Monthly Archives: July 2014

Reconstruction Amendments: Rebuilding America’s Free Black Community

The passage and ratification of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, also known as the Reconstruction amendments were the first sutures designed to sew together the wounds left by the years of fighting on the battlefield and home-font during the American Civil War from 1861 to 1865. The amendments, by ending slavery, enfranchising and enterprising newly freed blacks, and establishing new and stronger federalism, respectively, left many to wonder what the next chapters of American federalism, economy, and freedom would bring. With Federal troops stationed throughout the South immediately following the war and later to enforce this new moral and legal code of equality, blacks, namely former slaves, began to claim a new lifestyle of citizenship in the land where they had previously been enslaved. For these individuals, the first step in creating a new life in freedom was the reconnection and re-cultivation of social networks destroyed by slavery and war.   Slaves were constantly moved away from federal troop advances or raids to discourage runaways.  This, compounded with the ever present break up of families by the sale of slaves (especially during the economic depression faced by the South during the latter portions of the war) spread these friend and familial networks across the country.

Some Social and familial networks were more easily repaired as the individuals were not separated over great distances. Many slaves became “contrabands of war “ as they ran away to refugee camps run by the Union Army and thus remained in nearby environs. Others were sold away and taken great distances still others joined and traveled with the Union Army. These networks that were torn asunder by conflict or other tragic circumstances required other means to restore communities that would help freed slaves in the post-war, reconstruction period. Factors like literacy, access to money, and larger communities all played into one’s ability to connect to greater networks of individuals in the hope of reconnecting with friends and loved ones. Many former slaves placed missing persons ads in newspapers read in black communities across the United States and Canada. One example of a newspaper that carried several hundred of these missing persons ads both during and after the war is the Christian Recorder, published in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. These ads, often placed by one or two individuals would give information based on the missing person or persons last known location, full name, known nicknames, their familial or friendship ties, how the person placing the ad could be reached, their address, and the location from where the ad was being published. This variety of information meant that any of a number of individuals could read or come across this information and communicate any part or segment to any of the parties listed in hopes of reestablishing a connection. It was also common to see ads posted by church groups or by other individuals on behalf of another person, who perhaps did not have the means or literacy to post the ad.

The 700 wanted ads from the Christian Recorder compiled during Villanova University’s Graduate Digital History Practicum offer innumerable research opportunities to historians interested in the Civil War, Reconstruction, Gender studies, African-American history, as well as other fields like Geography and Politics. For my project, I wanted to test the data to see if there was a significant connection between the ratification dates of the first two Reconstruction amendments: the Thirteenth and Fourteenth and a rise in the placement of ads from the states where the amendments had recently been ratified. More specifically, I looked at border and Southern or (formerly) Confederate states and the dates they ratified and adopted each amendment. The hypothesis being: if there was a marked uptick in the amount of ads submitted during this time period it could be deduced that free blacks, more specifically, individuals looking to rebuild social networks, and even more specifically, individuals posting ads in the Christian Recorder felt more comfortable doing so after the amendments were adopted by Southern and border states who otherwise would not assume these protections on their own at the state and local level. Through examining and data-basing 700 wanted ads placed in the Christian Recorder between 1863 and 1869 the following information was gathered:

Below are two timelines, created with the online tool dipity. The first timeline tracks every state’s ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment. The Thirteenth Amendment, which was highly contested in the House of Representatives, was passed on January 31, 1865 by that body, certifying its passage and subsequently sending it to the states for ratification. The amendment made slavery illegal in the United States and was a political and military goal of both Radical Republicans and Abraham Lincoln. That is, both wanted to see the amendment passed before the imminent surrender of the South, who would rejoin the Union and the House of Representatives and veto any attempt at the passage of a freedom bill.

Thirteenth Amendment Timeline

The second timeline tracks the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Fourteenth Amendment was a response to the almost immediate resubjugation of recently freed slaves in the South to Black Codes passed in many former-Confederate states. These laws sought to install a system of white supremacy and non-citizenship for blacks. Though Congress attempted to act through the passage of a Civil Rights Act in 1866, it quickly became clear that an amendment enfranchising blacks, granting full citizenship to freed slaves would be necessary. The amendment was adopted July 9, 1868 with little support from Southern states. Later Congress would stipulate that ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment would be required for congressional representatives from former-Confederate states to be readmitted to Congress. The timeline shows both border and Southern states and the time it took to ratify the amendment, even after adoption. One can infer the bitterness with which this amendment was accepted by the Southern states with full ratification taking fully four years.

*Both Timelines exclude extreme outliers like Mississippi or New Jersey who rejected and failed to re-certify the 13th and 14th Amendments, respectively

Fourteenth Amendment Timeline

After establishing a timeline for both amendments two maps were created using the Google map creation tool. The first map looks at ads placed during the timeline representation of the Thirteenth Amendment. More specifically, it looks at ads placed within this time period from individuals reporting their address within border and former-Confederate states. That information comprises layer one which had a total of 55 hits in the entire Christian Recorder wanted ads database from February 1865 to June 1866. Layer two of this data, illustrated by ‘yellow stars’, represents the ads where the month and year of ad placement were significant- within five or six months- to the time the state ratified the Thirteenth Amendment. For example: on February 3, 1866 an unknown male placed an ad looking for Henry Collins. This man listed his address as Princeton, New Jersey—a State that ratified the Thirteenth Amendment on January 23, 1866.   Allowing for some time for communication, or over seasons like winter, I found the total result of this database to be 18 significant hits of 55 or roughly 33 percent of all ads placed during this time coincide with the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment.

Similarly, the second map looks at ads placed during the second timeline for ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment, July 1866 to June 1869, and excludes outliers like Texas and Mississippi who did not ratify until 1870. Strictly speaking, the timeframe that the amendment took to be ratified took much longer; therefore, layer one, which records all ads from the Christian Recorder from the aforementioned time period lists 84 ‘hits’ for ads placed from individuals listing their address in border or former-Confederate state—roughly 30 more than all ads placed for the Thirteenth Amendment. More significantly, however, is layer two which is, again, illustrated by ‘yellow stars’. This layer records fourteen individual ‘hits’ of ads placed at a date very near- five to six months- ratification date of the state listed by the advertiser. For Example on November 28, 1868 Alice Mitchell posted an ad for her mother, Polly Clark. Alice Mitchell listed her address in Glenville, Barbour County, Alabama—a state where the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified on July 13, 1868. Again allowing for some margin of communication and seasonality I found the total result of the two layers for this database to be 14 significant ‘hits’ from a total of 84, or roughly 17 percent of all ads placed during these years to coincide with the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment. Geographically, these ads are more spaced out than ‘layer two’ of the Thirteenth Amendment map and show coinciding trends in New Jersey, Washington D.C., Virginia, and the Deep South. Perhaps with more data this geographic information could be more insightful.

These numbers, 33 and 17 percent, certainly do not represent the type of ‘smoking gun’ for which historians and researchers aiming to publish books and peer-review articles would look. The overall sample size of 700 ads, though it took a team of graduate students half a semester to fully transcribe into a digestible document, is far too small a collection of ads, and other databases would have to be created from similar newspapers and publications from Civil War and Reconstruction periods. Although this project shows empirically that roughly 33 percent of ads posted around the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment and 17 percent of ads posted around the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment appear significant to the original question and hypothesis this project was likely never going to fully draw a parallel between the thought processes of free blacks looking to rebuild communities in the former-Confederacy and border states and the importance or trust in the federal government to guarantee the rights and liberties which had been so viciously fought for over from 1861 to 1865. I hope this project will inspire other researchers, particularly those looking at contraband camps and the rebuilding of black communities after the war, to continue exploring newspaper wanted ads and the window to the past they offer.



For More Information:

National Trust for Historic Preservation: The Forgotten- The Contraband of America and the Road to Freedom

 National Park Service: Living Contraband- Former Slaves in the Nation’s Capital during the Civil War

The Christian Recorder

 Our Documents 13th Amendment

 Our Documents 14th Amendment

Our Documents 15th Amendment. History: Reconstruction

National Humanities Center: Emancipation, 1864-1865

List of States in Order of Ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment

List of States in Order of Ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment

PBS: Slavery by another Name- Black Codes and Pig Laws

History, Art and Archives: The United States House of Representatives, “Historical Highlights: the Civil Rights Bill of 1866”


Textual Indicators in the The Christian Recorder Ads

Slavery and the Civil War took a massive toll on African American families, who were often separated and scattered with little means to reunite.  After Emancipation in 1862, many people tried to track down lost relatives by placing Information Wanted ads in African American newspapers such as the Christian RecorderOur Digital History class transcribed a collection of these ads from papers published Dec, 1863 to Jun, 1869 and created a database with this material.  The Information Wanted ads generally ran for one issue, unless the advertiser paid for additional printings in a series of papers.  The ads vary in detail and length, and I saw a set of three questions rise from the collection as I worked with the database: Who was placing the ads? Where were they from? What were they saying? By filtering the textual information in the gathered data set, I saw some trends emerge in the numbers that answer these questions and supply supporting evidence for the state of African American literacy, particularly in the North.  The language in the original ads and the ads themselves may also demonstrate a reaction to major events that unfolded during Reconstruction.


To present my analysis for my first two questions, I decided visualization tools would work best for demonstrating the data. I first uploaded the Excel spreadsheet to Google Fusion Tables and using the filters in this tool to sort the data, I was able to see some emerging trends. I attempted to generate some demographic charts in this tool without much success. To accomplish the visualizations, I uploaded the data to a different free tool, Online Chart Tool, which easily generated the graphs I required. For my third question regarding the language of the advertisements, I selected three sample sets of transcribed texts from the Information Wanted ads, gathered from Accessible Archives, to run further analysis, using Voyant Tools.  I learned the following:

Who was placing the ads and where were they from?

Advertiser Gender

As shown, in our data set only a slight majority of the people posting the ads was male. This relatively even proportion is surprising, given, as Eric Gardner states, “If we omitted the large group of soldier-subscribers and those remaining unidentified, we could posit that the average Recorder subscriber was a married black man in his early 40s living in the Northeast, with significant church ties and children, and likely in the working class even if he held property.”  However, in his analysis of who the subscribers to the Christian Recorder were [1], Gardner also acknowledges that, “Men are somewhat overrepresented, partly because of the difficulty of tracing women’s name changes that accompanied marriages and partly because of other forms of gender bias in nineteenth-century record-keeping…. The number of subscribers represented diverse kinds of readers (and reading) and cannot be assumed to represent the totality of readers, given what we know about reading aloud and other text-sharing practices of the era.”  Readers may not necessarily have been subscribers, thus the advertisers of these Information Wanted ads may not have been subscribers either.  However, these men and women took an active role in supporting the Recorder by selecting it as the publication resource for their advertisement. The Recorder was produced in Philadelphia and had a high subscription rate in the surrounding area. The relative gender balance of those placing Information Wanted ads may have some connection to the location from which most of the ads were requested.

advertisers by state

Almost a third of the searches in our data set came from Pennsylvania, and of the advertisements with addresses provided, 105 of them were located in Philadelphia. Over two-thirds of the advertisers were located in northern free states.  As in other cities in the North at this time, African American literacy rates were significantly higher than in rural areas or in southern states. Given the strong presence of Quakers in Southeastern PA and their well-established tradition of schooling based on the principle of educating all people regardless of color or gender, more African Americans, including women, in this region were likely have been literate for generations and possess some financial means to place an ad in the newspaper.  Gardner states, “Recorder subscribers and black reading public crossed class boundaries much more than previous scholars thought.” I suggest that this data shows that readers of the Recorder also frequently crossed assumed gender boundaries as well. To conclude, the majority of the advertisers were African American men and women located in free states, most of whom possessed a basic or higher level of education.

So what did the texts of these ads demonstrate about the advertisers?

Considering the vast changes to African American rights in the 1860’s, in this questions I specifically was thinking about how the frequency of ads placed and the textual language of the ads might have changed over span of the data set. I needed to explore the data beyond what the spreadsheet showed, so I elected to transcribe sample sets of the actual ads. Based on when they were printed, I selected three sets of 20 Information Wanted ads from the data our class gathered and copied and pasted the text from Accessible Archives into a Word document, where I pooled the ads into each corpus, early, middle, and late, for analysis.

The first group of ads represents early ad text from December 1863- July 1865. The second group of middle ads is gathered from January 1866 to March 1866.  It should be noted that the time span for this group is significantly shorter than the first group, as the frequency of ads placed had more than tripled.  The last group of 20 ads is from the end of the data set, covering February to June of 1869.  I looked at the frequency trends for certain key words across the three groups and created the word cloud representations featured below. For all three text groups I filtered out generic stop words, plus one additional omnipresent term, “information.” I also considered blocking the word whereabouts, which is predominant in all three groups, but the term did not occur in every ad in the data set. Additionally, it suggests an ongoing specific desire to know location in addition to state of health and well-being, so I included it in the textual analysis.

The total number of words in my sample groups did not differ much: the first group had a total of 1389, the second had a sum of 1404 words, and the last group has the fewest words, 1244. The key terms I chose to consider across all three groups were sold, left, and taken. I selected these terms based on the prevailing reasons for family separation (if provided in the ads) according to the entire database, as represented here:

Reason for Separation

The transcriptions for the earlier ads feature a much higher occurrence, 13 times, of the word left, in comparison with the other two groups of ads. The word sold appears 3 times and taken appears once in the first group of 20.  In thinking about the connotation of each term, left is more vague and hints a possible reluctance to divulge too much information regarding movement of current or former slaves, even after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which was not initially well received by many governing bodies. Slavery was still legal at the time these ads were printed, and the war was not officially over until April, 1865. Also, the prevalence of the terms years (12 times) also suggests that these separations in the early ads were not recent occurrences.

Text analysis cloud for 20 ads spanning from December 1863 to July 1865

Text analysis cloud for 20 ads spanning from December 1863 to July 1865

Full access to the tools and the corpus of the first 20 ads can be found here.

The middle 20 sample is drawn from ads printed 1866, which saw the greatest number of searches in the entire data set. Why might this be? 1865 and 1866 marked significant changes in law and social policy.  The 13th Amendment was enacted in January 1865, and over the course of that year, the number of searches in the Christian Recorder jumped from 13 to 111.  The federal government was also in the process of passing the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which became law in early April. In 1866, the number of ads more than doubled from 1865’s total, peaking 250 individual searches. During the transcription process, I noticed that the March 1866 issues of the Recorder featured more than twice as many Information Wanted ads compared to the other issues used in the other two data sets. This spike in advertisements coincides with the overturning of President Andrew Johnson’s veto of the civil rights bill by two-thirds majority in Congress.

Years bar

In the sample set from 1866, shown below, the word taken appears once. Sold appears 5 times, which is a slight increase. However, Left is used only twice and does not appear on the word cloud.  Another term used in reference to slavery, belonged is used 4 times.  These occurrences suggest that the advertisers in 1866 were becoming more open about specific details in regards to the people they were searching for.  In this middle set of texts, confidence and hope for recovery and reunion seemed to be increasing.

mid 20

Text analysis cloud for 20 ads placed during 1866, the peak year for searches.

Full access to the tools and the corpus of the middle 20 ads can be found here:

The last 20 ads marks significant increases in key terms: sold appears 10 times, taken appears 4 times, and left is used twice -in conjunction with military service.  In the last group, requests for ministers to read the ad for their congregations increases, with the word ministers appearing 9 times and congregations occurring 5 times.  Another prominent word of note in this cloud, address, saw a steady rise in use from just twice in the early group, to 7 times in the middle group, and 13 times in the late group of ads.  This may indicate that African Americans were better able to settle at an established address as the decade wore on, suggesting that the quality of life and social standings were on the rise for African Americans in the North during Reconstruction.

Text analysis of the last 20 ads from our data set, spanning February to June of 1869.

Text analysis of the last 20 ads from our data set, spanning February to June of 1869.

Full access to the tools and the corpus of the last 20 ads can be found here.

To conclude, the Information Wanted ads in the Christian Recorder supply valuable indicators of the progress of African American life during the decade of emancipation. The texts of these ads form an unusual collection of individually authored voices reaching out across a broad geographic region, and they resonate with personal experiences of the abolition of slavery and the beginning of Reconstruction.  The Christian Recorder was not the only African American publication to print Information Wanted ads, so this can be viewed as a representative example of a larger movement toward literacy and autonomy for blacks in the United States.

 Cited Resources:

[1] Eric Gardner. “Remembered (Black) Readers: Subscribers to the Christian Recorder, 1864–1865.” American Literary History 23, no. 2 (2011): 229-259. (accessed July 31, 2014).




Evolution of Language in Information Wanted Ads


Information wanted ads in The Christian Recorder were seen by people all over the United States, therefore it was imperative for the wording of the ads to be coherent to all sorts of people.  Many of the people who wrote and read the ads were illiterate because they were former slaves who were not given the chance to have a formal education.  Even without a formal education, he language that was used in the information ads in The Christian Recorder evolved over the years that we examined in our data analysis (1864-1869).  In order to examine the language in the ads, I used a word analysis program (voyant) to highlight the key words of the ads in each year.  Immediately after making the word clouds, I found that location words were consistent throughout every visualization.  This prompted me to make pie charts of the advertisers’ cities in each year to see if the prominent location words in the visualizations were the same as the cities that the advertisers were from.  Some of the years also had major words that had to be examined further by charts and/or more research. 

1864 Analysis

The first year (1864) was analyzed by putting every ad in the voyant tool and looking at the visualization to see the words that were most prominent in 1864.  This word visualization is pictured below:


The word that was used the most was information.  This is no surprise because most of the ads said “information wanted of…” in the beginning.  Other words that appear frequently are names of people, these names were common for the period.  The relationships that are highlighted in the visualization are brother(s) and family.  From the word visualization a conclusion can be drawn that brothers were mostly being searched for in 1864.  Finally, some of the words that are prominent are locations.  By using the visualization it was seem that most of the ads were placed in, or looking for people in Philadelphia, Virginia (VA), Brooklyn, and Baltimore. 

I created a pie chart (below) to analyze the cities that the advertisers were from in 1864 and found that Brooklyn and Baltimore were prominent cities.  Portsmouth, Virginia was also a city that a lot of advertisers were from in 1864.  Comparing the information from the pie chart to the word visualization shows that the cities that the advertisers were from were the cities that were highlighted.  The only city that was not represented by the advertiser city was Philadelphia.  The explanation for Philadelphia in the highlighted position was because The Christian Recorder was published in Philadelphia, therefore the city was mentioned in most of the ads.   1864 chart

1865 Analysis

In 1865, the US Civil War ended.  This resulted in an exponential increase in information wanted ads in The Christian Recorder.  The end of the war also brought a change to the language that was used in the ads.  In the previous year there was little to no mention of slavery.  Even though the word slavery or slave is not specifically mentioned in the 1865 ads, words like “sold” and “owned” were highlighted in the word visualization (below).


The word visualization also highlights the word “years” which focuses on the amount of time that the advertiser and searchee have been separated.  The graph below shows the amount of years that people have been apart according to the data that was analyzed from all of The Christian Recorder information wanted ads from 1864 to 1869.  The graph shows that an overwhelming majorities of people have been separated for four or more years.


Like the 1864 word visualization, 1865 also shows locations as key words.  According to the word visualization, the cities that were mentioned were from a larger area than the cities in 1864.  The locations in the word cloud are:  Virginia, Charleston, Tennessee, Winchester, and Richmond. My hypothesis would be that the cities the advertisers were advertising from would be comparable like they were in 1864.  Unfortunately, that is not the case when the word cloud is compared to a pie chart of advertisers cities in 1865.


The major places that are shown in the word cloud are not a major part of the cities that the advertisers were from.  However, the location data from the visualization is correct by showing that the locations were much more broad than they were the year before.  The pie chart is cluttered with many different cities that the advertisers were from, unlike the chart from 1864 which only included a few east coast cities. The probable reasoning for the increase in the amount of cities mentioned in the word cloud and the pie chart are most likely because the war had ended so African Americans were searching more and more for loved ones that had been separated because of war.

1866 Analysis

The word cloud that examines the ads from 1866 has many of the same words as the previous ads.  The content of the ads does not change because the content does not change.  This word cloud also highlights words that have to deal with slavery, more so than the words of 1865 with the addition of the word “belonged.”  It seems as though the further away from the war the ads are, it is more likely for the advertisers to mention slavery status.  The 1866 word cloud also highlights more familial relationships like “mother,” “brother,” “husband,” and “children.”  The importance of the relationships between people also seem to be more profound after the war, possibly to get the sympathy of the reader by making them think of their own family.


The 1866 word cloud does not have as many location words highlighted as the 1865 cloud.  This most likely means that there were many cities that were mentioned.  No city or cities particularly stood out in having the majority.  When analyzing the data of the cities that the advertisers were from in a pie chart, it shows that the theory of many cities is correct.

1866 chart

The only city that has a slight majority on the pie chart is Philadelphia.  Like 1865, this most likely is because The Christian Recorder was published in Philadelphia.

1867  Analysis

Like the previous ads the content is very similar.  However, the words “ministers” and “congregations” are highlighted in this word cloud.  In the previous word clouds there was no mention of religion, but it is prominent in this visualization.  These advertisements were during a Great Awakening movement in the United States that especially included African Americans.  In the post-war United States the African Methodist Episcopal Church (A.M.E.) gained a lot of members.  Since a lot of people were joining churches, it was a good way to help find any information.  Some ads ask to be read in church so the ad will be heard by many people and more than the subscriber base of The Christian Recorder.


The location words in this word cloud are more definitive than they were in the previous year.  Philadelphia is once again highlighted as a major city in the word cloud and in the pie chart of 1867.

1867 chart

After looking at the pie chart of the cities that the advertisers were from in 1867, it is seen that Chicago is the second (to Philadelphia) city that is searching for loved ones.  However, there is no mention of Chicago or the state of Illinois in the word cloud.  It is strange that Chicago does not show up on the word visualization, but it was most likely not stated as many times as other words that are highlighted.

1868 Analysis


Although words that suggested slavery had been included in some of the previous word clouds, they are particularly prominent in the 1868 visualization.  Here, the word “sold”is much bigger than it was in any of the previous word clouds, meaning that it was stated more times in the ads from 1868.  In 1868, three years have passed since the end of the Civil War so it becomes increasingly acceptable to acknowledge that loved ones were sold and taken away from their families. 

It is interesting to note the prominence of female names in this word cloud.  Female names have made an appearance in every year that has been analyzed so far, but never with this much significance.  When looking at the genders of the advertisers from 1864-1869, it appears that there is an almost even split between males and females.  By using the gender pie chart and comparing it to the word clouds, one can see that there is a fairly even amount of male and female names that appear in the word cloud.


The location words for 1868 that appear in the word cloud are very focused on the east coast, like “Philadelphia,” “VA” (Virginia), and “N.J.” (New Jersey).


The pie chart shows that 1868 was pretty evenly split between cities on the east coast.  In previous years there seems to be representation from people further west placing ads.  I am not sure why the locations of advertisements placed in 1868 were primarily on the east coast.

1869 Analysis


1869 was the last year that we collected data from The Christian Recorder and was the year that was the furthest away from the Civil War.  This word cloud agrees with the hypotheses from the previous data collection because more of an emphasis is placed on words about slavery and religion.  This word cloud also shows the prominence of Philadelphia very clearly.


In the pie chart for 1869, 43% of the advertisers were from Philadelphia.  It seems as though as time goes the ads were located in and around Philadelphia.


For the most part the wording of the ads stay the same from 1864 to 1869 because the content is the same.  Words like “information,” “thankfully,” and “received” show up on every word cloud prominently.  However, the language of the ads definitely changes from 1864 to 1869 specifically when talking about slavery and religion.  I thought that it was interesting that the words “slavery” and “religion” were never specifically stated in the ads they were just talked about using different wording.  Finally, by comparing location words and pie charts of advertisers cities it is easy to analyze the important cities for the ads.  In my own analysis of the locations, it seems that Philadelphia and the east coast are always prominent places.  In the earlier years there is more evidence of The Christian Recorder reaching people outside of the east coast region, by that dissipates by 1869.

This data would be useful when looking at the evolution of language in the information wanted ads.  It would be interesting to compare the advertisers literacy rate throughout the years to see if the inclusion of words related to slavery and religion that appear in later years have a correlation with literacy. 





Mapping Geography and Gender in ‘The Christian Recorder’

During my contributions to the Christian Recorder “Information Wanted” project, I began to wonder about the demographic information involved. So frequently with primary sources, the analysis done by researchers and historians becomes focused almost entirely along certain lines: facts, figures, and statistics, or the (typically) individualized narratives of the persons involved in the events themselves or else in their documentation.

There is no necessary or intentional divide, per se, between these two approaches to data. My hope was to keep this unified perspective in mind as I went forward with my own uses of our collected information. What emerged from my reading of the data sets was a picture of community, scattered and subdivided across various states and territories. They were separated – and indeed the entire notion of the “Information Wanted” columns was a deliberate response to the separation of individuals from their larger groups, typically families. But by using a rapidly-expanding system of communication – the printed periodical –  black Americans, now confronted with their potential roles as citizens and free members of a largely hostile society, could attempt to reach across great spaces to reunite with their fellows and families. As they did so, these communities would simultaneously be developing a system of gendered roles and expected norms for its members. These performances of accepted behaviors would in turn have an effect upon the readership and authorship of The Christian Recorder‘s “Information Wanted” advertisements.

To begin, then, I asked: How much of the geographical spread of interested persons demonstrated within these maps the result of the 19th century’s expansion of print mass media and travel technologies? As I discussed in a previous post, the potential audiences for newspapers, newsletters, and magazines had virtually exploded in scope and scale by the time of the advertisements I’ve sampled. Similarly, railroad networks underwent significant growth in both reach and density by the end of the Civil War, enabling goods, news, and people to travel further and faster than ever before. Consequently, and with the end of slavery now guaranteed by law, how many former slaves took advantage not only of their new freedoms but of these cultural and technological changes to seek out missing loved ones?

By writing in to The Christian Recorder and submitting “Information Wanted” notices, they could hope to tap into the readership of one of the most prominent and powerful black community groups in the country. This increasing connectivity between communities and among social and cultural groups prompted me to wonder what a random sampling of advertiser locations from the final months of the Civil War and its immediate aftermath would look like when mapped out according to the information given in their advertisements. To that end, I created my first map:

‘Christian Recorder’ Advertiser Locations

The sample size comes from all “Information Wanted” pieces published between March 1865 and December 1866, pared down to 197 individuals who provided direct contact information, including city and state. The results were intriguing in their concentrations. The density and frequency of advertisements placed by residents of non-slaveholding states is in fact nearly equal to those from states where slavery continued until the Thirteenth Amendment. Further, while dense population centers are well-represented, a significant number of the advertisements come from persons outside major cities. This would indicate that the extensive readership networks upon which these “Information Wanted” pieces hinged were not as centralized as they might at first appear.

Below is a breakdown of the data along state and territory lines. By far the largest state represented in the advertisements was Pennsylvania, which in itself is no great surprise, considering that The Christian Recorder was based in Philadelphia. This data chart, taken together were the map view above, will hopefully bring curious minds into the fold of understanding the connections between the places represented there and the people attempting to reach across the spaces between.



Obviously, this sample is not intended to be exhaustive, nor is it intended as a demonstration of the entire scope of the “Information Wanted” phenomenon, which ran continuously between 1861 and at least 1902. Rather, it represents a picture of the immediate post-emancipation era, and the geography of those in a position to seek out separated family and friends through a growing web of Christian Recorder readership and black church communities.

Geographic dispersion and the (typically) invisible strands of communication are all well and good, of course, and represent an area which remains more or less un-mined of its incredibly interesting and insightful biographic and demographic information. This approach to developing a more rounded understanding of life in the United States for freedpeople in the second half of the 19th century, one utilizing self-assessed data and very descriptive primary sources, could occupy the careers of countless historians and humanist academics. Ideally, it will. However, there is at least one other serious area worthy of intense study using these same sources: gender dynamics in African American communities.

While the 19th century is often (and rightly) described and understood as a period in which women struggled for authority and status within their social positions, personal relationships, and cultural paradigms, there were nonetheless some communities in which these exertions were less fractious. One of the groups was within African-American churches, within which scholars such as Elsa Barkley Brown[1] and Hannah Rosen[2] have argued that women in the immediate post-emancipation period and for some time afterward enjoyed relative gender equity within the communities. This changed over time for a number of reasons (and according to a number of competing theories), but nonetheless it must be understood that women were often allowed significant autonomy of conduct and organization for years within their churches. As the primary communication organ of the incredibly popular and influential African Methodist Episcopal Church, The Christian Recorder was no different. To that end, I created a second map from the same sampled data, this time broken down along gender lines.

‘Christian Recorder’ Advertiser Genders

Of the advertisers included in my sample, ninety-two were women. Compared to eighty-seven men and four advertisers with an indeterminate gender, this data seems to bear out the notion that women were more likely to attempt to reunite their families, arguably as an extension of the traditional authority of women over the domestic sphere.

What is surprising, then, is not the preponderance of female advertisers, but the comparative balance between men and women within this sample. I would be extremely interested to see the conclusions drawn by a more intensive and long-term research project which could analyze the “Information Wanted” advertisements through the end of the century and track the gender ratio over several decades.

The Tech Portion of the Show

So, having laid out the theoretical side of this project and my motivations in approaching it in the way I have, it seems a good idea to discuss the technical aspects. I used the immensely useful and easy-to-use BatchGeo program. A free service for relatively small projects, BatchGeo simply requires a user to input their collated data into the program, set the appropriate graphing options as desired, and then like glorious digital-humanist magic, a map is produced using GoogleMaps. This map is hosted by BatchGeo, with both public and private display options. I elected to host my information publically, in the hope that someone someday may find it interested, if not entirely useful.

I would recommend BatchGeo for the digital novice, or for those otherwise pressed for time or technical know-how. I found it immensely useful, even with its rather narrow data limits. The functionality is excellent, and for a free service with an approachable interface, this is absolutely nothing to sneeze at.


