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Using AI, Ancestry helps descendants unearth key details about their enslaved ancestors

Just in time for Juneteenth, genealogy website Ancestry has published a new resource called Articles of Enslavement that allows descendants of enslaved people to discover crucial information about their ancestors. In partnership with newspapers.com, Ancestry employed artificial intelligence to analyze and extract meaningful data from over 38,000 articles and advertisements published before 1900. 

The collection provides details like names, names of enslavers, locations, occupations, relationships and physical characteristics of more than 183,000 enslaved individuals — crucial information boosting people's efforts to track their ancestors and piece together family histories that have long been obscured. In addition to aiding personal genealogy research, Ancestry also hopes to enrich everyone's understanding of American history and the African American experience during enslavement.

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Consumers are increasingly seeking tools to fill gaps in their knowledge and restore agency over histories that were stripped away. Ancestry's Articles of Enslavement is more than just a database — it's a tool for African American people to gain ownership of their past and challenge false or incomplete accounts.

Leveraging generative AI, anyone — regardless of technical skills or creative prowess — can go beyond collecting and correcting facts and transform the information they uncover into images and stories that resonate emotionally. Brands: how could you empower people to reexamine their history, whether personal or collective? And where will you create space for them to share their reclaimed narrative?