New Website To Trace Origins of Enslaved Africans

By Emory University - African Origins Project, PRNE
Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Volunteer Assistance Sought from Africans, African Diaspora, Scholars Worldwide

ATLANTA, April 27, 2011 - Little is known of the ancestry of Africans pulled into the
trans-Atlantic slave trade. A new website, launched at Emory University this
week, aims to change that. The African-Origins (
website provides a rare glimpse of the identities of Africans aboard early
nineteenth-century slaving vessels, and through this information, the
possibility of tracing the origins of millions of other Africans forcibly
transported to the Americas. Public participation will be critical to piecing
together this missing history.


Visitors to African-Origins can search an online database of Africans
liberated from slaving vessels, with such details as gender, age, African
port of departure, and, most importantly, an African name. Because names used
within African languages and social groups have remained fairly consistent
over the last two centuries, the thousands of names listed in this database
are clues to the linguistic and ethnic origins of the Africans on board these

Scholars are now looking for help in identifying the modern counterparts
of these names and the languages and ethnicities with which they are likely
associated. Through the African-Origins website, those with knowledge of
African languages and cultural naming practices can suggest these links. By
taking a few minutes to search and listen for familiar names and contribute a
modern counterpart, language, and ethnic group, members of the public can
help identify the language, ethnic and geographic origins of people listed in
these registers, and subsequently the likely origins of millions of other
unnamed Africans enslaved during this period.

With these insights, scholars serving as editors of the database can
consider the range of possible languages and groups affiliated with a name
alongside historical research of peoples' locations and movements across
Africa. As contributions are received and analyzed, new information will be
added to the African-Origins database on the likely language and ethnicity of
each individual. Visitors to the site will eventually be able to search for
Africans by linguistic group and view maps of the historical locations of
people pulled into the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

To find out more about the African Origins project or contact the project
team, visit or email Photos and videos are on the project's blog,, and its Facebook site,

    Elaine Justice (Associate Director, Media Relations - Emory University)


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