After Slavery, Hundreds of Ads to Find Lost Loved Ones Appeared

Photo: SibleyHunter

Written by Rick Larson

For several years after the Civil War’s last battle, information wanted ads were a frequent sight. There were around 900 of these ads, made by African-American’s that got torn apart from their families during the chaos of the war, the ending of slavery, and the Emancipation Proclamation. These ads were published, and remained in circulation between the years of 1863, to 1902.

“out of the current 915 ads within their database, only two have been verified that family members were reunited.”

With ads continuing to be published into the 20th Century, five decades after the Emancipation Proclamation, it shows a different perspective on America, and struggles its citizens faced (both current and new) during this enormous transition and turmoil. It sheds let on the fact post-war life was not an overnight event in America, but took many years for citizens of the country to re-establish themselves, along with the country, and its economy.

Last Seen: Finding Family After Slavery

Judith Giesberg, Director of Villanova’s graduate history program, and Director of a project called, Last Seen: Finding Family After Slavery, that is making a database out of these ads gives her thoughts on this subject, saying “What I think is most extraordinary about these ads [is] they’re just a few lines, but, in just those few lines, they put people together as a family. It’s a snapshot of a moment in time when this family lived together and existed as a unit.”

“INFORMATION WANTED By a mother concerning her children.

“Mrs. Elizabeth Williams, who now resides in Marysville, California was formerly owned to-gether with her children, vis: Lydia, William, Allen, and Parker, by one John Petty, who lived about six miles from the town of Woodbury, Franklin County, Tenneesee. At that time she was the the wife of Sandy Rucker, and was familiarly known as Betsy, – sometimes called Betsy Petty.

Giesberg says how out of the current 915 ads within their database, only two have been verified that family members were reunited. She says this isn’t the only goal of the project, and that there are other important things we can learn from these Information Wanted ads saying, “The ads are also doing another important service, and that is simply commemorating families that were lost during slavery.”

No matter what the effects of previous events in our history, good or bad, it is important to acknowledge the path our country has taken on the road to becoming the great nation it is today. The struggles, hardships, blood, sweat, and tears that were put into molding the United States of America should always be remembered and honored, for their personal dedication and commitment to this great country.

Because no matter your race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual preference, etc. We are all Americans. Brothers and sisters of this great melting pot of a nation, where no citizen’s rights should be impeded on, no matter the reason. The beginning of the Declaration of Independence sums this up best,” We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

About the Author

Rick Larson Jr.
Rick Larson Jr. has educational experience in colonial America, the American Revolution and Civil war, the U.S. Constitution, American History from 1867-Present, American Military history, World-War II, along with Ancient and Modern World history. He has a passion for all aspects of History, with his main fascination and focus being American history.

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