DAR shares Patriots of color research to recover names of enslaved people, locate living descendants

The National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) is pleased to join with American Ancestors® in announcing the launch of the 10 Million Names project, which aims to recover the names of up to 10 million people enslaved in the United States before emancipation, locate their living descendants and provide genealogical resources in a permanent, free, publicly accessible database.

DAR is one of the founding collaborating institutions supporting the project which is being led by American Ancestors, a national center for family history. The project includes family historians, leading African American scholars, and cultural institutions, who will work to recover the names of the up to 10 million people of African descent who were enslaved between the 1500s and 1865 in the territory that is now the United States of America.

DAR donated $350,000 to support the 10 Million Names project, which will centralize genealogical and historical information about enslaved people of African descent and their families on a free website at 10MillionNames.org.

DAR is also licensing names and information contained in the DAR Patriots of Color databaseto be made available for searching on the 10 Million Names website. The DAR Patriots of Color database is a digital extension of the long-term DAR project started in the 1980s to research and identify Revolutionary War Patriots of color. The research was initially compiled in the DAR publication, Forgotten Patriots – African American and American Indian Patriots in the Revolutionary War, which identified more than 6,600 names of African American and American Indians who contributed to American Independence. The names and genealogical source materials are now maintained and updated in the Patriots of Color database, located within the DAR Genealogical Research System (GRS), a free, public database of genealogical and historical information amassed by the DAR.

“We are very proud to be founding collaborative partners on the 10 Million Names project and are delighted to include the names from our Patriots of Color database to help further the research and resources made available to honor the family histories of African Americans who helped build our nation,” said Pamela Rouse Wright, DAR President General. “We hope this important project will help ignite a desire in more people to research their own lineage and connect with their past – and we encourage those women who trace their family history to Revolutionary War Patriots to consider membership in the DAR!”

The 10 Million Names Advisory Board includes Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Harvard scholar and host of the popular PBS Series Finding Your Roots, which often reveals surprising information to celebrity guests about their ancestors. Other members of the project’s advisory board include Richard Cellini, founder of the Georgetown Memory Project and a Research Fellow at the Harvard Radcliffe Institute. Beginning in 2018, American Ancestors worked with Cellini to create a free, searchable public portal that presented the family histories of more than 300 men, women, and children sold by the Jesuit priests of Georgetown University (then known as Georgetown College) in 1838 to Louisiana sugar plantations.

“Our collaboration with Richard Cellini on the Georgetown Memory Project served as a model and launch pad for 10 Million Names,” said Ryan Woods, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for American Ancestors. “The work done on the Georgetown project demonstrated we could apply a different methodology to help more Americans of African descent recover their family history before 1870—which is often difficult to do. Community-based family historians will play a vital role in the success of this project. 10 Million Names will work alongside families and individuals and organizations to amplify the voices of people who have been telling their stories for hundreds of years.”

Dr. Gates and others associated with the 10 Million Names project have described it as having the potential to connect millions of people with American history through genealogy in ways never possible before.

“For the first time ever, we have the means to accomplish a project of this importance and magnitude,” said Richard Cellini, the founding director of the 10 Million Names project. “The institutional will and the technology exists. We have a collective obligation as a nation to tell African American family stories.”

To accomplish its goal, the 10 Million Names research team will reverse the typical approach used by genealogists and borrow from the historian’s toolkit by starting with original source material, stretching from the 1500s to 1865. Genealogical researchers, historians, and data specialists will source data about enslaved people of African descent from archives, libraries, genealogical and historical societies, and organizations around the world. The team will also seek input from communities of family historians around the country and encourage the public to submit material that contains names of people and locations.

In addition to the DAR, institutions collaborating on the 10 Million Names project include the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, FamilySearch International and other historical societies and museums.

ABC News will serve as the exclusive media partner of 10 Million Names. The year-long, network-wide initiative will feature the findings, research, and work of a collaborative network of genealogists, cultural organizations, and community-based family historians through impactful and informative storytelling and reporting across ABC News programs and platforms.

The public is invited to begin exploring the free, public website at 10MillionNames.org, where a small but growing number of datasets are available at present, with more to be added on a regular basis. The site offers resources for self-directed research into African American genealogy and interactive historical context for the 10 Million Names project. People are also encouraged to submit original family materials containing names and locations such as family trees, copies of diaries or letters, bible records, and interviews with relatives to help create a publicly accessible repository about African American ancestors.  More detail about what materials 10 Million Names is looking for is available on 10MillionNames.org/share.

To learn more about the DAR partnership with the 10 Million Names project and other relevant DAR information, visit http://www.dar.org/10MillionNames.

About American Ancestors®
American Ancestors is a national center for family history, heritage, and culture based in Boston, Massachusetts, and one of the world’s is the country’s oldest genealogical organization, and one of the world’s top destinations for family history research, according to USA Today. American Ancestors is the global brand of New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS), America’s oldest and largest genealogical society (founded in 1845). American Ancestors serves more than 400,000 members and millions of online users engaged in family history nationally and around the world through its website AmericanAncestors.org with more than one billion names in its databases. Located in Boston’s Back Bay, American Ancestors is home to a world-class research center and archive, an expert staff, and the Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center. It maintains a publishing division that produces original genealogical research, scholarship, and educational materials, including the Register, the flagship journal of American genealogy since 1847, and American Ancestors, its award- winning magazine.  

For more information about 10 Million Names, please contact Claire Vail, VP of Communications for American Ancestors at claire.vail@nehgs.org and download a press kit at 10millionnames.org.

About the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR)
One of the largest patriotic women’s service organizations in the world, DAR has 190,000 members in approximately 3,000 chapters across the country and several foreign countries. DAR members promote historic preservation, education and patriotism via commemorative events, scholarships and educational initiatives, citizenship programs, service to veterans, meaningful community service and more. For additional information about DAR and its relevant mission, visit http://www.dar.org or contact Cane River Chapter, DAR at caneriverlsdar@gmail.com