Genealogy is not just an activity that people are doing now; obviously genealogical work has a history or I wouldn’t be writing a book about it! Often folks doing genealogy now come across or even rely on genealogies produced in the past. When I was starting out in my research on 18th century genealogical practice I was often directed to 19th century family histories, long and complex local histories and genealogies often published by individuals or by historical societies.
Evidence of family connections and the intentional production of a record can be found in many, many more places. Newspaper advertisements in which formerly enslaved people sought to locate their family members who had been separated from them and sold away are such profound documents; they reach right into the heart of slavery’s terror– taking people’s loved ones from them and sending them into the same or worse violence. At Villanova University Dr. Judith Geisberg is leading a project called Last Seen: Finding Family After Slavery. It’s worth a close look. The project is building a database from transcribed ads from people seeking their family, and they are accepting volunteers to do transcription.