About This Project


The Underground Railroad extended throughout the northeast and midwest. Wilbur H. Siebert depicted typical routes to Canada in this map included in his 1898 book, The Underground Railroad from Slavery to Freedom.

"Family Ties on the Underground Railroad" is a 15-month, grant-funded digital history prototype project by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania that tells the story of selected enslaved individuals and families who passed through Philadelphia between 1855 and 1857 and the covert networks that aided their escape. This project is part of a larger digital effort to weave new connections between William Still's manuscript, "Journal C," and his published book, The Underground Rail Road

Based on feedback from the project's external advisory committee, the HSP project team decided to focus the prototype project on the experiences of enslaved families escaping to freedom. The team selected three family groups described in "Journal C" and The Underground Rail Road, and digitized, transcribed, and annotated selections from the volumes that told their stories. Project staff encoded those excerpts in XML using the guidelines of the Text Encoding Initiative, which allows sophisticated searching and analysis of digital documents. This web site also offers contextual essays and other resources for teachers who may use the site in the classroom.

The illustrations, photographs and other graphics used in this digital project can be found in the collections of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania unless otherwise noted. The web banner image appears on page 102 in Still's The Underground Rail Road, and is titled "Twenty-eight fugitives escaping from the eastern shore of Maryland."

For more information about this digital history project, please contact Rachel Moloshok, Managing Editor of Publications and Scholarly Programs Associate, at rmoloshok@hsp.org.

Copyright and Terms of Use

HSP makes a claim of copyright only to original contributions made by "Family Ties on the Underground Railroad" participants and other staff. HSP makes no claim of copyright to the original text. Permission is granted to download, transmit or otherwise reproduce, distribute or display the text contributions to this work claimed by HSP for non-profit educational purposes, provided that the document/page header is included in its entirety. For inquiries about commercial uses, please contact HSP's Rights and Reproductions Department at rnr@hsp.org.

HSP retains the rights of all images unless otherwise noted. Possession of an HSP digital image does not constitute permission to use or publish it. Requests for digital imaging, other reproduction services, and the intended use of reproductions must be made in writing to the Rights and Reproductions Department at rnr@hsp.org.

Project Team

Tamara Gaskell, Historian and Director of Publications and Scholarly Programs
Dana Dorman, Project Manager
Rachel Moloshok, 
Project Assistant (2013) 
Sarah Newhouse, Project Assistant (2013-2014) 
Kelley Hirsch, Project Intern (Fall 2013) 
Lori Daggar, Project Intern (Fall 2013)  


This digital history project has been made possible in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and by the Pennsylvania Abolition Society Endowment Fund, c/o the Philadelphia Foundation.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this project do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.