I have not seen him since the war

The Freeman headingWhile looking through the 1894 very fragile copy of The Freeman, I came across a column called Lost Relatives. There were many columns like this after the Civil War where people wrote hoping to find family members – mothers, brothers, sisters, children – that were sold away to other plantations.  This column was written 29 years after the war and people were still hoping to find their loved ones.  It must have been amazing to find your mother looking for you when you never expected to see her again.  When you didn’t know if she was dead or alive.  The emotions I feel finding my long dead ancestors in wills and census charts, pales by comparison.  Click to enlarge.

Lost RelativesFor more information about the Lost! newspaper items, go to this link Lost! African American Search Notices After Slavery.

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35 thoughts on “I have not seen him since the war

    1. I almost didn’t do it because I couldn’t think of anything for the Sepia Saturday prompt. Then I remembered the masthead and while copying it, I saw the notices. It’s been here for years and I don’t remember reading those before.

    1. I heard a song once, on youtube, it was about a mother during the Civil War who finds her son Henry. I wanted to add it to the page. Unfortunately I didn’t write down the name and all my googling of lyrics is not finding the song. More’s the pity. Would have been perfect.

  1. This post was as heart-warming as it was gut wrenching. I could feel the pain of those searching for long lost relatives. I am left emotionally drained and hurt by this post. As hurtful as it is to imagine the sorrow of those searching for family members, it is also uplifting to know that these searches occurred. Plus, this post gives sources, for those of us looking for the history of our families, that I never knew existed or never thought to use.

    Thank you, Kristin.

  2. Thanks so much for all the well written information,, some of which was new to me. The link to the Freedman Newspaper was noted. I will review as I have time. Thanks again!

  3. So moving! I just hope at least some of those people were successful in finding those long-lost family members.

    1. I wonder about that too. We had to be able to distance ourselves to some extent from what happened or we would have gone stark raving mad.

  4. A powerful bit of ephemera that shares that quality of hope found on the improvised notice boards people put up when searching for family members in catastrophes in our time. I’d found the Google archive on The Freeman before when doing research on musical artists. It is a rich source of names, stories and photos of prominent people otherwise not found in regular newspapers.

  5. The sorrow of still searching after 30 years! I wish I could see a sequel to these ads: “Found Relatives” describing happy reunions. It would bring joy to the reader, not to mention the joy of finding a relative still alive.

  6. Both this piece (and your subsequent update post) are quite fascinating and serve to remind us all that trade was not always limited to patent medicines and iron stoves. And this, we should never forget.

  7. Kristin,
    Thank you for sharing this clipping. The spare entries speak worlds of pain. By coincidence I am just teaching my introductory U.S. ethnic literature course Charles Chesnutt’s short story, “The Wife of His Youth,” from exactly the same period. After having read these advertisements in The Freeman (how/where did you find that old copy?) the pathos of Liza’s long search is brought home to me much more powerfully, and Mr. Ryder/Sam’s turnaround at the end, along with the response of his whole society, becomes all the more understandable.
    I will share this with my students, if I may.

    1. I read “The Wife of His Youth” years ago. I only remember a shadowy story of his dark skinned wife from his slavery days not fitting in with his present life. I don’t remember if she found him or how it happened. I think I will take another look.

      Of course you can share it with your students!

      My historian friend, Paul Lee, gave me a copy he had when I was researching my family in Indianapolis. My father’s mother’s family was in Indianapolis at that tiime but they didn’t appear in the paper. I don’t remember how he happened to have a copy. Now I’m thinking of my grandmother’s family being there while these were being published.

  8. It is interesting that my Grandmother was a Turner in the Murray, Iowa area. The add was for the Des Moines, Iowa area which is north of Murray, and hours drive. It would be interesting to see if I ever got around to do the Turner family tree to see if he was a part of the family.

  9. Heartbreaking to read these ads and wonder how many were successful. The horrors we commit against each other are endless. I also think of those who were in the camps during World War II who lost track of relatives, never knowing if they’d survived. I have seen a few stories where relatives have finally been reunited though they ended up in different parts of the world. I’d like to hope that there were some good results from these ads with some prayers being answered.

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