Sunday, December 7, 2008

Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database

As I mentioned a few entries ago, I was going to work on listing important websites for state records unless something interesting popped up. Well, two things have popped up. First of all, new FamilySearch has released a new update v 0.95. There are some minor changes in the database including the requirement to certify that you are complying with Church policy in submitting names for the Temple including not submitting names of Jewish Holocaust victims and it is now more compatible with Firefox and Safari browsers.  But I am not going to spend time discussing those. I am sure some other blogger will address them in more detail. 

What I will spend a little time discussing tonight is a new database called Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database at This site was launched on Friday in conjunction with a conference at Emory University marking the bicentennial of the official end to the slave trade in 1808. The database documents the slave trade from Africa to the New World between the 1500s to the 1800s and includes searchable information on about 35,000 voyages and the names of over 67,000 Africans aboard these ships. It includes the name, age, gender, origin, and ports of embarkation and landing. The database includes information on 95% of all voyages that left from ports in England, the country with the second largest slave trade. 

Many of the slaves’ names were westernized after their sale while their names in the database are more closely related to their African names. So therefore this database may not list a specific ancestor of a slave descendent but it will give context about their voyage. For someone who knows that an ancestor was enslaved in a certain location, the database might help them trace from where in Africa they most likely came. 

There are two main parts of the database that can be searched in many ways. One part is known as the Voyage Database. The other is called the African Names Database. If you are looking for a specific vessel, know the name of the captain or crew, know the ports of departure or arrival, or know the nationality of the ship, you can use this database to get more information. The African Names Database is a listing of names of a small percentage of the individuals who were shipped to the New World as slaves. All of these search results are linked directly back to a more detailed description of the vessel, its cargo, and trade route. Since there are only a few websites that specialize in this part of our history, it is a major addition and should be used as one more tool in researching African-American roots.

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