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Mapping “Information Wanted”; African -American Migrations During the Post Civil War Period

The Christian Recorder is the weekly periodical of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. It was one of the most popular periodicals read by African American’s during the nineteenth century, and had a national readership. The periodical was published in Philadelphia, but contributing correspondents were located as far west as San Francisco, as far north as Canada, and as far south as Texas. There were nearly 500 subscribers, yet readership was much more significant as many of the subscribers were churches and other organization’s that allowed for sharing and mass readership of the periodical. Through this periodical, the church was able to disperse a distinct African-American culture, centered in Philadelphia, across the nation.


Near the conclusion of the civil war, the periodical published “Information Wanted” ads. Advertisers would post these ads in an attempt to find family and friends they were separated from one another due to slavery. Each ad usually had some standard information; the name of the missing person (searchee), where the searchee was from, where the searchee was last seen (City, County, State), the advertisers name, the advertisers relationship to the searchee, and the advertisers location (city, county, state). Our summer 2014 Digital History course complied data from each individual ad that was published between 1864-1869, and recorded the data into a shared excel spreadsheet that was to be used by each student to  create an individual digital project.


As the data we have collected exists in the form of a spreadsheet, its difficult to imagine the data as representing actual people searching for lost friends and family. Thus, while looking for a potential digital project, I wanted to find something that would allow the advertisers and the searchee’s to be represented physically. I decided on making a series of maps that would allow for me to demonstrate where both the advertisers and searchee’s on a map, and also enable broader conclusions to be drawn, by both myself and the reader, about the movement of African-Americans northward after the conclusion of the civil war.


Before making the maps, I first had select a mapping program that would fulfill the goals described above. Ideally, the mapping program would allow for the data to be displayed on a map that is georeferenced, allowing for the searchee’s and advertisers to be placed on the map that was in alignment with the locations listed in the data. A program that would allow for a georeferenced map from the time period under investigation, 1864-1869, would be even more ideal. Yet georeferenced maps, such as Google maps, don’t exist for this period under investigation. The majority of the maps needed to input data are from the current day, and therefore don’t align with maps from 1864-1869. Using a program that would allow for layering of maps from the period under investigation over georeferenced maps proved to be extremely time-consuming, and much to expansive for a project such as this. Rather, I opted just to present the data on a map provided by Google Fusion Tables which allows me to place the data collected onto current Google maps. This will still allow for the physical location of where the advertisers and searchee’s to be viewed on a physical map rather than as data. This also allows for me to create maps from the entire period under investigation rather than just one year, allowing for more conclusions about the data that’s been gathered by our course to be drawn. In order to make up for not being able to create maps using the geographical boundaries of the time period, I have included a map below from the civil war period that outlines the states where slavery was legal.


After selecting the mapping program I wanted to use, I then had to decide what data that collected from the “Information Wanted” ads that I wanted to use to build my maps.  As stated above, I planned to take data from each year for both searchee’s and advertisers. Since the advertisers have a concrete location where they can be contacted, selecting which data entry to use for the advertisers fairly straightforward. I decided to select the advertiser’s listed city, as it was the most common data column for placing the advertiser in a geographical location. For the searchee’s, I decided to use the city they were last seen in. As the searchee is missing, it’s difficult to place an exact location on where they were. Yet the last seen location can give a general idea of where the person being sought was last located, even if they were already separated from their family at this point. Cities were the most cited category and are much more accurate than just the state, so I opted to use the city to locate the missing searchee’s as well.


This method may leave some certain searchee’s and advertisers out, as they may not have listed a city and instead listed a state or county. But I feel, after having looked at the entire spreadsheet that is attached below, that choosing the city last seen and listed city for the advertiser is the most effective way to include as many of the individual advertisers and searchee’s as possible. In order to extract this data, I had to select copy the data from each row I intended to use into six separate spread sheets I created for each year, and then imported each spreadsheet separately into the Google Fusion Tables to create a map. I choose to use fixed markers instead of heat maps, as it allows for a better representation of individuals to be seen in each map.


