Finding enslaved African Americans

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - You can now look up information on African American slaves in and around Virginia - by name. The Virginia Historical Society has launched a new website where you can search for someone specific. Right now there are about 1,500 names in the Unknown No Longer database.

Rows of books, collections of letters, bonds, wills, deeds and court records - just some of the very private and very old collections at the Virginia Historical Society - not open to the public.

And this is where curator of African American History, Dr. Lauranett Lee does her research of slaves and shares with us one of her favorite finds.

"It's about a 14-year-old girl, Sally, who ran off to the Yankees, not only did 14-year-old Sally take off to the Yankees, a 3-year-old took off with her as well as a 6-year-old, these are the people that we are remembering at this time," said Lee.

Each name is connected to a document and if you're lucky, an image. Archivist Paige Newman carefully sorts them out and enters the information into the database.

"This is a beautiful document, because it's typed - they call it broadside, it's like an advertisement of sorts and this is of a trustee sale and here we have the slave names nicely typed," said Newman.

Not all documents are as well preserved, but all of them are scanned and entered into the database so when you look up a slave, the images of where he or she was found shows up.

The website is very user friendly.

"Search by name, a single name, 2 names you can search by a date range, you can search by location, you can search by type of record by owners name, there's a number of ways to search but it's fairly clean and we think an elegant structure to the site that's easy for a novice as well as a historian to use," said Dr. Nelson Lankford, Vice President of Programming.

All the documents online, can be found inside the museum.

The Unknown No Longer database is accessible via the VHS website:

Dominion paid for the new website and the research - a $100,000 to fund the project.

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