As I’ve hinted throughout this piece, my work is at best a brief introduction to the ideas I’ve put forth. There remains an enormous amount of data to process within the annals of The Christian Recorder. My hope in writing this is to spark interest in the roles of concepts such as geography and gender in the discussion of larger topics within social history of the 19th century. These two are not the only useful or intriguing lenses through which to view primary sources, of course, merely to two which struck me most definitively in my reading. There remains, as always, a great deal of difficult and rewarding work ahead of we historians, but armed with powerful new digital tools and a willingness to use them innovatively, our labors can at least be more stimulating than ever.


[1] Elsa Barkley Brown. “Negotiating and Transforming the Public Sphere: African American Political Life in the Transition from Slavery to Freedom.” Public Culture 7 (Fall 1994): 107-46.

[2] Hannah Rosen. Terror in the Heart of Freedom: Citizenship, Sexual Violence, and the Meaning of Race in the Postemancipation South. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009.

Reconstruction: The Search for Reuniting African American Families in Postbellum America

Life for African Americans can never be characterized as one of freedom, acceptance, and ease. Despite Fox News’s Eric Bolling recent assurances, racism still exists and permeates the fabric of American society. For example, New York’s Stop and Frisk policy has, according to statistics, a racially motivated agenda. But as frustrating and unjust as the treatment of African Americans can be considered today, life was far bleaker for blacks before the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (which, as we know, abolished slavery and other forms of forced servitude).

One brutal aspect of reality faced by those captured or born into slavery was the absence of a biological family unit on plantations or other properties. Rather than be allowed to grow up and work with their parents, slave children were often sold to the highest white bidder for a decent sum of money. Solomon Northup’s narrative, Twelve Years a Slave, illustrates well the devastation around such a separation:

“The same man also purchased Randall. The little fellow was made to jump, and run across the floor, and perform many other feats, exhibiting his activity and condition. All the time the trade was going on, Eliza [Randall’s mother] was crying aloud, and wringing her hands. She besought the man not to buy him, unless he also bought her self and Emily [Randall’s sister]. She promised, in that case, to be the most faithful slave that ever lived. The man answered that he could not afford it, and then Eliza burst into a paroxysm of grief, weeping plaintively . . . A great many times she repeated her former promises – how very faithful and obedient she would be; how hard she would labor day and night, to the last moment of her life, if he would only buy them all together. But it was of no avail; the man could not afford it. The bargain was agreed upon, and Randall must go alone. Then Eliza ran to him; embraced him passionately; kissed him again and again; told him to remember her – all the while her tears falling in the boy’s face like rain.” (Northup, Twelve Years)


Example of Information Wanted Advertisement in The Christian Recorder. Photo courtesy of Accessible Archives.

Example of Information Wanted Advertisement in The Christian Recorder. Photo courtesy of Accessible Archives.

The image that Northup paints describes a heartbreaking, yet common occurrence. According to the American Methodist Episcopal Church’s newspaper, The Christian Recorder, his account of the slave auction was the norm. Although created to be a community newsletter for African Americans, The Christian Recorder became far more than a simple tool for notification of events. Along with community announcements, The Christian Recorder printed ‘Information Wanted’ advertisements. In these advertisements, hundreds of people paid for a small section of a paper in order to request information regarding the whereabouts of a lost loved one. Details that the advertisers included in the articles varied, but several citied the reason for separation as the result of being bought or sold in the slave system.

After a brief recount of the broken nature of African American families, we can assume that, with emancipation, former slaves and even freedmen were desperate to reconnect with their loved ones. For many, placing advertisements in newspapers like The Christian Recorder served as the solution for this period of ‘great reuniting.’ Fortunately, as student of Villanova University, I have access to several years worth of Information Wanted advertisements. So, once I was able to get my hands on these documents, I started to research the people who were placing these ads and their relationships with those for whom they were searching.

Advertisements and Gender

The first step I had taken in my relationship analysis was in deciding the overall scope of the study. As I was interested in learning more about family reconnections post-Civil War, I felt that the proper starting point was the April 29, 1865 issue, or the first publication after Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Union forces at the Appomattox Court House, Virginia, on April 9th. As the Information Wanted advertisements continued to the last issue transcribed by the newspaper’s host site (Accessible Archives) on June 12, 1869, I thought that ending my research there would be appropriate. With those dates as my scope, I found two hundred and thirty-one advertisements transcribed by both Accessible Archives and my peers in Villanova’s Digital History class. 

In order to tackle my research project, I decided to narrow the data categories that my classmates and I had collected from those two hundred and thirty-one ads. Rather than using all forty-two categories my class had agreed upon for our communal document, I focused on four in particular: gender and location of advertiser, gender of searchee, and the relation of the advertiser to searchee. After creating my document, I thought an interesting starting point in data analysis would be in the gender of those placing the wanted advertisements.


As we can observe from the graph, men placed one hundred and seventeen advertisements during the months and years of my research scope; in comparison, women filed one hundred and twenty-six. Although the difference is slight, we can see that more women were placing ads than men in this postbellum time period. By now, you are probably thinking one of two things: what could be the reason for more women placing advertisements in the newspaper; or, the numbers I have given do not add up to two hundred and thirty-one. Well, both of those questions can be answered in the next area that I explored during my research.

 The reason that the total of male and female advertisers exceeds the number of Information Wanted ads placed is because multiple people could file a single advertisement. For example, I had several instances where a mother and father placed an ad together. That, then, brought me to the next aspect of my research (and a possible answer for why more women had placed ads than men), which, as we have discussed, was what were the connections of the advertiser to the searchee.

Advertisements and Relationships

            Although the analysis of these relationships was certainly a more involved and time-consuming endeavor, the information I learned from this aspect of my project was a bit more thought-provoking than simply comparing gender results.

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 2.42.21 PM

As the above graph shows, the majority of those placing advertisements looking for long lost loved ones leans unquestionably in the direction of parents (94 ads). With what we’ve learned from Northup’s account, this parental majority does not come as much of a surprise. What was a bit of a shock, however, was the group who placed second in filing the most ads. Rather than children searching for the parents they had been stripped from (which, if I was a betting woman, would have been where I placed my chips), siblings were more likely to file ads looking for one another. Surprised, I could not help but wonder:

  • How long did a siblings typically stay together under slavery?
  • How often were separated siblings in contact with one another?
  • Were siblings searching for each other because they mostly likely served in war?
  • Were siblings searching for each other based on probability of being alive? 

Although these questions are outside the scope of my project, further research could certainly shed more light on the reason behind siblings being the second most likely group to place advertisements in The Christian Recorder



Gender and Relations

After discovering which groups of relatives were placing the most advertisements, I felt that another practical form of analysis for my new data interpretation was to, once again, add gender into the mix. So, my questions now became what parent was searching the most? What sibling, or child? 


What we can observe:

  • Wives and Husbands are searching for one another with the same amount of frequency.
  • Fathers, Daughters, Sons, and Sisters have similar advertisement placing trends.
  • Mothers are the most prevalent advertiser filing Information Wanted ads. Give the data presented from the previous two charts, this fact is certainly no surprise.

Interestingly, the second group with the highest numbers of ads placed are men in search of their long lost sibling. Again, the questions I posed in the previous section remain: why are siblings placing a large portion of the ads and, given this new data, why are the sibling advertisers mostly men? These questions inspired me in my research for the last leg of my project, a focus on a particular sibling Information Wanted advertisement. 

Further Research

 When I had been in the planning stages of my project and just began to formulate the questions I wanted to research, I could have never imagined I would find such interesting results. Although I am fascinated with the fact that mothers placed advertisements far more than any other relative group, I have to admit that I became personality invested in one particular sibling story and, thus, decided to research their story a bit more.

On February 16, 1867, Amanda E. Andrew placed an advertisement requesting information regarding the whereabouts of her brother, Jacob Andrews. The ad included information about Jacob’s service in Pennsylvania’s 8th Reserve Regiment and his last known location. But, what drew me to Amanda’s advertisement was the town she gave – Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania – for her location. Wilkes-Barre just happens to be my hometown!

Once I had made that personal connection with Amanda’s advertisement, I was determined to find more information about Jacob and to see if the two had reunited at some point in time. To begin my search for Jacob, I decided to plug the information garnered from the advertisement to’s search criteria. The search for a ‘Jacob Andrews’ resulted with a plethora of possibilities. Needing to narrow my results, I then searched for only those who had served in the military during the Civil War. Again, I received far more results then I had expected. Unfortunately, none of the second phase results specified James’s race or matched with Amanda’s assurance of him fighting with the 8th Regiment.

As I became more than a little frustrated with the overabundance of unsure possibilities, I decided to move on and try to locate Amanda through Ancestry’s search. Unlike Jacob, there was just one result for an ‘Amanda E. Andrew.’ Excited, I opened that result to find our advertiser in the 1850 census. For me, this find was golden. The census record gave me Amanda’s birth year (c. 1845), her location (Franklin, Pennsylvania), and race (Mulatto). The true gem, however, came in the section of the census titled “Other Household Members,” where one Jacob Andrew was listed.

Jacob Andrew service record. Photo courtesy of

Jacob Andrew service record. Photo courtesy of

After finding Jacob Andrew in the 1850 census (recorded as being ten years old, just the right age to serve in the Civil War), I decided to edit my search on Ancestry to ‘Jacob Andrew’ rather than ‘Andrews.’ Once I had, again, narrowed my search to those that had served in the military, I found Jacob within no time! There he was, Jacob Andrew from Franklin, PA, who served in the 8th United States Colored Infantry. Although the result I found was missing the ‘s’ on Andrew, I felt safe in assuming that I had found Amanda’s brother.

Finding Jacob’s record was such a breakthrough because I found information connecting him to Amanda, as well as was able to discover when he had enlisted in the Union army (1863). After finding out Jacob served in the 8th U.S. Colored Infantry, I decided to further research how involved the regiment was in the actual fighting. From the group’s establishment in 1861, the 8th Regiment fought in their fair share of battles ranging from the collisions at Mechanicsburg, Fredericksburg, South Mountain, and even the Second Battle of Bull Run. Fortunately, those high casualty (and Confederate victory) battles occurred before Jacob had enlisted. That said, Jacob likely fought in the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House in 1864.

Although the 8th Regiment did suffer hundreds of casualties due to fighting and disease, I do know that Jacob survived the war. According to Family Search’s accounts on the 8th United States Colored Infantry, Private Jacob Andrews (again, potential last name discrepancy) was drafted on August 14, 1864 and “mustered out with Company C on November 10, 1865.” From that point, I have a feeling that Jacob eventually went on to find Amanda in Wilkes-Barre. Unfortunately, I was unable to find more census or tax records from Jacob on Ancestry, but I did find two potential leads for continued research. By just searching ‘Andrew’ and ‘Wilkes-Barre,’ I found two women that could be Jacob’s daughters. Laura B. Hazen (née Andrew) and Mary C. Neff (née Andrew) were both born in Franklin, PA, with a Jacob Andrew listed as their father. Oddly, both Laura and Mary were documented to have died in 1909 in Wilkes-Barre, PA. Although I would love to claim that these women were our Jacob’s daughters and that he lived a nice life in Wilkes-Barre, I cannot be certain. However, this is definitely a nice thought and something that I would love the opportunity to research further.

Future Work?

Truth be told, my heart has been captured by the Andrew family and I plan to continue researching into this family’s history until I am able to find information regarding how the lives of our Jacob and Amanda unfolded. If I do continue Andrew family research, I would extend my focus to incorporate the other family members listed in that 1850s census. Through this, I would attempt to answer those sibling relation questions I posed previously. 

Another area that I would be interested in continuing to research is more about the mother’s who placed the majority of the Information Wanted advertisements. I am curious to discover the reasoning behind more mothers posting ads than fathers. Were women more literate than men and could therefore place ads themselves? How many mothers were also searching for husbands? From there, further research could incorporate the location of these women. Did the mother’s placing advertisements live near one another? If so, could that lead to more research about African American women communities? While I am not sure these questions all have answers, I do intend to continuing researching to find out! 


8th United States Colored Infantry 

13th Amendment

Accessible Archives

Battle of Spotsylvania

Family Search – 8th U.S. Colored Infantry 

Family Search – Company C

Fox News’s Eric Bolling

Stop and Frisk

Twelve Years a Slave Excerpt 

What’s in a Map? A Location by any Other Name…Will Not Show up on Your Map

The History of The Christian Recorder

The Christian Recorder is the oldest black periodical in America, dating to before the Civil War.  Originally named the Christian Herald, the publication started in Philadelphia in 1848.  It was published weekly, with a yearly subscription fee of one dollar and fifty cents.


Cover page from The Christian Recorder. Accessed through Accessible Archives.

In 1852, the Christian Herald changed its name to The Christian Recorder (see image at right).  The first issue was printed and distributed July 1, 1852.  Reverend M. M. Clark, one of the first college graduates in the African Methodist Church, was The Christian Recorder’s first editor.  He wanted the paper’s focus to be religion, morality, science, and literature.  Although much of The Christian Recorder was devoted to religious news, it also spent time dealing with secular issues, including education, voting rights, and equality – particularly issues involving slavery, classism, and racism.[1]  Religious Intelligence, Domestic News, Foreign News, Obituaries, Marriages, and Notices and Advertisements comprised the four-page weekly.[2]

As a strong opponent against slavery, The Christian Recorder repeatedly addressed biblical and moral issues involving slavery, and worked to encourage and foster a fledgling black consciousness.  After the Civil War, the paper encouraged its readers to be mindful of whites who still wanted to harm the newly freed slaves.  The Christian Recorder addressed the issues of separated family members with the publication of their “Information Wanted” ads.  These ads tried to provide information that could assist in reuniting family members.[3]

Historian Augustus H. Able, III synthesized the mission of The Christian Recorder best when he expressed that,

Outrages from the South were reported in purely factual terms: burnings of churches and parsonages, midnight visitations. Of course sermons were reproduced, but there was excellent reportage from correspondents all over the South and West. In sum, the virtue of the Recorder lies not in its religious role but in the picture it provides of the Negro situation throughout the country; from the tepid friendliness of at least some whites in the West, whether Cheyenne or Santa Fe, to the cry to freed Negroes, ‘Don’t come to Mississippi.’ Indeed this warning brings to mind one of the greatest features of the Recorder, the Information Wanted page that continued for years, week after week; inquiries about broken families, the enforced separations of parents, children, brothers, sisters, all relationships, deriving from the peculiar situation of the Cotton Kingdom. These inquiries provide small glimpses of thousands of human tragedies and constitute a most impressive indictment of the Old South.[4]

Today, The Christian Recorder continues serving the African Methodist Episcopal Church in communities around the world.

 “Information Wanted” Ads

This summer, for eight weeks, the Villanova Digital History class worked on documenting “Information Wanted” ads from The Christian Recorder.  This was an incredibly impressive project, spanning roughly six years of transcribed ads.  The information garnered from these ads was then placed into an Excel spreadsheet.  The initial Excel document compiled by the class is daunting, to say the least.  From that almost 700-cell spreadsheet, I had a decision to make on how to narrow my query.

Early in the process I decided I would like to use a mapping tool, I just didn’t know what information I specifically wanted to map.  Eventually – since I currently live in Philadelphia, and am originally from Pennsylvania – I decided on mapping the Pennsylvania and Philadelphia addresses from the entire spreadsheet.

