I’ve just discovered the wonderful “Lost Friends” database. It contains ads of former slaves searching for their loved ones after emancipation.
Sold away or otherwise taken away by slaveholders, enslaved people often never saw their loved ones again.
I posted a few months ago about these ads. Ads here are from the Southwestern Christian Advocate newspaper.
The Advocate was a Methodist newspaper, but other newspapers ran these ads as well.
It’s hard to not get lost in the stories. The sadness and grief is tangible as parents held out hope to find their children. Children tried to find their parents. Siblings and spouses tried to find one another.
I was surprised to find the ad above. It was from a woman taken from Somerset County, Maryland, where my Waters ancestors are from.
Did she ever find them? From Baltimore, she was probably shipped to New Orleans. The manifest below (which includes a Caroline Waters) illustrates this:
There’s not enough information to say this is the same woman. But the ship’s manifest is more proof of broken relationships. It does not say where or from whom these people were purchased.
Local traders bought slaves as they traveled the countryside over a period of months. Stowed in the Baltimore slave pen, they waited until it was time to board the ship. Many others had to walk hundreds of miles to the Southern markets. How Awful Slavery Was.
Let’s not forget that this was a part of the Domestic Slave Trade in the United States. Traders and slaveholders sold over one million enslaved people from the Upper South to the Deep South.
This trade destroyed established black families. Many of these people were second and even third generation American-born.
Uncovering of the lives of slaves is the purpose of numerous databases released over the last few years. One of my favorites is the Digital Library of American Slavery.
It includes North Carolina runaway ads and links to the Slave Trade database. Additionally, it links to Forever Free, a database that contains slave information from deeds in several North Carolina counties.
There’s also the Virginia Historical Society’s Unknown No Longer. It contains information about slaves from many different records.
Soon, the Virginia State Archives will release their database of information about enslaved people, Virginia Untold: The African-American Narrative.
The Family History Center will soon finish it’s transcription of the Freedmen’s Bureau records. (Update: their transcriptions are complete.)
Readers, if you know of other digitized records of enslaved people, please share them with us.
I am an engineer by day, but my true passion lies in genealogy. I have been a researcher, writer, lecturer and teacher for over twenty years. This blog is where I share family history methods, resources, tips and advice, with an emphasis on slave research, slavery and its aftermath. This lifelong quest has helped me to better know my family’s past. I’ve taken back– reclaimed– some of that lost memory, especially that of my enslaved ancestors. I hope you’ll sign up to receive my posts—if you do, you’ll get a free PDF with some of my favorite tips! And please do share posts that interest you.