Glossary of Tags

Like annotation, tagging is intended to provide context for the documents, to “supply what’s missing.” Context (1) guides editors in providing accurate transcription, (2) allows readers to fully understand the document and how it fits into the scholarship on the period, and (3) helps readers to see connections between individual documents.

Download tag glossary (PDF)


African Methodist Episcopal Church

This tag identifies ads in which the person placing the ad, or the person being sought, has a meaningful affiliation to an A. M. E. church—this includes ads requesting respondents to contact them through the "care of" the church. Many of these ads include the acronym A. M. E. The A. M. E. Church was the first independent Protestant denomination to be established by African Americans. Founded in Philadelphia by Richard Allen, the AME Church began as an extension of the predominantly white Methodist church. The growing popularity of the AME church over the 19th century represents black church members’ desire for religious autonomy.

Source: African Methodist Episcopal Church, “Our History,” 

Andersonville Prison

Andersonville Prison is used when an ad references the possibility that the person being sought spent time in or near Andersonville, Georgia during the Civil War. Andersonville served as one of the largest Confederate prisons during the Civil War. The prison was in operation for 14 months and held over 45,000 Union soldiers, almost one-third of whom died while imprisoned.

Source: National Park Service, Andersonville: National Historic Site

antebellum ad

Antebellum ad is used to identify ads that appeared in newspapers prior to the Civil War (1861-1865).

army hospital

army hospital appears in two contexts: 1) refers to someone who was hospitalized or 2) identifies someone who worked in an army hospital during the Civil War. These temporary hospitals, also known as field hospitals, were constructed near battlefields; large general hospitals for soldiers began to be established in large cities in 1862. Injured soldiers were transported to these hospitals by train or ship. At the end of the war, there were about 400 general hospitals with about 400,000 available beds.

Source: Robert F. Reilly, M.D., "Medical and Surgical Care during the American Civil War, 1861-1865," Baylor University Medical Center Proceedings, 29, no. 2 (April 2016): 138-142.

army substitute

Army substitute refers to someone who performed someone else's military service during the Civil War. The Enrollment Act of 1863 (US) allowed for draftees to "hire" replacements for $300 to enroll and serve in the United States Army in their place. The Confederate government also allowed men to hire substitutes beginning in April 1862; the cost and terms varied over the course of the war.

Source: Michael T. Meier, "Civil War Draft Records: Exemptions and Enrollments," Prologue 26, no. 4 (Winter 1994).; Patrick J. Doyle, “Replacement Rebels: Confederate Substitution and the Issue of Citizenship,” Journal of the Civil War Era 8, no. 1 (March 2018): 3-31.


Attorney appears in two contexts: 1) it references an attorney looking for an absent client, or 2) it refers to an attorney working on someone’s behalf to locate a missing family member.


Aunt(s) identifies the person being looked for as a parent's sibling or describes someone included in a family history as such.



Baptism is used to identify ads that mention or allude to the process of being "saved" or finding religion.



Captured appears in three distinct contexts: 1) it refers to someone who ran away and was subsequently captured by slave catchers and returned to enslavement; 2) it refers to someone taken by the military, as in the case when Confederate soldiers took enslaved people; or 3) it refers to instances when someone in the military was thought to have been captured by opposing troops.

changed name

Changed name appears in ads in which the person placing the ad suspects that the person they are searching for changed his/her name after emancipation or following a marriage. It also refers to instances in which the person placing the ad has changed their name after emancipation or marriage. Formerly enslaved people changed their names to distance themselves from their enslavers.

Source: Margaret Williamson, "Slave Names and Naming in the Anglophone Atlantic," Oxford Bibliographies,


Child(ren) refers to ads in which the searcher is a parent looking for their child or children.

Civil War

Civil War identifies ads that reference "the war" (1861-1865) fought between the United States and eleven southern states who aligned themselves as the Confederate States of America.

