Underground Genealogies
3/5/2010
The research institute at the new National Underground Railroad Freedom Center will help African-Americans fill in gaps in their genealogy research.

The organized passage of slaves from the South to the North prior to and during the Civil War brought many African-Americans their freedom — something their descendants will be able to celebrate at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center when it opens next year in Cincinnati. But learning more about the people who participated in the Underground Railroad can be difficult for the same reason the system was successful: secrecy. For genealogists who believe their ancestors found freedom through this historic network, traditional records and documents may not exist to show who those ancestors were and what they did.

Fortunately, though, the new Freedom Center will do more than present museum exhibits and lectures; it also will offer a research institute designed to accommodate private and collaborative research — including genealogy. When the museum opens, the institute will have a reference librarian to help patrons, computer workstations, an archival reading room and collections storage for manuscripts, letters, photos and rare books.