I did, however, impose the caveat that I would only look at the contact addresses, rather than the advertiser or searchee addresses.  I decided to look at contact addresses instead of advertiser addresses because I think the contact address to be incredibly important, maybe even more so than the advertiser addresses.  The contact person was the liaison between those searching for the information and those responding to the information.  That was a HUGE responsibility.  It was incumbent of the contact person to deliver any and all information; he or she was the difference between family members reuniting or staying lost to one another, perhaps forever.

 Research & Findings


Pittsburgh in the 19th century. Accessed from “A Short History of Coal Hill.”

When I looked at the data from the spreadsheet after having removed any extraneous information that wasn’t related to Pennsylvania, I discovered that there were very few specific street addresses given for locations outside of Philadelphia.  In contrast, a majority of the contact information provided for those living in Philadelphia included a building number and street address.

This poses an interesting question: why were these people and places without street addresses?  It’s possible that the advertiser didn’t know an address for the contact person; but what is more probable is that these contact persons simply didn’t have addresses.  In 1860, Philadelphia had a population of 565,529, while Pittsburgh’s population at the same time was 49,221.  Philadelphia was a far more prosperous and populace city in the mid nineteenth century than much of the rest of Pennsylvania.  It’s a possibility that many of the other cities referred to in the data weren’t as developed as Philadelphia (see image above left), which would make it easier for people in those cities to know who Mr. Granderson Singleton was and where he lived (a contact person for one Pittsburgh ad, for example).

Through analysis of the data, I realized that there were quite a few ads that relied on The Christian Recorder as the contact address – 619 Pine Street in Philadelphia.  Most of the ads relying on The Christian Recorder occur in the early years of our data set.  There are also a handful of ads that list “bookstore” as the contact address.  This bookstore has the same address as The Christian Recorder; The Christian Recorder was located in the A. M. E. Book Concern (see below image).


Accessed from Accessible Archives.

These advertisers could have relied on the paper because of the novelty of the “Information Wanted” ads.  Something like what The Christian Recorder was offering hadn’t been done before for African Americans.  Perhaps, for these folks,  the safest place to address returned information was The Christian Recorder.  With the close of the Civil War, the frequency and volume with which the “Information Wanted” ads appeared for Pennsylvania, (and Philadelphia specifically), increased exponentially.  Despite the turmoil and blatant racism still permeating society immediately following the Civil War, African Americans were feeling more comfortable with the idea of openly searching for displaced family members.

Digital Tool and Methodology

From the outset of working with this data, I knew I wanted to employ a mapping technique.  But finding the right one proved a bit tricky at the start.  It was trial and error with different mapping tools until I finally settled with Google Maps Engine Lite.  I experimented with many different tools including MapBox, GeoCommons, CartoDB, and Crowdmap before finally using Google Maps.  Since I’m not the most technologically savvy, I found some of the mapping tools to be too advanced for me.

However, one of the biggest issues I ran into, particularly with the digital tools that relied on geo-referencing, was simply that I didn’t have any geo-reference points.  Similarly, I needed a tool that would work with the fact that many of my points only had a city, with no street address.  Google Maps Engine Lite proved to be the perfect tool for dealing with this, as it easily (for the most part) mapped the cities, regardless of a lack of accompanying building number.  Once the points were mapped, I did have to go in and clean up some data, as a few of the addresses initially pinned in the Schuylkill River.  Additionally, I had to drop the Attleborough, Pennsylvania entry because Google Maps could only place it in Rhode Island rather than Pennsylvania.

map ads pa

Pennsylvania only mapped addresses

map ads phila

Philadelphia only mapped addresses

map ads both

Pennsylvania and Philadelphia mapped addresses

Google Maps also proved beneficial for easily mapping my two layers of data (see images above).  Using two different colored pins, I was able to map the Pennsylvania and Philadelphia locations on the same map.  Zooming in on the map – particularly in Philadelphia – allows for a closer examination of the addresses, which pop up in a window when the cursor hovers over the pins.

One potentially adverse effect of Google Maps Engine Lite is that it is a free version, and as such, it will only allow 100 pins to be placed in a single layer.  For my particular area of research this wasn’t a problem.  Advertisers often placed ads that contained queries regarding multiple people.  I made the decision to exclude multiple entries for two reasons: firstly, these entries would create a far too cluttered map; but secondly, and most logically, there was no need to repeat contact addresses attached to advertisers looking for numerous people.  One address entry, since it didn’t change, sufficed.  The capped number of pins Google Maps Engine Lite allows would present a problem for someone looking to map more than just Pennsylvania from the spreadsheet.  With that in mind however, Google Maps Engine Lite was an extremely user-friendly digital mapping tool that made mapping the contact addresses of the “Information Wanted” ads very easy and fairly painless.


My project in particular could be expanded through mapping all of the spreadsheet’s contact addresses.  Visually, I think it would be beneficial to see the scattered (or condensed) geography of those receiving ads.  Once that information has been gathered and mapped, it would be interesting to see if there were any correlations to these places.  Perhaps the contact addresses are all only in the biggest cities of certain states; maybe the contact addresses are only in those states less hostile to the conclusion of the Civil War;  maybe even there is a relation between the cities listed for the contact addresses and cities that had strong abolition tendencies prior to the Civil War.  It might also be exciting to look into whether or not the contact addresses were in cities with a Christian Recorder outpost, or a strong A. M. E. Church contingent.

The data provided from the transcriptions of The Christian Recorder “Information Wanted” ads is a wealth of information.  These ads can provide researchers with varying and numerous opportunities to engage with an array of digital tools.  With the use of these tools, many stories can be pieced together for these families, and much research and analysis can be accomplished in regards to life immediately succeeding the Civil War.



[2] “The Christian Recorder.” Accessible Archives Inc. 2014. Accessed July 28, 2014.


[4] “The Christian Recorder.”

Maps, Visuals, and a Timeline: The Influence that Editors and Proximity to A.M.E. Churches had on Advertisers

The Official Website of the African Methodist Episcopal Church reports that though starting in Philadelphia, the A.M.E. church quickly spread into other parts of the country. By the 1830s, there were congregations major cities in the northeast and midwest, such as Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Washington, DC, Cincinnati, Chicago, and Detroit. There were also churches in a few slave states, namely Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri, and Louisiana. In the early 1850s, the church spread west to cities in California and also into Canada, and then moved further south into Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and Texas. Then, after the Civil War, the churches spread to other places in the south in order to support the newly freed people.

When thinking about how the A.M.E. churches worked to support the African American community, I began to wonder if the spread of the churches had an impact on the “Information Wanted Ads”. Moreover, I wondered if a mapping tool would help me map the locations from where the ads were sent. I predicted that I would see a similar trend of ads being sent from the northeast from older and more established churches, and as time passed, I would see ads from the west, and then from the south. I predicted that I would find that people who were members of, or were in close proximity to an A.M.E. church sent out more ads than those who did not live as close to the church.

This project will show that the mapping tool generally confirmed my thoughts. However, the tool did not offer strong, concrete evidence, so I had to use a visualization tool and a timeline to support the following case. Part I of this three-part project is an analysis of the locations of the advertisers from the maps that I generated with google Maps Engine. Part II focuses on the two cluster dendrograms that I created on, which highlights the months that the ads were placed, as well as the cities from where they were placed. Part III is a timeline that I created on Timeline JS. I used articles from the Christian Recorder to describe what the editors were doing because I was looking to see if they were more active during certain months of the year. I focused on two editors named Elisha Weaver and James Lynch because more advertisers placed ads during their tenure (1866-1867). One of the reasons for a high percentage of ads placed, as this project will show, is that both editors traveled extensively; they also aggressively sought subscribers, and insisted that subscribers pay for their subscriptions. These three parts will illustrate the conditions that might have influenced the advertisers, and will conclude with an explanation about the editors.