Confederate Congress

Confederate Congress identifies ads that mention people who served in the Confederate Congress. The Confederate Congress refers to both the provisional (1861-1862) and permanent (1862-1865) legislative assembly of the Confederate States of America.

Confederate Raids

Confederate Raids appears in ads that describe possible guerilla activity in which Confederate soldiers raided towns, homes, and plantations looking for supplies and food. In some cases, Confederate guerillas also kidnapped enslaved people.

Confederate Army

Confederate Army identifies ads in which enslaved men were known to travel with the Confederate Army or to have accompanied their enslavers during their enlistment. Some ads mention specific companies or battalions of the army of the Confederate States of America.


Contrabands is a term used in reference to enslaved men and women who escaped and sought refuge with the U.S. Army during the war. “Contrabands” followed Union troops as refugees, and some worked digging ditches, building fortifications, cooking, washing laundry, or sewing. Some enlisted in the U.S. Army. Historians estimate that by the war’s end, approximately 500,000 enslaved people and freed people sought refuge behind Union lines.

Source: Black Soldiers in Blue: African American Troops in the Civil War Era. John David Smith, ed. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002); Douglas R. Egerton. Thunder at the Gates: The Black Civil War Regiments that Redeemed America (New York: Basic Books, 2016).


Convicted references the legal status of a someone being searched for as “officially” tried and found guilty of committing a crime.



Debt appears in ads that reference the sale of an enslaved person to pay for accumulated debts.


Deceased describes two different circumstances: 1) ads searching for relatives of people believed or known to be deceased, or 2) an updated ad referring to a person known or believed to be deceased.

desertions (Civil War)

Desertions (Civil War) identifies ads referring to a soldier who disappeared during service in the military. Soldiers frequently fled military service, running away from impending battle or returning home due to continuing hardships (both in the army and on the home front); the number of desertions increased over the course of the war, especially as conditions worsened for the Confederacy.

Source: James M. McPherson, For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997).

desertion (spousal)

Desertion (spousal) identifies ads in which the person placing the ad is seeking information about a spouse who has disappeared without warning or (identified) cause. During the Civil War and its aftermath, some men took advantage of the disruption and chaos of war to leave their wives/families and start new lives elsewhere. Many of these ads, however, concern spousal desertions that took place long after the war's end.

Source: Beverly Schwartzberg, "Lots of Them Did That": Desertion, Bigamy, and Marital Fluidity in Late-Nineteenth Century America,” ,i>Journal of Social History 37, no. 3 (Spring 2004): 573-600.

doctors (African American)

Doctors (African American) describes a missing person or a searcher who is an African-American doctor. The first African-American doctor (informally trained) was an enslaved man named James Durham who purchased his freedom and practiced medicine in New Orleans. Dr. James McCune Smith became the first formally trained African-American doctor in the United States in 1837.


Dowry identifies ads in which one of the parties was "given" to a bride or her husband as a wedding "gift." A dowry is an amount provided by the bride's family to the groom at the time of marriage; in the American South, these financial transactions often included the transferal of enslaved people as "property."

dying wish

Dying wish identifies ads in which the person placing the ad expresses the desire to reconnect with family because of impending death, old age, or infirmity.



Emancipation refers to people identified as having been freed either by their enslaver prior to the Civil War or via the Thirteenth Amendment after the war (1865).


Emigration identifies ads in which the person placing the ad has emigrated out of the United States. Liberia was a common destination for African Americans following emancipation.

enslaver looking for former slave

Enslaver looking for former slave tag identifies ads in which the person placing the ad is identified as a former enslaver who is searching for a person they used to enslave.


Escaped appears in ads in which the person being sought is described as having runaway (sometimes described by historians as self-emancipated), thereby escaping slavery.

