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.