Below is a map of Slave states that will be useful when looking at the maps that follow. Orange states were slave states, yellow states are free states.



The first year of ads that our class compiled data for was small, in terms of the number of ads posted, in comparison to the other years we covered. The searchee’s, shown in the map below, were almost evenly listed in both southern and northern states. This shows that people in both northern and southern states had been separated from family and friends, yet its difficult to tell what this means without comparing this years ads to other years.

1864 Searchee map

1864 Searchee map


The advertisers from 1864 were all located in northern states and one was even located in the United Kingdom (map below). The biggest take from this year is the broad readership of The Christian Recorder. Not only were there readers throughout the United States, but also abroad.

1863 Adversities Map

1863 Adversities Map


The year 1865 had a significantly higher amount of ads posted in The Christian Recorder. Ten of the seventeen cities where the searchee’s were last seen were located in slave or former slave states. The cluster of searchee’s last seen in Virginia represents the highest concentration of ads. As the ads numbers grew, so did the national scale, as the last seen locations now go as far south and west as Texas, and as far north as Minnesota.


1865 Searchee Map

1865 Searchee Map

Unlike the searchee’s, the advertisers were located in northern states that do not allow slavery by a large majority. A lot of the advertisers are located near large cities, trading hubs, or manufacturing centers, which appears to demonstrate the beginnings of the whats known as the Great Migration, that is African-Americans moving into urban centers in the north.


1865 Advertiser Map

1865 Advertiser Map


The searchee map from 1866 holds true to the trend from 1865; a majority of the missing people were last known to be in cities in the southern or middle slave states. By this year slavery had been abolished across the re-united country, yet the many of the missing persons had been gone for quite some time, when slavery was still a legal institution in these areas.

1866 Searchee Map

1866 Searchee Map


The advertisers in 1866 have made a visible shift to northeast. While there are some new outliers to the west in Illinois, Oregon, California, and Arizona, there is a noticeable move away from the southeast.


1866 Advertiser Map

1866 Advertiser Map


The searchee’s in 1867 are again mainly located in the southern states and former Border States by a fairly large majority. The overall numbers of searchee’s has gone down from 1866, but they still cover a large geographic area.

1867 Searchee Map

1867 Searchee Map


In 1867 the advertisers continue to move further north and east, concentrating in the area of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Ohio.


1867 Advertiser Map

1867 Advertiser Map


In 1868, the trend of the majority of the missing persons last seen location being in the southern, former slave states, continues.

1868 Searchee Map

1868 Searchee Map

The advertiser map for 1868 can appear to be a little deceiving, as many of the dots are in the border state of Maryland. But when looking at the heat map, posted below, its much more clear where the majority of the ad’s were located, in the general area Philadelphia and New York, further reinforcing the trend of advertisers concentrating in free, northern states.

1868 Advertiser Map

1868 Advertiser Map

1868 Advertiser Heat Map

1868 Advertiser Heat Map


The year 1869 had a small number of ads, and the searchee’s appear to be distributed in Northeast. This year appears to be more of an outlier due to the small number of ads.

1869 Searchee Map

1869 Searchee Map

The 1869 advertisers, like those perviously, are focused in the northeast, yet their isn’t a huge sample size to draw from.

1869 Advertiser Map

1869 Advertiser Map



There are several main conclusions that can be drawn from the maps that are presented above. First, and most important as it adds to the significance of this project, is the fact that The Christian Recorder truly had a national, and even international, readership. “Information Wanted” ads were posted from the United Kingdom, Canada, and as far west as California and Oregon. This shows that not only readers were located all over the United States, but the general population of African-Americans was also dispersed across nearly the entire country. The fact that people posted the ads in an attempt to find lost family members in far away geographic regions suggests that the periodical was widely read, and that advertisers truly believe they had a chance at finding missing family members. The readers of the periodical were participating in the constriction of a distinct African-American culture that was based in Philadelphia, but also had influences from across the United States.


The maps also seem to show the beginnings of what would be a much more popular trend, that is the migration of African-Americans from the southern states to the northeast where jobs were readily available and the lingering effects of slavery were less oppressive. The searchee’s were more often than not last seen in former slave states in the south. Yet as the war ended and the 1860’s progressed, advertisers continued to be concentrated further north and east, with Ohio, Illinois, and Michigan also showing growth (as these areas were burgeoning economic and manufacturing centers as the country expanded west). These advertisers were moving north, without their loved ones, in search of a better life. They were, however, still wanting to reconnect with their loved ones. These advertisers were able to escape the perils of slavery, and were, in the majority, living in free northern states. This trend continued to increase as the ads continued to be published.


This project, while tracing the movement of slaves northward, isn’t all-encompassing. Rather, this information was presented in a way that will provoke questions from the reader, and hopefully promote further research. Due to the short length of our course, it was not possible to investigate individual’s lives and draw conclusions based upon individual cases, while also creating maps, though that may be a topic ripe for future research, though filling in their personal lives to match the trends displayed in the maps may prove rewarding.


Below is attached the entire data spreadsheet from which I drew the data to create the maps above: July_2014_Christian_Recorder_Ads


The Years that Count: Analyzing Years of Separation in “The Christian Recorder” ‘Information Wanted’ Ads

Courtesy of Accessible Archives

Courtesy of Accessible Archives


The Christian Recorder is arguably one of the best sources documenting African-American History from the Civil War Era. A weekly periodical published in Philadelphia by the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), brought religious news and current events to the African-American communities throughout both the North and South in the Civil War and Reconstruction Era. Aside from the articles, one its most valuable resources at the time of its publication and today for historians, was the “Information Wanted” section. From 1861 (the paper was technically founded in 1854, yet had a short-lived run in publication) to 1902, almost each issue features various ads placed by African-Americans throughout the country who were seeking missing loved ones after the war and Emancipation. Some of the ads placed contain every minutia of information that would have been helpful to locate a loved one from their location of origin, location last seen, length of separation and even specifics dealing with the former lives of their loved ones. Other unfortunately for historians, had the very basics necessary: name of person(s) and person(s) of contact. While the information featured in The Christian Recorder can be drawn out and transcribed into data, it poses a devastating portrait of 600 + families who had been torn apart in the chaotic war. One of the most basic piece of information that is also one of the most haunting, is the compilation of years of separation that appears in the ads. Unfortunately, many of the ads are missing vital information that could have helped some families locate in a more efficient matter. However; there is enough information presented in the ads to at least create an accurate representation of the clientele using The Christian Recorder. Not all of those who placed ads included years that their loved ones were missing or their reason for be separated, but those who did can give me us an interesting snapshot into the chaos during and after the Civil War for African-American families trying to reconnect and live as a free and whole family.


Years of Separation

After reviewing our class compilation of “Information Wanted” Ads, the column for years of separation was something that stuck out for me, especially as I wanted to to try and visually capture a different narrative on family and the emotions of searching for loved ones. Numbers can be challenging though in terms of representing emotions, especially staring at the reader from a spreadsheet.  My goal then, was to create a visual that would help people not only quickly process the information, but hopefully touch them as well. For starters, out of the 686 ads placed in The Christian Recorder from 1861- 1869, only 256 listed the years of separation. Therefore; the sample size for a visual was going to appear small since it was less than half.


While the sample size is small though, the visual it produces can provide a lot of information for the time period when compared to the original spreadsheet and the dates of the ads placed. Below is the bar graph based on the sample size of those who provided the separation length in their ads and the frequency in which they appear. While the below graph may only represent a 37% chunk of those who placed in ads over the time between 1861 and 1869, there was enough information to create a somewhat startling visual.

Untitled 2

The bar graph is  great because it allows historians to determine length of separation while also connecting reason for separation. Again, many of the entries are incomplete and the reasons for separation do not always match up with an entry that provided length of separation, however; we can make many inferences for those that are incomplete, as well as rely on the ads that are complete; providing both reason and length of separation. For instance, as seen above in the graph, one of the most frequently published separation length mentioned in the ads was 4 years. 4 years would make the most sense in the time period of the ads: 1861-1869 because almost 25 entries related the years of separation to military service either by voluntary service, or in some instances forced services. It would make sense considering that many emancipated African-Americans were migrating north with what was left of their families, forcing them to leave they male family members behind. Coming in close to the frequency of the 4 year length , are some multi-decade numbers: 15, 20, etc… While 25 separations were due to military service, approximately 160 + were due to slavery and being sold away from  the family before the war. The next runner-up is 23 entries citing 16 years of separation, followed by 22 entries citing 10 years of separation. For those who listed their cause of separation , these typically link to slavery and the loved one being sold or taken in the wanted ads themselves . It is amazing to see that in the years during and after the war, the families were still hoping to be reunited with loved ones. Some, as the graph shows, were separated for 40 years and one for 45! It must have been so devastating to continue the search for a family member who had been missing for multiple decades. Again, in researching this and compiling the data the numbers become the feature. However; after you look at the numbers and the visuals, one needs to remember that the 40 is 40 years without that loved one, not mere digits. In the aftermath of war and in the promise of freedom, there is still this creative hope  and notion of fidelity that by using The Christian Recorder as an advocate and voice, that there could still be a chance . What surprised me as I compiled the information was the relative low number of people who reported loved ones missing for 1,2,3 years before the significant increase of loved ones being lost for 4 years. i expected many more in the single digit numbers because of length of war-time service and knowing that some southern towns were emancipated late in the war. The Union army, most likely taking what they could get towards the end of the war, it seems that more men would have been drafted and boosted the frequency of 1,2,3 year separations. Almost as emotional as the numbers in the years frequency, are some of the reasons listed for separation in the ads. Again, many are due to military service, but most are attributed to slavery. All the various reasons listed in the ads can seen and analyzed in the visual below.

Wordle: Christian Recorder Ads





As stated before, I chose the topic above because there was something so interesting and yet so haunting about the numbers. In the spreadsheet, it stares back at you as numbers in a  formula. However; once i created the bar graph and could get a comparative visual, it turned into something else for me entirely. I knew from the get go that I wanted to use charts and graphs because they would make an impact as visuals. As simple as it seems, the charts and graphs were made using Numbers by Apple. I made a separate spreadsheet with the information that i needed and picked and chose the different visuals that I wanted it to correspond with and the particulars that i thought would best make the information pop in the most concise way. I wasn’t initially going to add the Wordle, but as I was going through and extracting the information, I felt I would be doing disservice to the bigger picture. Because of the time period I myself after just crunching the numbers and creating the visuals, figured most separation years between 1-8 or 9 years would be due to military service. If not military service, then possible contraband camps, basically any event that was tied to the war or emancipation. As I scrolled through the data, I kept seeing over and over again “sold”, “sold by owner”, “advertisee sold”, “advertiser sold” and even “taken”. It was devastating to see that even after the war and emancipation, the majority of people who appealed to The Christian Recorder for advocacy, were still searching for loved ones who were casualties of the terror of the slave trade and southern slavocracy. While for this article i merely compiled the data, anyone with a deep interest in the Civil War or American slavery, could take this project to a much deeper level. Afterwards, it left me wondering about the narratives of these people. Who were they? Did they find their loved ones? Were their families successful? A project that could culminate from this articles could be a biography of any of the people mentioned in the advertisements, or the advertisers themselves. it would be fascinating to find about their lives as slaves, their migration to the north, or even their connection to The Christian Recorder. I’d also be interested in a compilation of success statistics based on the ads featured in The Christian Recorder, and the families who placed them.


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”

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. 