Source: John Hope Franklin and Loren Schweninger, Runaway Slaves: Rebels on the Plantation (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999).
escaped from jail

Escaped from jail refers to ads in which the person being sought is described as having escaped from custody or jail. The term jail, in the context of slavery, might have two distinct meanings: 1) it might refer to the place where formally incarcerated people are held, or 2) it might refer to the slave pens or holding facilities in which enslaved people were confined as they awaited transport or sale. Several ads reference Lumpkin’s jail (known as "the Devil’s half acre") in Richmond, Virginia. Lumpkin's jail was one of the most notorious slave-trading compounds, known for the physical abuse and cruelty enslaved people experienced while confined.

Source: Abigail Tucker, “Digging up the Past at a Richmond Jail: The Excavation of a Notorious Jail Recalls Virginia’s Leading Role in the Slave Trade,” Smithsonian Magazine (March 2009).


Estate identifies ads in which enslaved people were sold as part of the dissolution of an estate. Because enslaved people were considered personal property, when an enslaver died, they were included in the estate inventory and thus might be bequeathed from one person to another. If the testator (person with a will) died in debt, enslaved people, as part of the estate, might also be sold to repay that debt.

estate division

Estate division identifies ads that refer to the sale of enslaved people as part of the division or partition of property, often through the probate process (when the deceased left a will); enslaved people were often the subject of lawsuits seeking partition of property when the deceased died intestate (without a will) or when heirs (or presumed heirs) challenged probate. This tag might also refer to a person who has sold in connection to the settlement of an estate.


family history

Family history identifies ads that include detailed information about relatives, marriages, and/or locations that bear direct connection to the person being sought. These details often include the names of former enslavers, details about familial separation (e.g., the names of people who purchased family members and where they were taken), descriptions of familial relationships, and locations where the person may have gone.

female enslaver

Female enslaver identifies ads in which the former enslaver is identified as a woman. Despite their active involvement, white women’s participation in slavery has received less attention.

Source: Stephanie Jones Rogers, They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2019).

forced migration

Forced migration refers to ads that specifically mention or describe the details of enslaved people being relocated or sold and moved /transported from one location to another. These ads appear in two contexts: 1) when the enslaver moved from one location to another, taking their enslaved “property” with them, or 2) when the enslaved sold an enslaved person who was then transported to a new location. The most common forced migration occurred as a result of enslavers selling enslaved people to Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Texas. Historians estimate that approximately one million enslaved people were forcibly relocated from the Upper South to the Deep South and West through the internal (or domestic) slave trade between 1800 and 1860.

former enslaver

Former enslaver refers to ads that mention the person/family by whom the searcher/searchee was enslaved, by name.


Found refers to ads that announce a person has been found. These ads often describe the search and include details about the reunion or upcoming reunion. The ads identified by this tag often detail years’ long searches and testify to the persistent desire of formerly enslaved people to reconnect with family and loved ones.

fraternal groups

Fraternal groups identifies ads in which searchers reference specific groups or fraternal associations with which the person being sought was known or believed to belong. After emancipation, freedmen joined organizations like the Freemasons or the Black Freemasons to build professional networks; these fraternal groups also served social functions, helping freedpeople to find fellowship and community support.

free people of color

Free people of color refers to ads in which either the person placing the ad or someone in the ad is described as being a free person. Free people of color were not enslaved and enjoyed some of the privileges of free society but were still limited by race-based laws and practices. Privileges associated with freedom differed from one state to the next, with several states prohibiting free people of color from living within their borders. Large communities of free people of color developed in urban areas such as New Orleans, Philadelphia, Boston, and New York City.


Freed refers to a formerly enslaved person’s status as free. A person freed from enslavement might have acquired their freedom through manumission (when the enslaver formally freed him/her); a freedom suit (a lawsuit brought against the enslaver to challenge their enslaved status based on condition of birth or location); self-purchase (when an enslaved person worked additional jobs in order to save to buy themselves); or self-emancipation (when an enslaved person acted to free themselves, most commonly by running away). In the post-emancipation period, former slaves were commonly referred to as freed people, a term that denoted their formerly enslaved status.

freedom suits

Freedom suits identifies ads in which an enslaved person is described as having used the courts to obtain freedom by filing a lawsuit, most often on the basis that their mother or maternal grandmother was a free woman. Some freedom suits were based on claims of having resided in a free state or territory, but most asserted direct lineage to a free mother.