Part I: Mapping the Locations of the Advertisers:

I used google Maps Engine to map the locations of the advertisers, and I had to determine a way to organize the data because I could not input the entire spreadsheet. I combined 1863-1864 because there were only 14 rows; I had to divide 1866 into three sections because Maps Engine will input 100 rows only, and there were 249 items for 1866; I had to adjust 1867 and 1868 by eliminating duplicate addresses; and 1869 had only 72 items, so I did not need to adjust.   For comparison purposes, below is a screen shot of the maps. All Maps Advertiser Addresses

When I generated the first map for 1863-1864, I was surprised to not see Philadelphia on the map. From the excel sheet, I noticed that 619 Pine Street, which is in Philadelphia, was often listed; however, since it was not reflected on the google map, I revisited the excel sheet and noted the following: for my input, I used “Advertiser City”, and as per the data, the advertiser’s city was not always the same as the Advertiser’s address. For example, Advertiser Address for item 59799 is “No. 619 Pine Street,” and the Advertiser city is listed as Baltimore. Regardless, 619 Pine Street is an important address. Articles in the Christian Recorder reveal that it is the address of editor’s office. I saw this first in a January 19, 1861 article that first explains that the Christian Recorder is published every Saturday on behalf of the A.M.E. church by Rev. Elisha Weaver, and then it lists his address as No. 619, Pine Street, Philadelphia. Also, another address for the editors after 1864 is Box 2975, Philadelphia, PA.  In any event, please see the screenshot of the maps and note the trend that aligns to what I expected. I expected the advertiser’s cities to start in the northeast, and then spread west, and then south, which is what the screenshot generally reveals.

Below are the google Maps Engine links of the cities where advertisers were. I have attached the editor’s name with the map because Part III of this project will link the editors to the advertisers’ activity:

Elisha Weaver: 1861-18641863-1864 Advertiser Addresses





The first noticeable change from 1863-1864 to 1865 is that 1865 had more advertisements come from the Midwest and the South Atlantic and West South Central South than in 1863-1864.

There is no editor listed for 1865. According to the Official site of the Christian Recorder, John M. Brown was elected to become editor in 1865, but declined in order to focus his missionary responsibilities during the Civil War.  This map illustrates how there are more advertisers in generally, and that they are from the Midwest and West Central South.

1865 Advertiser Addresses





Then below, in 1866, a few ads come from the Pacific and Mountain West, whereas there were none from here in 1865.

James Lynch: 1866  Advertiser Addressess 1866 A  Jan 27-May 5


January 27-May 5




Advertiser Addresses 1866 B  May 19-Aug 18


May 19-August 18




Advertiser Addresses 1866 C Aug 25-Dec 22


August 25-

December 22


However, there were less advertisement from the West South Central South, and more from the Northeast, East North Central Midwest, and South Atlantic South in 1867 than 1866.

James Lynch/Elisha Weaver: 1867

Advertiser Addresses 1867






Benjamin Tanner Tucker: 1868


Advertiser Addresses 1868







Advertiser Addresses 1869



In 1868, there is one advertiser from Pacific West, which is different from 1867, which did not have any.  Moreover, in 1869, there are less advertisements in general, and though there is one from the Pacific West, they are mostly from the Northeast.

These maps basically reveal the trend that I was expecting, but do not offer strong evidence for my case. The churches started spreading in the 1850s, so by 1863, many churches were established, and it is harder to determine if the spread of the churches is the reason why advertisers sent ads.

The significant insight from these maps comes from the trends in 1866. Since I had to divide the data and input it into three maps, I put the data, and therefore the maps in chronological order; 1866 A is from January 27 to May 5; B is from May 19th to August 18th; and C is from August 25 to December 22. Dividing 1866 by months prompted me to think about the dates that people sent ads, instead of just focusing on the locations and proximity to A.M.E. churches. I began to wonder if the time of the year made an impact on where the advertisements came from. I did not have a strong prediction about the time of year that a higher percentage of advertisements were sent, except for the general, “maybe the warmer months because it’s easier to travel and transport snail mail?” Which brings me to Part II:

Part II: A Visual to Analyze the Months that the Advertisements Were Sent

I created two visuals in The first one’s hierarchy includes the following: year, date, last name:
Cluster Dendrogram for Year, Date, Last Name

From this first visual, I could not determine whether the month of the year had any impact on the advertisers, so I created a second one which includes the year, date, last name, and city:

Cluster Dendrogram for Advertiser City

I saw that 1866 and 1867 had the most activity, and so I paid close attention to those years, which I will explain in Part III. Moreover, some months have more activity than others. For example, in 1866, March had thirteen advertisers, and four out of the thirteen were out of Philadelphia, and no other cities were duplicates. Also, May has fourteen advertisers and three out of the fourteen were from Philadelphia, and there are no other duplicates. July has twelve; and August has seven. September has nine, and two out of the thirteen cities were Philadelphia, and two were from New Bedford, and there are no other duplicates. Basically, this data visualization showed me that the spring and summer months had the most advertisers, March with thirteen, May with fourteen, and July with twelve. Unfortunately, this information did not tell me what happened during those months to impact the advertisers, so I had to use another tool, which brings me to Part III.

Part III: A Timeline for The Editors of the Christian Recorder from 1866-1867

I wondered if the Christian Recorder would reveal what was happening during those spring and summer months. As I searched the archives, I focused on any information regarding what the editors were doing because I wanted to see if they had an impact on where the advertisements were coming from. The Christian Recorder had four editors between 1863 and 1869: Elisha Weaver, 1861-1864; A.L. Stanford, 1861; James Lynch, 1866-1867; Elisha Weaver, 1867-1868; and Benjamin Tucker Tanner, 1868-1884. However, since 1866-1868 had the most activity, I narrowed my research to focus on the editors during that time, who were Rev. Elisha Weaver and Rev. James Lynch. I noted information about their travels, what their concerns were, and who they were meeting. I then created a Timeline on Timeline JS.

Christian Recorder Editors Timeline


Though I expected to be able to make a connection between the editor’s activity and the number of ads placed within a certain month, the timeline shows no significant trend for the spring and summer months. Most months have one noteworthy event, and no months stand out with editors having more activity than in other months. Thus, the high number of individuals placing ads during 1866 could also have something to do with the uncertain future of the Freedman’s Bureau, and individuals wanted to initiate looking for their loved ones instead of waiting on the government. Or, it could be because the editors Elisha Weaver and James Lynch were working hard to promote the paper during those years.


Though I initially thought that proximity to the church would have been a major factor in the advertisers’ placement of ads, the maps did not indicate anything substantial, and I had to use a visualization tool, and a timeline to make sense of what I was researching. Nevertheless, the research path that I took offered some insight into the “behind the scenes” activity of the editors. From the Christian Recorder articles, I learned that they worked tirelessly within the A.M.E. structure, traveling, attending conferences, attracting subscribers, and asking people to pay their bills, in an effort to keep encouraging the African American community. If I were to again try to figure out the correlation between the advertisers’ proximity to an A.M.E. church, I think I would use the “Mailing Address” in my data for Maps Engine. I did not do it this time because I thought that the mailing address and the advertiser city could be different, and I was specifically looking for the location of the advertiser, which to me, was the city. It would be interesting, however, to compare the “Advertiser City” maps and “Mailing Address” maps to see if the “Mailing Address” offered any more insight into the relationship between the church buildings and the advertisers. Also, it would be interesting to map the addresses of the historic A.M.E. churches in the cities that came up the most. Then I could make the connection between the church address as well as the “Advertiser Address”. Nevertheless, this project did confirm my earliest thoughts that the advertisement would start in the northeast and spread west and south, just as the A.M.E. churches spread. This could possibly be because the churches in the northeast were older and more established, or had larger congregations, or were able to network with more people.