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 

Mapping The Christian Recorder

New digital tools developed for history help to provide new ways to analyze historical data. These new ways to analyze data not only help to answer questions but also undoubtedly raise new questions. Like the many other graduate students who have posted on this blog, I applied one of these new digital history tools to the information wanted ads of the Christian Recorder. More specifically I used new mapping tools to map the locations associated with these information wanted ads and found it raised more questions than it answered. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me explain a bit about the project we all undertook and the Christian Recorder.

Christian Recorder from April 21st, 1866

Christian Recorder from April 21st, 1866 (Accessible Archives)

The Christian Recorder was one of the most popular African-American newspapers during the Civil War, though publication started nine years before the war in 1852. It was run by the African Methodist Episcopal church and was not only used for religious and church news but also for regular news and advertisements. The newspaper still runs to this day. During the later stages of the Civil War, many ads under the heading of information wanted started appearing in the newspaper. These ads were posted by African-Americans looking for long lost family members and friends. A majority of these people were separated by the effects of slavery, whether it was being sold away from one another, people running away from slavery, or one of the hundreds of other ways people could be separated by slavery or in an active war zone.  Even after the war ended, these ads continued to be posted in the Christian Recorder. These ads provide a unique opportunity for historians to get more information on a group of people who are very under represented in primary sources from this time period.

As part of a project for a digital history class at Villanova University, my classmates, my professor and myself made a huge excel project incorporating information from these ads posted between late 1864 and summer of 1869. In this excel project we tried to include information about the people posting the ads, termed the Advertiser for this project, (name, gender, relationship to the person they were looking for,  reason and length of separation, and mailing address for the ad) and the people being looked for in the ad, termed the Advertisee for this project (name, gender, place of origin, last known address, and relationship to the Advertiser). Besides this information pulled from the ads, some rows had additional notes about points of interest from that particular ad. With all of this information, the amount of research, and digital projects that could spring from it are too many to count. I chose to do a project using a digital map making program. I chose to do this because this whole semester I have enjoyed learning about map making software, whether it was map warping or some other map making software.

Information Wanted Ad from the April 21st, 1866 Christian Recorder

Information Wanted Ad from the April 21st, 1866 Christian Recorder (Accessible Archives)

This leads me to try to figure out the best way to apply mapping software to this chart and which software to use. As to the second part of my quandary I chose to use Google Fusion Tables. Google describes their new software as, “an experimental data visualization web application to gather, visualize, and share data tables.” Not only can you upload your own excel files or use your own files on Google Drive but if you just want to experiment with the program you can use other people’s data to play around with. As described above, besides making this data easier to share, it allows you to map the data in Google Maps. As with most things with Google, even though this one is still classified as experimental, it is free, easy to use, and impeccably well run.

Once I figured out which program I was going to use, I determined the best way to use this program was to map the location of the subscribers to the Christian Recorder. I chose this as my original map because of a fundamental question that developed in my mind. The question was, how wide spread was the circulation of the Christian Recorder? Depending on how wide spread it was, it would certainly influence how effective the information wanted ads would be at finding the people in the ads. Since our project covers about five years and I only had a short period of time to assemble this information, I knew I would have to choose only one year. I chose 1866 since it was the year that had the most ads posted in it, according to our research. Each issue of the Christian Recorder had a section that would normally list people who had either just renewed or just subscribed to the paper, called acknowledgments. I went through each issue in 1866 listing the locations of these subscribers. I did not record the names of the subscribers since I was studying the locations of the subscriptions and not the people who were subscribing, which would be an interesting study in and of itself. After going through the paper I was able to assemble the following Excel spread: Christian Recorder Subscribers 1866.