Source: Kelly Kennington, In the Shadow of Dred Scott: St. Louis Freedom Suits and the Legal Culture of Slavery in the Antebellum South (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2017); Kimberley M. Welch, Black Litigants in the Antebellum American South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2018).


Freemasons identifies ads that allude to membership in the Freemasons, but do not directly state that the person placing the ad or being sought belonged to this secret fraternal organization.



Grandparent(s) refers to ads in which either the searcher identifies themself as a grandparent of the person they are looking for, or when the person being sought is described as the mother/father of one of the searcher’s parents.



Heir(s) identifies ads searching for people legally designated to inherit property (real and personal) upon the property owner’s death.

hired out

Hired out refers to ads in which the person placing the ad describes separation as related to one or both people as being hired out, which entailed physical separation from family and community. Enslavers sold or rented their enslaved people’s labor for a specific period of time and at a specific rate (calculated daily, weekly, monthly, depending upon the contract). This practice enabled the enslaver to continue to profit off of the enslaved person’s labor even though the work was performed for someone else.

Source: John J. Zaborney, Slaves for Hire: Renting Enslaved Labor in Antebellum Virginia (Baton Rouge: Lousiana State University Press, 2012).


Indian Territory

Indian Territory identifies ads that were placed by people either living in Oklahoma, designated as “Indian Territory” by the federal government, or looking for someone who was believed to have lived there. Ads that reference specific indigenous groups are also connected under the tag "Native Americans."

Indian Wars

Indian Wars refers to ads that describe the person being sought as having served in the U.S. Army after the Civil War, when the army waged war against indigenous people in the West.


Inheritance refers to in ads that seek a person identified as a legal heir or that describe enslaved people who inherited property. In rare cases, a formerly enslaved person inherited property from their former enslavers.


John Brown's Raid

John Brown's Raid references a person who participated in abolitionist John Brown's October 16, 1859 raid on the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. Brown led a group of 18 men in an attempt to seize the federal arsenal, arm enslaved people, and start a rebellion. The planned insurrection failed. John Brown was arrested, tried for treason, and hung.



Kidnapping references ads that describe the sudden disappearance of someone presumed to have been "stolen" or kidnapped, possibly by those who then sold them into slavery or forced them into military service.

Knights of Pythias

identifies ads in which the abbreviation "K. O. P." appears. The Knights of Pythias is a non-sectarian fraternal order founded in 1864 that focuses on charitable, benevolent, fraternal and social activities.


left with Union Army

left with Union Army describes a person who escaped enslavement by joining the Union Army.

letters to the editor

Letters to the editor references ads that appear as letters to the editor of a newspaper. In a few instances, newspapers also published responses to these letters.


Literacy identifies ads in which the person being sought attended school, forged passes, or learned to read and write (which was prohibited under slavery). This term also refers to ads that reference communications written by former slaves or freed people who attended school after the war, when many schools were established in the postwar South.


Lynching identifies ads that describe a number of extra-legal acts perpetrated against Black people by white mobs who sometimes accused them of committing "a crime." Lynching could take a variety of forms, including hanging, physical torture, and desecration of the body. For example, in one ad the searcher describes a family member who was attacked and killed by a “mob” in Texas.

Source: Christopher Waldrep, ed. Lynching in America: A History in Documents (New York: New York University Press, 2006); Fitzhugh W. Brundage, ed. Under Sentence of Death: Lynching in the South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997).



