Shedding light on the Underground

“Railroad Ties”

By the 1860’s, nearly 100,000 slaves escaped via secret routes and safe houses in America, helped in secret by strangers via the Underground Railroad. Escaping, or helping a slave to escape, could result in imprisonment or death.

The challenge

It was critical that both enslaved people and those trying to help them escape left no trace of their effort. But by erasing all traces of their journey, while they won their freedom – they lost their history.

The solution

Enter Ancestry. As the leading family history company, Ancestry was uniquely qualified to use their data to uncover and celebrate long-hidden stories.

Unsurpassed archives

Birth, death and marriage certificates, census records, news articles, obituaries and generations of lineage from publicly-shared family trees. All are part of Ancestry’s unsurpassed archives. Researchers analyzed hundreds of thousands of family records of those who escaped, revealing their discoveries in a documentary that premiered at Sundance. The film captured how a group of strangers finally realized lost truths and family connections.


History comes to life

The story became national news, capturing the public's curiosity and tapping into a discussion on race, identity and the ties that bind us. It also restored the underground railroad for today's generation to reclaim their history. In addition to 2M views of the documentary, Ancestry saw a more than 146% increase in search volume, an increase in site traffic by +10% and 83% intent to purchase.

2020: PRWeek U.S. Awards Campaign of the Year, Best in Multicultural Marketing, Best in Broadcast / Film / Video & Best in Data Insight

2020: North America IN2 SABRE Awards Best in Brand Film/Video

2019: Bronze Lion in PR, Content-led Engagement & Marketing