Black History Month: GeneaGem: Freedom on the Move

February is Black History Month, so I’d like to share some free GeneaGems that I hope will be new resources for your African-American family history research. There will be one new GeneaGem each week, providing an introduction and quick overview of the website, and all the websites are free.

This week’s GeneaGem to celebrate Black History Month is the website Freedom on the Move.

This project is devoted to “rediscovering the stories of self-liberated people” – e.g. enslaved people who were runaways – and is hosted by Cornell University.

This is a growing collection of runaway stories based on transcribed advertisements and the project relies on the work of volunteers to expand the collections.

It is already touted as the compilation of thousands of stories that have never previously been accessible on one site.

The promotional video describes the appearance, behavior and trade of a runaway slave, who also stole a white horse. The description is from an ad that is spoken by a narrator, who describes the enslaved person as an insolent person who often uses foul language. The video is just over one minute long and the surprise at the end is that the ad was placed by Thomas Jefferson.

While you might be tempted to skip the link to K-12 Educator Resources, understanding the culture and social history of the times is important for all genealogists.

Not only can the visitor “walk” through some of the activities, if you scroll down to the bottom of the page, there are links to seven other resources to learn more about the lives of those who “self-liberated.”

By using the Access the Database option, a search button will appear on the new page, which opens to the Advertisements.

However, there are four categories that can be searched: Advertisement, Runaway, Enslaver and Runaway Event.

Freedom on the Move is a research aid that depends on crowdsourcing. If you are looking for a worthwhile project where you can volunteer some time doing transcription, this is a project that will benefit descendants throughout the United States.

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