Manumitted refers to a formerly enslaved person whose enslaver formally emancipated them. Manumission might occur as a result of an agreement to allow the enslaved person to purchase their own freedom or from a decree made in a will.

maritime work

Maritime work describes a person who worked on the docks or onboard a ship. Enslaved people frequently worked on board steamboats and seafaring vessels and as stevedores (someone who loads/unloads ships) and dock workers.

Masonic Lodge

Masonic Lodge identifies ads that reference the fraternal organizations the Masons, Freemasons, or Black Freemasons, and in which a Masonic Lodge is named as a potential point of contact. The lodge is the basic organizational unit of Freemasonry.


Masons refers to ads in which either the searcher or the person being sought are members of the fraternal organization the Masons, Freemasons, or Black Freemasons.

"master" died

"Master" died identifies ads in which separation or sale are attributed to the death of the enslaver.

migration (north)

Migration (north) identifies ads in which either the person placing the ad, or the person sought moved north; in most cases, this refers to voluntary migration after emancipation. In the antebellum period, many southern states prohibited manumitted people from remaining in the state. After the war, freed people moved north in search of better economic opportunities or missing family members.

migration (post-emancipation)

Migration (post-emancipation) identifies ads in which a person moved to a new state after being freed.

migration (west)

Migration (west) identifies ads in which a person moved west; many were drawn to California.


Minister refers to ads that acknowledge the role of clergy (priests, reverends, pastors, etc.) in assisting with the search for a family member, usually by serving as a point of contact.

ministers please read

Ministers please read refers to ads that made direct appeals to ministers to read the ad to their congregations as a means of spreading the message.

missing person(s)

Missing person(s) identifies ads in which a person is missing, generally during the post-emancipation period, and that reference people who may not have been enslaved.


Missionary identifies the person being sought as a someone working to spread their faith on behalf of a church or religion.

multiple ads

Multiple ads identifies ads placed multiple times by the same person or family. Some people searched for family members for decades after emancipation.

mutual search

Mutual search identifies ads in which both the searcher and the person being sought were looking for each other.


Native Americans

Native Americans refers to ads that reference specific indigenous tribes such as the Chickasaw and Creek; it also identifies ads in which the searcher or the person being sought was described as living in "Indian Territory" (present day Oklahoma) or was in some way connected to indigenous peoples.

newspaper reply

Newspaper reply identifies ads in which the editor replied to or published a reply to an ad.

northern slavery

Northern slavery refers to people enslaved in northern states; many states enacted gradual emancipation which delayed emancipation to a future date. For example, although Pennsylvania passed the Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery in 1780, enslaved people continued to be held in bondage until 1847.

Source: Wendy Warren, New England Bound: Slavery and Colonization in Early America (New York: W.W. Norton, 2017).



Orphan/orphanage identifies ads describing a person without a parent or with neither; might also include details such as time spent in orphanages or information about their parents’ deaths. Racially segregated orphanages existed throughout the United States in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Some well-known black orphanages that appear in the ads include the New York Colored Orphan Asylum founded by Quakers in 1836 and Philadelphia’s Association for the Care of Colored Orphans founded by Quakers in 1822.

Source: Rhonda Evans, “The Howard Colored Orphan Asylum: New York’s First Black-Run Orphanage,” New York Public Library Blog: Africa and the African Diaspora (June 11, 2020).



Parent(s) identifies ads in which the person posting the ad was looking for information about one or both of their parents.


Passing identifies circumstances in which an enslaved person is described as being able to “pass” as a white person because of their light skin. Observers might assume that a light skinned Black person was white, or that person might have intentionally represented themselves as white so as to access the benefits and privileges that accompany being white in a society with race-based slavery.

