Mormon Church Funds World’s Largest Slavery Database To Help African Americans Trace Their Enslaved Ancestors

While a heated debate is going on around the world regarding slave reparations, a Mormon Church funded world’s largest slavery database aims to help African Americans trace their enslaved ancestors. Tracing slave ancestors within the United States is relatively easy, but it is far more difficult to trace family records past “the water’s edge” from America back to Africa. Recently, shocking new evidence suggested that the founders of the New York Times were slaveowners and even traded in minors.

World's Largest Slavery Database
Mormon Church Funds World’s Largest Slavery Database To Help African Americans Trace Their Enslaved Ancestors

Church funds FamilySearch

Thom Reed is a deputy chief genealogical officer of FamilySearch, which includes a whopping 8 billion genealogical records open to general public. FamilySearch is funded by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which was previously known to the public as the Mormon Church.

“We always say, start with yourself, start interviewing your family members, look for those artifacts or documents that may be in somebody’s basement and a trunk, old obituaries from way back when, or funeral programs or what have you. You’d be amazed at the treasure trove of stuff that you may already have access to that will help you with your journey to discover your own roots”, Reed said in a video interview.

Initially, the sites like the familysearch.org or ancestry.com allow you to create a free online profile, Reed explained. Researchers can then inquire to answer some questions, and these questions are then further investigated to see if birth, marriage or death records from census data and elsewhere serve as a lodestar.

DNA and Genetic Genealogy

Referring to the hindrances in this new innovative idea, Reed says, tracing slave ancestors within the United States is relatively easy, but it is far more difficult to trace family records past “the water’s edge” from America back to Africa.

“If your family was enslaved, you’re able to trace the slaveholder and, understanding what records they may have — because they kept good records of their property because they were taxed for it and things like that — that might get you to the water’s edge,” Reed said.

“But really, the advent of DNA and genetic genealogy are what are going to allow you to really cross the pond and understand, from an ethnicity standpoint, maybe where your people came from, from the continent of Africa, prior to coming to the United States.”

These are amazing new insights, but tracing genealogical records to specific locations in Africa is difficult and not feasible because the record-keeping of names was executed poorly. Often the slaves kept as cargo on boats were typically referred to by numbers and not by names.

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“The Kunta Kinte story is an anomaly, if you’re familiar with [the Alex Haley book and later TV miniseries] ‘Roots,'” Reed said. “It is going to be few and almost non-existent African-Americans that are going to be able to trace their family across the Atlantic Ocean, back to where they came from over on the continent of Africa.”

Civil War Records

These are just vital census data, Reed recommends searching land and probating records, along with military records.

“I love the U.S. colored troop pension files,” said Reed, who is an African-American. “Those are particularly helpful in understanding — especially when you get back to that period of after the Civil War — of those African-Americans who fought in the Civil War being able to collect pension after the war.”

According to Reed the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, established by an act of Congress, was now established in the 15 Southern states and the District of Columbia. This could help former slaves and poor whites recover from the impact of the Civil War.

Their life shouldn’t be affected by this disaster,they offered services of providing food rations and helping former slaves protect themselves via labor contracts with former slaveholders. The bureau also solemnized marriages between slaves who were previously denied the permission to marry in the United States.

“And they documented and kept those records in real time,” Reed said. “Those were preserved, and the National Archives was great enough to microfilm and then digitize those and make those available to those individuals who want to do that type of research.”

The inspiration

Reed’s interest in genealogy came from a trip he took to Ghana. Returning from the trip, he wanted to take a DNA test, so he took one.

The results of the test said that his family was not from Ghana, but from Nigeria, the Congo and Cameroon.

“My ancestors are urging me on, I feel like, every day in this work,” Reed said. “So that’s what’s really driven my passion. And I’m so pleased that FamilySearch has taken such an interest in people of African descent and working on genealogy for people of African heritage. It’s been great to see the discoveries that others have made from the resources that us and other partners have brought to bear in the recent years to help people get to the water’s edge and get back, hopefully, to the motherland, to their homeland.”

The idea itself seems exceptional to be implemented. The implementation will unveil mysteries, that were long hidden for decades. Meanwhile, new evidence showed that the founders of the New York Times were slaveowners and even traded in minors.

Bertha Levy Ochs, the mother of Times patriarch Adolph S. Ochs, assisted and supported slavery. Atleast three members of Bertha family fought for secession from the American Union. There is also evidence that the brother of a Revolutionary War-era ancestor of the Sulzberger branch of the family was involved in the slave trade.

The same family still owns the Times and promotes it to become a leader in the movement to demonize America’s founding fathers and rewrite history, putting slavery at its core.

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