List of acknowledgments in February 17, 1866 Christian Recorder (Accessible Archives)

Once I had assembled the spreadsheet I uploaded it to Google Fusion Tables to map the different locations. Since the places I was trying to map were relatively straight forward, just city, state, and country, I thought it would be an easy process. Little did I know it would be like trying to pull teeth from an angry tiger. When I tried to map the locations originally it put them all over the map. So to fix this I thought I would find the latitude and longitude for each location. This was no small undertaking since I had 274 rows of data. There were some repeats in the subscriptions but not that many. When I tried to map these locations, it totally failed again (user error I learned later). After some choice words to the computer, I looked in the help section and figured out what I was doing wrong. I had to combine the city, state, and country into one cell. After figuring this out, I was then able to actually map the locations of the subscribers for 1866, which you can see pictured below. When you pull up the window, click where it says map to view the map. Also since there are a large number of data points, it does take a a bit of time for all of the data points to load in. (Repeat for the next maps)


Map of Christian Recorder Subscribers for 1866

Map of Christian Recorder Subscribers for 1866

After making this map I came to a conclusion that a majority of the subscribers for 1866 to the Christian Recorder were in the North and Upper South. This did not surprise me to any real extent since literacy rates among African-Americans was probably higher in the North as well as the infrastructure would be more in tact in the North since it was not torn apart by the war like the former Confederacy. What I think is also interesting are the subscribers located far out west in Colorado and California. It would be interesting to know how those people got out there, but that is for another project. Yet, this map didn’t really answer how effective these ads would be at finding people that were in the ads. To do this I decided I should map the last known locations of the Advertisees. Making this map went much faster since I knew how to make the Google Fusion Tables recognize locations in a table. After making my custom table with just the last known locations of the Advertisees and uploading it to Google Fusion Tables, I was able to produce the following map.

Map of last known locations of Advertisees

Map of last known locations of Advertisees

As would be expected, the last known locations of most of the Advertisees was in states where slavery was either legal (the border states) or practiced (Confederate States of America) until the end of the war. When compared to the subscribers map, you can see that there are large gaps in the former Confederacy. There are some subscribers in the South but when you get to the Deep South the subscribers are few and far between. Some states like Alabama, Florida, and Texas have no subscribers in it. This would make the likely hood of the ads finding anyone in those states very low. Of course these are just the subscribers for 1866, there could be subscribers in those states before or after 1866. It also may be that the Christian Recorder didn’t publish all of their subscribers in the paper. This means there could be subscribers in those blank areas that are not listed in the paper. Also some regiments of the United States Colored Troop had copies of the Christian Recorder, and many of them were on occupation duty (even though it was not called occupation duty) in the South throughout much of Reconstruction. To try and map the movements of all the U.S.C.T. regiments from 1864-1869 would be a very hard task and beyond my scope. It is safe to say they some of the regiments would have copies of the newspaper as they traveled through parts of the Deep South where there were few to no subscribers. This would increase the likely hood of the ads actually finding the intended people.

After making the map of the last known location of the Advertisees, I came to a realization. Besides the map of the subscribers from 1866, I should map the locations of the Advertisers. I think it is safe to assume that the people posting these ads would have access to a copy of the paper, whether it was their own copy or a copy they borrowed from someone. It was common that churches would have copies of the paper for people to read. This would allow me to map the entire time period we researched where copies of the Christian Recorder would have been, according to our research. I made the Advertisers location map using the same method as the Advertisee map.  I was then able to create a map of all the locations of the Advertisers.

Map of Advertisers' locations

Map of Advertisers’ locations

The locations of the advertisers matches closely to the map of the subscribers but there are some differences. There are a few people down in the Deep South but more than the subscribers map and this map shows someone out in Idaho. Now these differences can be explained by using some of my theories I suggested earlier. The advertisers represent people from 1864-1869, which means their subscriber base changed over time. It also shows, when examined with the data table, that not all subscribers were published in the paper. To get a better overall comparision between the three types, advertisers, advertisees, and subscribers, I combined the three maps.

Combination of the three previous maps

Combination of the three previous maps

When all three maps are examined, you can clearly see that there is a lack of Christian Recorders in the Deep South. As discussed above, just because the map doesn’t show that there are copies down there doesn’t mean that they aren’t there. But even if there are more copies in the Deep South, we can assume they are few and far between since barely any show up on this map and if there was a prevalence of copies in the Deep South there would be more of them on this map. This raises the question as to why there are so few subscriptions in the Deep South? True it is a Philadelphia based paper but it does have an audience all the way out in California. Another question that comes to mind is why are there so many of the papers in the South located near the coast or a river? Are there large African-American communities there? Is it easier to transport papers there? Is there a larger presence of the Union Army there? This map really does raise more questions than it answers.

