In 1838, Maryland’s Jesuit priests sold hundreds of men, women, and children to Louisiana plantations to raise money for the construction of Georgetown University. Though they faced incredible hardship, most of the enslaved people didn’t perish. They married and raised children. Today, more than 9,000 of their descendants have been located through genealogical research.
The purpose of this website was to take three years of family history research on a group of enslaved African Americans and put it online, making it freely available to current descendants, historians, researchers, and the public at large, to: 1) further genealogical research (allowing modern descendants to trace their enslaved ancestors and make connections with their living relatives), 2) communicate the experiences, accomplishments, and reflections of modern-day descendants, and, 3) tell an important American story about how the families of enslaved people endured and eventually thrived through their own ingenuity, hard work, faith, and love for one another.
The original group of enslaved people are now known as the “GU272.” This free, public website presents a searchable database of GU272 family names, and the biographies and family trees of the GU272 alongside the faces and voices of their modern-day descendants, in the form of photographs of and audio narratives from descendants living in Maryland, Louisiana, and California.
Major features of the site include:
- A free searchable online database of 33,000 GU272 family names (people can search and find their ancestor)
- The story of the GU272
- A historical timeline of events
- An explanation of the family history research
- A page for each of the GU272 family groups, with links to family trees, downloads of that family’s lineage in pdf form, and links to their volume of names in the searchable database
- Photographs of modern descendants
- Oral histories of modern descendants
- Guides to finding your ancestor
- African American genealogy research help
- Information on connecting with other GU272 descendants
The site has received a fair amount of coverage in the media; some examples are here:
American Ancestors and New England Historic Genealogical Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating and helping people discover their ancestors. We are located in Boston’s Back Bay, are open to the public, and have a physical library and an online site (AmericanAncestors.org) that serves millions of people engaged in family history. We were founded in 1845, and are the world’s oldest genealogical society. Within the next five years we will be opening a discovery center for family history on Newbury Street in Boston, which will showcase our collections of historical and genealogical material through interactive exhibits and other compelling, family-friendly experiences.
Sample photos from our process:
Interviewing the descendants:
On location with descendants:
Other photos from the project: