I’ve just discovered the wonderful “Lost Friends” database, which is composed of ads of former slaves searching for their loved ones after emancipation, mostly those sold away or otherwise taken away by slaveholders. I posted a few months ago about these ads, but I’m pleased to see a database devoted to these ads from the Southwestern Christian Advocate newspaper. It was a Methodist newspaper that ran many of these ads, but know that other newspapers ran them as well.
It’s hard to not get lost in the stories. The sadness and the grief is tangible as parents held out hope to find their children, as children tried to find their parents, and as siblings and spouses tried to find one another. I was surprised to find the ad above, a woman taken from the small area in Somerset County, MD where my Waters ancestors are from. Did she ever find them? In Baltimore, she was probably shipped to New Orleans, as this list which includes a “Caroline Waters” illustrates:
There’s not enough information to say this is the same woman, but it’s an illustration of the broken relationships–there is no indication whatsoever whom these people were purchased from. Local traders bought them and stowed them in the Baltimore slave pen until it was time to board the ship. How Awful Slavery Was.
But I am encouraged by all the databases cropping up that are making the uncovering of the lives of slaves their central goal. One of my favorites, the Digital Library of American Slavery now includes North Carolina runaway slave advertisements, links to the Slave Trade database and a link to Forever Free, a database that extracts deeds that include information about slaves from several countie sin North Carolina.
There’s the Virginia Historical Society’s Unknown No Longer, which seeks to extract information about slaves from many different types of records. And in just a few more weeks, the Virginia State Archives will be unveiling their database of information about enslaved people, Virginia Untold: The African-American Narrative.
When the Family History Center finishes it’s massive transcription of the Freedmen’s Bureau records, I fully expect more discoveries of connecting the lost families of enslaved people.
My readers, if you know of any other projects digitizing records of enslaved people, please share them with us in the comments.