That is the curse and blessing of using digital history tools to analyze data. It is a blessing because it can help to answer questions about data. By mapping all of these different points you can see where subscribers, advertisers, and advertisees were located. It helps to show the coverage of the Christian Recorder and the information wanted ads. It shows that these ads probably were not very effective at finding people because of the coverage or lack there of, of the Christian Recorder when compared to the last known locations of the Advertisees. Then again it is a curse because it raises even more questions such as those mentioned above. Yet, this is what historians strive for, not only to answer questions but to raise new ones. This is how we as historians can push forward historical knowledge and learning.

Philadelphia African-American Cultural Institutions, National Influence, and The Christian Recorder

Philadelphia has long had a large and culturally rich black population, dating as far back as the seventeenth century. The first African-Americans moved to the Delaware River Valley region in 1639, and later in the century Philadelphia would become the major port through which slaves would arrive in Pennsylvania. By 1767 the importation of slaves in the city was banned, and in 1780 slavery was abolished by a law stating that any African-American born after 1780 would be free. This process of completely abolishing slavery in both Pennsylvania and Philadelphia proper was slow, and slavery would exist in the state well into the nineteenth century. As late as 1840 there were still sixty-four registered slaves in the state. Regardless, as the number of free blacks grew in Philadelphia grew, so did the prominence of the cities African-American population on a national scale. While free and holding a significant position nationally among other African-Americans, the black population of Philadelphia still faced significant segregation and were forced to live as a people apart within the city itself. Amidst this segregation, which continued beyond the Civil War, Philadelphia African-American’s were left to create their own, separate, cultural, economic, and social infrastructures. This included cultural productions that were dispersed on a nationally, such as the weekly periodical The Christian Recorder. Philadelphia’s African American population was able to use their foundation of these various necessary cultural institutions, forced upon them due to segregation, to  assert their influence beyond the border of the city and to African-American populations in entirely different geographic regions. Thus, Philadelphia became a cultural center for African-Americans up to the civil war, and continued to hold its prominent position among African-Americans after the wars conclusion.


From emancipation in Pennsylvania up to the civil war, Philadelphia’s African-Americans often had to rely on their own social and economic infrastructure, outside of white structural frameworks, to provide themselves with various services such as education, religious services, social gatherings, and mutual aid. While relying on themselves for aid, African American’s living in Philadelphia often held jobs involving heavy labor, such as shipping, manufacturing, and jobs within the service industry. Thus, they provided service to the white population while having to receive service of their own by other means.

Societies such as the Free African Society, founded by Richard Allen and Absalom Jones with the goal of serving the spiritual, social, and economic needs of African-Americans residing in Philadelphia, would provide these crucial services to fellow African-Americans. This organization, the first of its kind in Philadelphia, would lay the groundwork for African-American cultural, social, and economic institutions that would follow.

While the Civil War and the emancipation proclamation changed much for African-Americans living in areas where the institution of slavery still existed, the effects upon the Philadelphia African-American population were less significant. Regardless of Philadelphia’s African American’s valiant efforts defending the Union, as many volunteered to fight in the U.S. Army, they continued to deal with racism and discrimination during daily interactions, continuing the pre-war tradition of forcing them to live as a people apart within the city of Philadelphia. Violence wasn’t uncommon, as shown by the 1871 murder of black Philadelphian leader Octavius Catto. African American’s had gained the right to vote in 1870, yet during the 1871 election, there were violent outbursts in the street, and Catto was murdered by white male. Catto’s murderer was not convicted of any crime.