Source: Amani Marshall, "'They Will Endeavor to Pass for Free': Enslaved Runaways' Performances of Freedom in Antebellum South Carolina," Slavery & Abolition 31, no. 2 (2010): 161-180.

pension (Civil War)

Pension (Civil War) refers to ads placed by people seeking information about a U.S. Army veteran in order to document their service as a means of receiving a pension. Pensions were monetary payments made to Civil War veterans or their spouses; the United States started issuing pensions for Union soldiers hurt or disabled during their military service in 1862.

people with disabilities

People with disabilities references ads in which the person being sought is described as having impaired physical or mental abilities. Sometimes it is a vague reference to the prolonged use of “crutches” and in other cases it describes injuries sustained during enslavement or the Civil War.

physical description

Physical description refers to ads in which the searcher included a physical description of the person being sought, such as skin color, height, build, and distinctive features such as scars, injuries, or disabilities.

prisoner of war

Prisoner of war identifies ads in which a person was “captured” or forcefully taken by troops (Union or Confederate) during the Civil War.


Probate identifies ads that reference an inheritance or the search for heirs as an estate entered the probate process; probate is a legal process involving an official determination of a will’s authenticity to establish the validity of bequeaths made in wills by the deceased.



Railroad refers to ads that mention railroad travel or someone who worked on the railroad.


Reconstruction identifies ads placed during the period from 1865 to 1877 immediately following the Civil War.


Remarried identifies ads that reference people believed to have married for a second time. These ads often refer to remarriages that occured after an original partner was sold away; some identify a subsequent spouse by name. In ads involving reunions, this tag refers to the decision of former partners to marry again once they found each other.


Resistance identifies ads in which an enslaved person is described as challenging authority in some way; instances described in ads include running away, self-purchase, self-emancipation, self-injury, or the attacking or injuring of an enslaver.


Reunion refers to ads in which the searcher has found and been reunited with the person they sought; many describe how they found one another and describe the reunion; some ads reference chance meetings, while others detail exhaustive searches over several years or even decades. Reunions reported by white newspapers were highly romanticized and produced for white consumption.


Reward identifies ads in which a monetary reward is offered for information about the person being sought.

Robert E. Lee

Robert E. Lee identifies ads in which Robert E. Lee is referred to as "Lee" or "General Lee."


Runaway refers to ads in which the person being sought is known or suspected to have run away in order to escape enslavement. Several ads identify destinations in the North or Canada where they suspect the person has gone. These ads are also identified as acts of resistance.



Sailor indicates that someone in the ad worked aboard a ship or served in the U. S. Navy.

searching for former enslaver

Searching for former enslaver identifies ads in which a formerly enslaved people attempted to locate a previous enslaver, generally with the intention of finding a family member.


Self-emanicipation refers to the process of freeing oneself from enslavement; this might be accomplished by running away, buying one’s freedom, or enlisting in the U.S. Army during the Civil War.


Self-injury refers to acts of self-harm perpetrated as acts of resistance.


Self-purchase references people in the process of freeing themselves by purchasing their own freedom; some enslavers allowed enslaved people to work in their “spare” time and to keep their earnings in order to purchase themselves.

slave trade

Slave trade identifies ads that mention the sale and forced relocation of an enslaved person or family. The slave trade might refer to formal or informal internal networks of buyers and sellers who participated in the trafficking of enslaved people.

Source: Steven Deyle, Carry Me Back: The Domestic Slave Trade in American Life (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); Joshua D. Rothman, The Ledger and the Chain: How Domestic Slave Traders Shaped America (New York: Basic Books, 2021).

slave trader

Slave trader refers to ads that mention a slave trader(s) or a slave trading company by name. Slave traders bought and sold enslaved people, sometimes locally but more often as part of a larger and longer traffic in which enslaved people were force marched from the Upper South to the Deep South and the West.


Sold identifies ads in which the sale of slaves is mentioned or implied; some of these ads recount or describe enslaved peoples’ experiences of auctions and transportation or detail a series of transactions that resulted in their physical relocation.

sold south

Sold south identifies ads that describe the experiences of people enslaved in the Upper South (Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia) who were sold to locations in the Deep South (Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi) or Southwest (Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas).


