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FamilySearch, American Ancestors Collaboration to Recover Names of 10 Million Enslaved Africans

Project will build a free database that encompasses the Transatlantic Slave Trade period

10 million names
10 million names
An estimated 10 million people of African descent were enslaved in pre- and post-colonial America. Now, FamilySearch and genealogical society American Ancestors will help restore their identities through the 10 Million Names project. Photo courtesy of FamilySearch. All rights reserved.

FamilySearch International has announced a “historic initiative” between FamilySearch, the world’s largest genealogy organization, and American Ancestors on the 10 Million Names project.

Launched by American Ancestors on August 2, 2023, at the National Association of Broadcast Journalists, 10 Million Names seeks to recover the names and restore information to families of the estimated 10 million men, women, and children of African descent who were enslaved in pre- and post-colonial America, including the area that would become the United States.

10 Millon names will leverage both individual family history stories and historical documentation to build a free, searchable database of information about enslaved ancestors that extends over centuries during the Transatlantic Slave Trade period—from the 1500s and 1800s. 10 Million Names will leverage a network of professional genealogists, cultural organizations, and community-based family historians. The applied research approach will be different from the standard methods genealogists use. Instead of going from the present (living individuals) to the past (ancestors), project researchers will start in the past and move to the present.

FamilySearch and 10 Million Names

FamilySearch is sharing its groundbreaking artificial intelligence and technology solutions to help identify enslaved persons from its millions of freely searchable historical records — the largest source of records for African Americans of any organization in the world. It will also help 10 Million Names identify, digitize, transcribe and publish new, previously unavailable collections.

Steve Rockwood, president and chief executive officer for FamilySearch International, said the organization is excited about the sense of joy that will emanate from the initiative as millions of individuals make additional family discoveries and connections. “Collaborating with American Ancestors on 10 Million Names aligns with FamilySearch’s vision to make it easier for millions of individuals of African ancestry in North America to reestablish their African roots and begin their family history journey. We are delighted to be part of this historic initiative.”

About this collaboration, Ryan Woods, president and chief executive officer for American Ancestors, said, “The desire to understand one’s ancestors and their impact is deeply human. After over 20 years of joint projects and both organizations’ commitment to African American genealogy, I am thrilled to collaborate with FamilySearch around 10 Million Names. Their extensive collections and expertise will expedite the chance for 44 million African Americans today to trace their roots to their formerly enslaved ancestors.”

American Ancestors will be sharing the story of 10 Million Names and their joint effort with FamilySearch and other entities on the main stage at RootsTech, on Friday, March 1, 2024. Watch online for free, or plan to attend in person. Register and learn more at RootsTech.org.

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