    loss of millions of members (like me) out there… Good luck.

  12. Barbara

    The President is a true African American. In order for him to have been a descendant of slaves, a slave would have made the middle passage and returned to Africa to continue the line to the President’s father’s time. If you can prove that happened, I would certainly be interested.

    I am of African decent and my ancestors were former slaves. I want to find my ancestors and not debate whether they/we were “people” or “property.” I applaud ancestry for making records available and they can introduce those record in any manner they choose, as long as they keep them coming.

  13. Annette

    I have lived in the south for the past 16 years and I can testify to the justifications for slavery that still exist here — people turning themselves into human pretzels trying to paint a pretty picture of a vile institution. Whether someone beat their slaves or did not, the fact is that slave masters owned human beings over which they had the literal power of life and death. At any time, children and parents could be separated forever.Female slaves were considered fair game sexually for the master and any other white male. And, yes, it is one of the ironies of slavery in America that the descendants of slaves may have experienced a better life here than if their ancestors had not been enslaved, but, that said, it is not a justification for it. And yes we also know that slavery was not confined to America, or, in America, to the south. It is hard to believe that we are still having this type of conversation in the year 2010.

  14. Nettie at IrishStewTxTies

    Its wonderful that we CAN discuss these topics openly finally, sad that it took all those yrs until 2010 to get to this point. It is a most liberating feeling to truly let go of past prejudice and meet each other on a human to human level with mutual respect. It must be very difficult to trace roots for many and so glad to see a unified effort of this World Archives Project, etc. I DO believe the office of President and ANY other is open to all whether decendants of slaves, Native Americans or immigrants of all nationalities, or at least I do hope so. I did not say the President was decendant of a slave; I said such a decendant CAN aspire to the highest position in our Country. Our family records show our grandfather who first came to America was sold to a VIRGINIA tobacco farmer for $40. along with other passengers who were EXPLOITED by the ships Captain according to a book I read in the Pontotoc Cty., Miss library and he was from WALES. There is NO justification for the DARK AGES in America with the slavery issue. Those who should have been brought to JUSTICE would be the ones who were to try to JUSTIFY their actions and they are long gone/deceased/passed or as Jay from ENGLAND would prefer DEAD. It is the most horrible scars in our history along with the mistreatment of the Native Americans. To think of the SEPARATIONS that Annette mentioned must have been unbearable! Truth is that nothing is so simple as to be ALL good or ALL bad. Ideally, we EVOLVE to a higher level as humans. Females have been FAIR GAME to males since caveman though EXPLOITED as Annette mentioned by slavemasters as well. Nowadays, women have learned how to do it too! Hopefully, Barbara has been able to find and preserve some of her families stories and history as it would be enlightening and touching to read. All of us who are on this Ancestry program have one very important VALUE in common and that is love of family and desire to be connected.

  15. Nettie at IrishStewTxTies

    Typical; MEN debate the TERMINOLOGY technicalities while we WOMEN jump into the emotional aspects of slavery. In our trees we have found slaves and slave holders, law officers killed during prohibition wars and moonshine whiskey makers, preachers and sinners, ones who served in the military and others who served in state prisions, rich and dirt poor, achievers and quitters, and so on. This program is helping to build ACCEPTANCE in our character and teaching us to EMBRACE our experiences, both GOOD and BAD, as that is WHO we are!

  16. alpha

    I am totally interested in learning more about the lives of my ancestors who were slaves or particpated in sharecropping. I would like to see more decendants of slave masters “step up and come out of the closet”, so to speak. We need more of these people to research their family tree and start providing more pertinent information to help us close the information gap.

Comments are closed.