Soldier refers to ads that identify either the searcher or the person being sought as a soldier or member of the military.


Speculator identifies ads in which slave speculators are identified by name or by the company they represented. A speculator is a person who holds a commodity when prices are low and sells it when prices are high; in the U.S. slave economy, enslavers and traders became speculators when demand for and the price of cotton increased, driving up the market value of enslaved laborers.

Source: Michael Tadman. Speculators and Slaves: Masters, Traders, and Slaves in the Old South. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989.


Spouse identifies ads in which the searcher is looking for a current or former husband or wife.


Steamboat identifies ads that reference either steamboat travel or labor performed on steamboats. Steamboats were a common mode of transportation in the nineteenth century. They were often used to transport enslaved people, especially along the Mississippi River, and enslaved and formerly enslaved people frequently labored on steamboats.


Stolen refers to instances when enslaved people were stolen (or thought to have been stolen) by raiders or unscrupulous slave traders.


Suicide identifies ads in which an enslaved or formerly enslaved person sought escape through self-inflicted death. These ads are also tagged for resistance.

Source: Terri Snyder, The Power to Die: Slavery and Suicide in North America, 1630-1830 (University Chicago Press, 2015); Diane Miller Sommerville, Aberration of Mind: Suicide and Suffering in the Civil War-Era South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2018).


U.S. Army

U.S. Army refers to someone who served in the United States Army during the Civil War or afterwards, or who followed the army or was associated with the army in another way. Some ads name specific companies, officers, or locations of service. Others reference enslaved people who sought refuge behind Union lines during the Civil War or traveled with them, where many enslaved men enlisted.

U.S. Colored Cavalry

U.S. Colored Cavalry references men who enlisted and served in segregated U.S. cavalry regiments during the Civil War or after. Regiments in the U.S. Colored Troops (U.S.C.T.) formed in 1863, comprised of former slaves, freedmen, and enslaved men who fought on horseback. Some of these same cavalrymen later served as the famed "Buffalo Soldiers" who were assigned to fight wars against indigenous people in the West.

U.S. Colored Infantry

U.S. Colored Infantry identifies someone who belonged to a United States Colored Troops (U.S.C.T.) regiment that was not cavalry.

U.S. Colored Troops – (U.S.C.T.)

U.S. Colored Troops – (U.S.C.T.) identifies ads that refer to men who served in the Union Army as part of a black regiment. During the Civil War approximately 180,000 black men (formerly enslaved, free, and enslaved) enlisted in the United States Colored Troops to fight for the Union. When this term, or abbreviation, appears in an ad it might refer to a veteran searching for fellow service members, a family searching for a man gone missing during the war, or the wife of a deceased serviceman looking for information in connection to a military pension available to veterans’ widows.

U.S. Navy

U.S. Navy refers to ads in which the searcher or the person being sought served in the United States Navy either during the Civil War or after.


Uncle(s) identifies ads in which the person being sought is described as the brother of the searcher’s parent.

Underground Railroad

Underground Railroad references ads that mention or imply escapes to the North that might have succeeded with the help of a secret network of houses and safe havens that served as "stations" used to evacuate enslaved people from the South to northern “free” states.


Untranscribed identifies ads for which there are images in the database but no transcriptions.



Veteran refers to ads in which someone served in the military, generally the U.S. Army during the Civil War, but some refer to the Confederate Army. A few refer to men who served in the "Indian Wars" in the post-Civil War period.


white father

White father references ads in which the formerly enslaved person’s father is identified as their former enslaver (or another white man).

white newspaper

White newspaperidentifies ads placed in newspapers produced for primarily white audience/readers.


Widow refers to ads in which the person seeking information is a woman looking for information about a husband known or believed to be deceased; these ads were usually placed by women seeking information regarding their husbands’ military service for the purposes of securing a pension.