Black Newspapers & Genealogical Searches February 19, 2018

Black Newspapers & Genealogical Searches February 19, 2018

The Allen County Public Library celebrated Black History Month with several events at their branches across the city. On February 19, Melissa Tennant, the assistant manager of the Genealogy Center, led a workshop, at the Hessen Cassel Branch, about how historical African American newspapers can be used in genealogical searches.

The discussion centered on the fact that black-owned newspapers have not only documented the expected, like family reunions, but also seemingly mundane events such as birthday parties. Most announcements were printed with guest lists that can be used to trace a surname and track movements of family members.

Most revealing were the Escape Notices of slaves printed in the newspapers. One such slave notice published in The North Star, an African American Newspaper from 1849, reads: A negro woman named Harriet Toney, slave of J.R. Cann, was arrested last night by watchman Wright, of the Western district, while on the point of attempting to escape, in the company with some white persons, to Pennsylvania. She was sent home to her master in the morning.

According to Tennant, escape notices in Anglo-American newspapers “were advertisements or reports from the slaveholder asking for help in recapturing the slave.” Notices in African American newspapers reported “on the successful escape or unfortunate recapture of an individual.”

Some of the information presented can be assessed using the Genealogy Center’s on-site databases only, located at the Allen County libraries. However, the Genealogy Center does provide access to free databases, for subjects like Family Bible records and military collections, on their website,

Photo: Melissa Tennant, Genealogy Center Assistant Manager [Photo: WBR]

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