Oct. 17 | Finding Family After Slavery Workshop

The College of Charleston Friends of the Library and the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture are collaborating with Judith Giesberg, professor of history at Villanova University, to highlight a new tool for researching African American ancestors. 

Event—Last Seen: Finding Family After Slavery

When—Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018 | 6:00-7:30 p.m.

Where—College of Charleston Randolph Hall/Alumni Memorial Hall, 66 George St, Charleston SC

Tickets—The program is free and open to the public. Registration is required: findingfamily.eventbrite.com

Reconstructing one’s family tree has never seemed easier. Billions of genealogical records are accessible online, while DNA kits promise to unlock a person’s history with nothing more than a cheek swab. For many researchers seeking African American ancestors, however, piecing together stories of separation and survival during enslavement, emancipation, and the Civil War requires creative approaches to family history.

The new tool, Last Seen: Finding Family after Slavery, offers free access to digitized “Information Wanted” advertisements placed in newspapers by former slaves and United States Colored Troops searching for family members lost by sale, flight, or enlistment. The ads mention family members, often by name, but also by physical description, circumstances of separation, last seen locations, and at times by the name of a former slave master. The earliest ads appeared in papers in 1863, and they continued for more than three decades.

Last Seen allows users to search these ads by proper names, locations, circumstances of separation, military regiments, and events. Dr. Giesberg will demonstrate and discuss the project in a conversation moderated by Dr. Patricia Williams Lessane, the Avery Research Center’s executive director.

This event is part of the College of Charleston’s Year of Women, a centennial celebration of the first admission of women to the College.

About Judith Giesberg

Judith Giesberg is a professor and director of graduate studies in the Department of History at Villanova University. She is the author of four books on the Civil War era: Civil War Sisterhood: The United States Sanitary Commission and Women’s Politics in Transition (2000); “Army at Home”: Women and the Civil War on the Northern Home Front (2009); Keystone State in Crisis: Pennsylvania in the Civil War (2013); and Emilie Davis’s Civil War: The Diaries of a Free Black Woman in Philadelphia, 1863–1865 (2014). She also serves as editor of the Journal of the Civil War Era. Her current projects include a manuscript on pornography and sexual culture in U.S. Army camps during the Civil War.

About the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture

The Avery Research Center collects, preserves, and promotes the unique history and culture of the African diaspora, with emphasis on Charleston and the South Carolina Lowcountry. Over 3000 patrons visit the Avery Research Center annually, ranging from scholars and lecturers, to school groups and universities, to families and community members from all over the world. avery.cofc.edu

About the College of Charleston Friends of the Library

The Friends of the Library supports and advance the work of the College of Charleston Libraries. From on-campus collaborations to the Winthrop Roundtable, the Friends’ programming provides opportunities for lifelong learning that strengthen our community and connects the Library to luminaries across the Lowcountry and beyond. friends.library.cofc.edu

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