May 25, 2022

Emory University Tracks Slave Origins via Online Database, Crowdsourcing"

Here’s another example of a database being built with the help of crowdsourcing.

It is becoming clear that crowdsourcing is moving from an experiment in the use of online social networking to a useful and relatively inexpensive way to assist in the creation of a database. As you’ll read, this project is looking for people with specific skills.

From Blackweb 2.0:

[On Tuesday] Emory University launched a new website designed to bridge the gap between past and present. Using information from the Courts of Mixed Commission African Origins has created an online database of stolen Africans forced into the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. The names, gender, and port of departure of 9,453 liberated Africans were uploaded onto the website in the hopes of being able to trace their ancestry back to their origin country.

The premise behind the site is that since African social groups and languages have remained somewhat consistent over the centuries, scholars can track down modern counterparts to the liberated Africans. From there, scholars are hoping to expand the database to the millions of Africans that were sold into slavery which would be a boon to the ancestors of slaves in the Caribbean and the Americas, the majority of which can only trace their bloodlines but so far.

The project scholars can not do it alone. African Origins plans to use crowdsourcing to fill in the missing pieces. Scholars are looking for people well-versed in African languages and naming protocols to share their knowledge. “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.

In addition to the website, African Origins has a Facebook page as well as a blog. For those interested in participating, you can visit the site or email

The National Endowment for the Humanities and the W.E.B Du Bois Institute (Harvard University) are also sponsors of the project.

African Origins is being developed by same researchers responsible for the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database.

Direct to the African-Origins Web Site

The Project’s Twitter Stream

See Also: “Tracing Africans in Slave Trade Goal of New Project” (via Emory U.)

See Also: “Site to Explore Slave Origins” (via The Emory Wheel)

(via Twitter)

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.