PROVO, UT -- In honor of Black History Month, Ancestry.com, the world's largest online family history resource, today launched more than 250,000 new historical records documenting early African American family history. The five new collections span more than a century and contain important details about the lives of African Americans who bravely fought in the U.S. Civil War, document the transportation of slaves to and from the prominent slave ports of New Orleans and Savannah, GA, and include poignant first-person accounts from former slaves.
Ancestry.com's historical record collection now contains more than 3.2 million African American slave records. As 88 percent of the United States' black population in 1850 was comprised of slaves, when extrapolated to its current population, nearly 35 million Americans may find a slave ancestor in Ancestry.com's African American collections.
The Ancestry.com African American Historical Record Collection 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, D.C 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him to write "Twelve Years a Slave, 1841-1853," which became both a popular seller at the time and an important historical document.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 Ancestry.com's Slave Ship Manifests from New Orleans, 1807-1860.(original record images available)
The five new collections form part of the 60 million records already included in Ancestry.com's African American Historical Record collection—the largest online collection of African American family history records available. These new collections are:
US Colored Troops Service Records, 1861-1867: 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.
Slave Ship Manifests from Savannah, 1789-1859: 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, GA.
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.
Freedmen's Bureau Records, 1865-1878: The Freedmen's Bureau was formed after the 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, legalize marriages and more.
Slave Narratives, 1936-1938 (updated): 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.
With collections such as these now online and searchable for the first time, exploring African American roots is becoming increasingly accessible and popular. For example, leading African American actress and singer Vanessa Williams' own family journey will be showcased during the second-season premiere of the hit NBC series "Who Do You Think You Are?" on Friday, February 4. Ancestry.com is the official sponsor for the NBC series and worked closely with the producers to provide the family history research for those celebrities featured. Lionel Richie's family history will also be showcased this season, building on the compelling African American stories of Spike Lee and Emmitt Smith, who were featured last season.
"As we continue to expand our collection of African American family history records, more Americans than ever can make exciting breakthroughs when researching their early heritage," said Josh Hanna, Head of Global Marketing at Ancestry.com. "According to independent statistical analysis, one in nine Americans has early African roots and so may have ancestors just waiting to be discovered in our collections."
These inspiring collections can help millions of African Americans uncover their own family stories.
Ancestry.com Inc. (Nasdaq: ACOM) is the world's largest online family history resource, with nearly 1.4 million paying subscribers. More than 6 billion records have been added to the site in the past 14 years. Ancestry users have created more than 20 million family trees containing over 2 billion profiles. Ancestry.com has local Web sites directed at nine countries that help people discover, preserve and share their family history.