Even though little changed for the majority of African-Americans in Philadelphia after emancipation, there were African-Americans who were able to earn an education and work outside of the service and labor industries. Some were able to be educated in segregated schools, while fewer actually attended universities. Education was most often earned in segregated schools such as the Institution for Colored Youth, founded by a Philadelphia Quaker in 1829 after race riots in an attempt to help educate African-Americans. Yet even this schooling was selective, and not every African-American in Philadelphia was eligible. Yet crucial to Philadelphia assuming it’s role as a cultural center for African-Americans on a national scale was the existence of an education portion of the population that were technically and logistically capable of producing works like weekly periodicals. The development of other institutions, such as the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which supported many African-American institutions outside of just religion, allowed for the formation of a distinct African-American culture in Philadelphia. This included the development of a weekly periodical, The Christian Recorder.


The African Methodist Episcopal Church was founded in 1816 by Richard Allen in Philadelphia, and was a progressive church that was both anti slavery and racism. As mentioned above, churches posed the economic and structural ability to provide for the development of distinct African-American cultural structures beyond just a religious context, such as education and publishing. The Christian Recorder is the oldest existing black periodical in the United States and is the official periodical of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. It was first known as the Christian Herald, and was established in 1848 at the General Conference of the church in Philadelphia. In 1852 the name of the periodical was changed in The Christian Recorder. The periodical was based in Philadelphia but had correspondents around the country. The periodical’s first editor was Reverend M. M. Clark, one of the first college graduates of the church. Clark wanted the periodicals focus to be “religion, morality, science, and literature and would treat all geographical regions of the American Methodist Episcopal Church equally.” The periodical was also strongly against slavery, and pushed hard for emancipation in January 1862 before Lincoln began his push for emancipation.


The Christian Recorder was widely read and became one of the most popular periodicals for African-Americans in the entire country, having nearly 500 subscribers. Newsletters from Virginia, Mississippi, Illinois, Ohio, and California were published in the periodical on a regular basis, far from the major urban cores of the Northeast. As having a subscription required money, subscriptions were often held by ministers and organizations that allowed for the periodical to be read by a larger audience. With the passing of the emancipation proclamation in 1863, the paper began to publish “Information Wanted” ads post by people searching for lost family and friends due to slavery. These ads were posted by people from all over the United States and Canada, again showing the readership to be geographically diverse. These ads also show that the periodical was read by a larger audience than its subscription suggests, as the chances of finding a person in a periodical with close to 500 subscribers were small.


The Christian Recorder, and the information wanted ad’s posted after the Emancipation Proclamation,  presents a great representation of how the Philadelphia African American community was able to use their self-developed infrastructures to assert their influence on a board sale. A cultural production printed and published in Philadelphia by a Philadelphia based church had become a tool that was being used by African-Americans on a national level. The thriving African-American community in Philadelphia was able to utilize the their prolonged freedom, in comparison to other geographical regions, to develop a culture that enabled them to use modern communication and publishing techniques to spread their cultural development to other regions. Philadelphia, one of the oldest African-American cultural centers, continued to assert it’s influence in the period after the Civil War, helping those that were recently emancipated reunite with lost family members, and helping spread their unique culture on a national level.



Further Readings:

Gardner, Eric. “Remembered (Black) Readers: Subscribers to the Christian Recorder, 1864–1865”.

Hunter, Marcus Anthony, “Black Philly after The Philadelphia Negro”.

Nash, Gary. Forging Freedom: The Formation of Philadelphia’s Black Community, 1720-1840, (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1988).

Newman, Simon. Embodied History: The Lives of the Poor in Early Philadelphia (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003).

Newman, Richard and James Mueller, editors. Antislavery and Abolition in Philadelphia: Emancipation and the Long Struggle for Racial Justice in the City of Brotherly Love. (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2011).

Mcgruder, Kevin. “The Black Press During the Civil War.”

African Americans in Pennsylvania.

Immediate Effects of the Emancipation Proclamation.

The Emancipation Proclamation: One Step Toward Freedom.

Slavery in Pennsylvania.

The Christian Recorder.

About Cheney University.

Octavius V. Catto.