Working to Bring Black Family Histories Forward
During Black History Month, we celebrate the lasting contributions of Black men and women to American society and culture. During this time, we will also reflect on pivotal moments in the Black American experience. However, Black history is #MoreThanAMonth. Black history is American history, and rightfully deserves to be recognized as such and explored year round.
Ancestry®️ is expanding the resources it offers to explore Black family histories. We recognize family history research can be challenging for Black Americans due to the long history of slavery in the U.S. and the lack of documentation about those who were enslaved. In an effort to aid in Black family history discoveries, we will be adding several new searchable and digitized collections over the course of the year so every story can be told.
“We are the sum total of our Ancestors and we are a product of their stories, even if we don’t know it,” said Henry Louis 'Skip' Gates, Jr., the Emmy Award-winning filmmaker and author. “Ancestry’s commitment to digitize culturally significant records of our Black ancestors is an important step in the right direction for our community to reclaim its collective history, once thought lost, but now being found.”
In addition to existing Ancestry collections such as U.S. City Directories, Military Records, and The U.S. Census which offer insight into the remarkable contributions of our Black ancestors, we will be extending our resources in 2021 to include:
- Digitization of the U.S. Freedmen’s Bureau Records for all U.S. States: The Freedmen's Bureau was responsible for the supervision and management of all matters relating to refugees and freedmen, and of lands abandoned or seized during the Civil War.
- Danish West Indies Record Collection: These collections of records can be used to enable discoveries and establish ancestral connections to enslaved people with ties to the Danish West Indies, today known as U.S. Virgin Islands.
- Reindexed U.S. Probate Collection: An update to our U.S. Wills and Probates Collection, which Ancestry first made available in 2015, will capture all people mentioned by name in wills and can further help descendants of previously enslaved people make additional discoveries about their families.
Also, this year, Ancestry is honoring and highlighting some of the most important historical Black figures from yesterday, and today’s greats who will be tomorrow’s, through a partnership with The New York Times. Family history stories and historic milestones of Black Americans will be shared through videos, editorials and more across multiple channels and platforms.
In addition, Ancestry will launch “Questions and Ancestors™: Black Family History” - a video content series hosted by Professional Genealogist Nicka Sewell-Smith who specializes in African ancestored genealogy. Nicka will engage with leaders in the Black community who are impacting culture and society today and help them explore their own roots using Ancestry records and research.
Ancestry is committed to continue unearthing new avenues to support the empowerment of Black Americans. While there is much more to be done, we are excited to take this first step toward enabling every story to be found and shared.