In the Media

The Last Archivist: Finding Family After Slavery

The Last Archive | August 24, 2022

Jill Lepore talks to Judith Giesberg, co-founder of the Last Seen project, an archive of newspaper ads taken out by formerly enslaved people looking for their loved ones after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued. This episode is part of a limited run series of subscriber-only content.

The Last Archive
Black People Are Finding Their Ancestors Through Centuries-Old Newspaper Ads

The Takeaway | August 22, 2022

After the Civil War, thousands of emancipated Black people placed newspaper ads in search of their families. Today, their messages are helping their descendants find their people.

The Takeaway
The Search for a Meaningful Clue to the Mystery of an Enslaved Ancestor

The New York Times | Rachel L. Swarns | August 6, 2022

Old newspaper ads are serving as a window into the hopes and histories of hundreds of individuals who were newly emancipated.

New York Times
Juneteenth: The fight to find loved ones after emancipation

Beyond Black History Month | June 16, 2022

How do you celebrate emancipation without the people you love? In this episode, host Femi Redwood continues her Juneteenth special. She explores the ways in which families worked to find each other after emancipation. One of the ways they did this was by taking out wanted ads. These ads were forgotten by history until being recently discovered. We speak to Dr. Judith Giesberg, the director of The Last Seen Project. She helped bring these ads to light. We also speak to Reverend Mark Kelly Tyler from Mother Bethel AME church in Philadelphia who has a special connection to the ads. And we meet TikTok influencer Walter English AKA @formerlovepoet to learn why these ads and other ancestry resources are important.

Beyond Black History Month
What is Juneteenth?

First Name Basis with Jamie Bradshaw | June 8, 2020

Listen in to hear the history of Juneteenth and how your family can take part in this powerful celebration.

First Name Basis with Jamie Bradshaw
Newspaper Ads By Former Slaves Searching For Missing Family To Be Performed Onstage

Essence Magazine | Paula Rogo | February 17, 2019

The newspaper advertisements placed by former slaves that were searching for missing relatives will come to life when they are read onstage in a new theatrical performance set to debut at Philadelphia’s Villanova University.

Essence Magazine
Newspaper ads placed by former slaves seeking missing relatives to be read on stage at Villanova

Philadelphia Inquirer | Kristin E. Holmes | February 16, 2019

"Here we are, this far away from the Civil War, and we haven’t learned anything," he said. There are "immigrant children at the border who've been taken away from their families and some of them may never see their parents again. I hope we will learn about our history, and that it will speak to our present."

Philadelphia Inquirer
Slave Families Lost and Found

Junior Scholastic | Bryan Brown | December 10, 2018

New research is helping to uncover long-forgotten stories of African-American family members torn apart by slavery—and their attempts to find each other.

Junior Scholastic
'My mother was sold from me': After slavery, the desperate search for loved ones in 'last seen ads'

Washington Post | DeNeen Brown | September 7, 2017

The ads tell real stories of real people with real names, humanizing enslaved people, something slave owners often tried to prevent.

Washington Post
FCC and Me

Pod Save the People | DeRay Mckesson | June 20, 2017

"[W]hat is so powerful about this [site] is that it reminds you of the human aspect and it complicates the notion of freedom. How free are you when all of the people you love are spread across the country?"

Pod Save the People
'Information Wanted': Freed slaves' heartbreaking ads tell personal stories of slavery

CBS Evening News | Vladimir Duthiers | April 18, 2017

"I didn’t even know they were there," [Margaret] Jerrido said. "I just said to myself 'oh my God, it’s just a hidden treasure.'" "[T]here are so few opportunities for us to hear enslaved people describe their lives," Giesberg said. "Every one of these ads tells a life story."

CBS Evening News
Reconnecting with your roots– new local genealogy project offers hope

The Philadelphia Sunday Sun | Kendall Alexander | March 31, 2017

Black people...have no idea what our original names were, what tongue was original to our throats, who we prayed to, or even our tribal and ritualistic customs — all lost over 400 years. So what happens when you want to look for missing links to your family but don’t want to go the DNA route? Villanova University history professor and graduate program director Judith Giesberg is working on a project of her own to help people find those missing branches to their family trees.

The Philadelphia Sunday Sun
After Slavery, Searching For Loved Ones In Wanted Ads

All Things Considered | Ari Shapiro and Maureen Pao | February 22, 2017

In sometimes spare language, the ads represent the deep family ties that endured through the Civil War and beyond slavery, despite the best effort of slave owners to sever those ties. In some instances, the ads are placed decades after the family members have last been in contact.

All Things Considered
Families torn apart by slavery sought lost loved ones in newly archived ads

Philadelphia Inquirer | Kristin E. Holmes | February 19, 2017

Under the headline “Information Wanted,” the ads appeared in African American publications around the nation as newly freed slaves established their lives and tried to reunite with loved ones. A potential treasure trove for genealogists and others researching family histories, they have been tucked away on microfilm in church basements and scattered across dozens of obscure library archives.

Philadelphia Inquirer