top of page

Finding Family after Freedom

Finding Family after freedom

When freedom came, the formerly enslaved men, women,  and children were free not just from their chains, but free now to search for lost family members.  It was a search that began with a rush of humanity when the last shot was fired in 1865 ending the Civil War, to the the dawn of the 1900s and beyond. Nowhere is this more evident than in the newspaper advertisements and stories about blacks in search of lost and missing family members.  


Newspapers across the land ran ads and stories, sometimes with Biblical language, describing family members being "carried off" after being sold from them, or they themselves being sold. There were also men from the black regiments of the Civil War — officially known as United States Colored Troops — seeking fellow soldiers they fought with. While many newspapers ran such ads and stories, one black newpaper, The Appeal of St. Paul and Minneapolis, in its Nov. 27, 1897 edition, 32 years after the end of slavery, offered a platform to help find the missing.  


As a child I wondered if there were more family members than what I had.  What happened afterward?  Were there those sold away?  Never found?  How would I ever know?  I had resigned myself to the idea that I would never know. However, with DNA genealogy, the descendants of enslaved Africans in America have come full circle with what we can know.  We now can find lost family members. Following are some stories of those lost during the fog of slavery, and those found in an amazing grace of light in the years after.

The Appeal (St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minn),

Nov. 27, 1897


NOTE:  These stories were derived from the website Last Seen: Finding Family, a site dedicated toward reviewing old newspapers in search of ads and stories searching for the missing following slavery. With this site, it should be noted that not all the stories and ads on the site feature those lost during slavery.    

The Lost

Buchanan and Martha Childs

The Appeal, January 24, 1891

James and John A. Curtis

The Evening Star, August 24, 1876

Aron Thomas

The Evening Star, August 9, 1866

Nancy Young

South Carolina Leader, May 12, 1866

Matilda Parker

The Appeal (St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minn.), December 11, 1897

Edward Moore and 5th USC Cavalry

National Tribune, May 6 1909

Daniel Williams

Harrisburg Telegraph, July 15, 1868

James and Horace

Colored Tennessean,Oct 14 1865

Jackson Cumberland

Harrisburg Telegraph, May 23 1867

Husband Sypio Johnson

The Evening Star, June 25, 1866

Delcie and Frederick Graves

Richmond Planet Oct.10, 1908

Hannah Slakum

The Appeal, Feb 21, 1891

George Simpson

National Tribune, April 29, 1909

Daughters Francis Ann, Virgin Mary,

Republican Daily Journal (Kansas), August 13, 1878

Daughter Polly and son Geo Washingto

Colored Tennessean, October 7, 1865

Charity Blanford

The Appeal, March 7, 1891

Caroline Dodson

Colored Tennessean, October 14, 1865

Alex Wood

The Appeal, Sept. 3, 1892

A former Slave's Appeal Harrisburg T

Harrisburg Telegraph, July 23, 1900

Ambrose Maxey

The Appeal, March 21 1891

Annie Combs

The Appeal, September 3, 1892

Ann Wood

The Appeal, Aug 6, 1882

The Lost

The Found

Sisters Julia and Emeline reunited

Daily Inter Ocean (Chicago), November 20, 1885

Vina Johnson and Geo Perry reunited

Memphis Public Ledger, July 26, 1871

Anthony Edwards and Lucinda Gibson

Mexico Weekly Ledger (Mexico, Missouri), November 29, 1888

John Thompson and Kitty Owens

Louisville Courier-Journal Jan 17, 1894

Lee Barton reunited

Eufala Daily Times, (Alabama) May 10, 1891

Nat Miller with sister

Lawrence Daily Journal, March 28, 1904

Reunited at age 80 with husband

Louisville Post, January 8, 1891

J Sims reunited with sisters

The Colored American (Washington, DC), November 25, 1899

David Walke and Nancy Gibbs

Memphis Public Ledger, July 26, 1871

Old colored man reunited w/childrer

Southern Standard (Arkadelphia, Arkansas), Nov. 3, 1883

Married after 53 years

Davenport Sunday Democrat,June 6, 1897

The Found
bottom of page