From the 15th through 19th centuries, the transatlantic slave trade sent an estimated 12.5 million Africans to the New World—the largest forced migration in modern history. As late as 1820, nearly four Africans had crossed the Atlantic for every European.
A new Web site called Voyages sheds light on the trade with an amalgamation of data on slave ships’ journeys, maps, charts and essays.
The African Names database has information on more than 67,000 slaves captive on slave vessels during the 19th century. None of these slaves made it to the Americas, though—naval cruisers captured the ships after Britain and the US outlawed the slave trade in 1807. (Britain abolished the practice of slavery in 1833; the United States did so 1865.) For this reason, and because the Africans listed in the database used only given names, it’s unlikely you’ll find an ancestor here.
But you’ll learn about your forebears’ journeys to America: The Voyages database details nearly 35,000 journeys of slave ships, encompassing two-thirds of all slave trade voyages from 1514 to 1866. Data may include the name of the ship, captain’s name, year, and the place where slaves were purchased and sold (but not names of slaves, unless the ship was captured). You can sort the data by any field and click for more details, such as the vessel’s owners, where it was registered, and other stops it made.
Scholars have collected the data over decades. See Voyages’ Understanding the Database section for in-depth guidance on using the site.