Frequently Asked Questions
About the GU272
Who are the GU272 Ancestors?
In 1838, the Maryland Jesuits sold more than 300 enslaved people to sugar plantations in southern Louisiana, in order to rescue Georgetown University from bankruptcy. In all, the Jesuits sold 314 men, women and children over a 5-year period stretching from 1838 to 1843. Today, these enslaved people are known collectively as the “GU272 Ancestors.”
Why are they called the “GU272”?
The phrase “GU272” is a modern designation for the large group of people sold by the Maryland Jesuits to southern Louisiana during the period 1838-1843. The term was almost certainly coined by a Georgetown undergraduate (perhaps as a Twitter hashtag) during the student protests that occurred on campus in October-November 2015.
As a practical matter, for the reasons explained below, the group of people sold in 1838 were neither “GU” nor “272.”
The 1838 sale was conducted by the Maryland Jesuits, for the financial benefit of a small institution then known as Georgetown College. This college would not become known as “Georgetown University” or “GU” for another 30-40 years.
Various sale-related documents (including the June 19, 1838 Sale Agreement) stated that the Maryland Jesuits were selling “two hundred and seventy two” enslaved individuals to purchasers in Louisiana. Even today historians and commentators uncritically accept the accuracy of this count. However, closer examination has shown that the 1838 sale actually involved (and radically reordered the lives and family relationships) of at least 314 distinct men, women and children.
Regardless of these facts, in the modern era, the enslaved people sold by the Maryland Jesuits in 1838 are known as the “GU272” to millions of people all over the world. “GU272” is best understood as a name or label for an historically and culturally important group of enslaved people, and not as an accurate census of its members.
What makes the GU272 community so interesting?
The GMP Ancestors and their descendants have captivated the world’s attention since their existence was first disclosed to the broad general public by Rachel S. Swarns, writing in The New York Times on April 16, 2016.
The GU272 community holds outsized cultural and historical significance for large audiences in the United States and abroad, for a number of reasons.
- The 1838 Jesuit Slave sale is believed to be the largest, best-documented mass sale of enslaved people in the history of the United States.
- The GU272 Ancestors are the largest group of enslaved people, identified in most cases by first and last name, known to have been owned by a major educational, religious, cultural, or civic institution in the United States.
- The GU272 Ancestors were owned and sold by the Maryland Jesuits, a group of priests ordained by the Roman Catholic Church.
- The GU272 were sold for the financial benefit of Georgetown College (now University), one of the finest educational institutions in America today.
- The GU272 Descendants (living and deceased) collectively form the largest, best-documented group of people descended from a single, interrelated population of individuals enslaved “under one roof” in U.S. history.
- The GU272 Memory Project presents the fruits of one of the largest and most ambitious genealogical group-studies ever undertaken in the United States (by comparison, The Mayflower had only 108 passengers).
- Taken and analyzed as a whole, the GU272 genealogy constitutes the “Framingham Heart Study” of the long-term social, religious, economic, cultural, educational, and public health impacts of slavery in the United States.
- The GU272 saga stands at the heart of a number of contemporary debates and discussions concerning social justice, racial relations, economic reparations, and the responsibility of modern religious and educational institutions for historic acts of wrongdoing and misconduct.
How can I get more information about the GU272 Ancestors?
For more information about the GU272 Ancestors and the 1838 Jesuit Slave Sale, please visit the Georgetown Slavery Archive located at:
Did the Maryland Jesuits and Georgetown University own other people as well?
It is estimated that, between 1634 and 1864, the Maryland Jesuits and Georgetown University (taken together as a single entity) owned more than 1,000 enslaved people. Their engagement in slaveholding and human trafficking did not end in 1838. Georgetown and the Maryland Jesuits continued to own enslaved people (and even bought and sold new ones) long after the conclusion of the 1838 sale of the GU272 Ancestors.
About the GU272 Memory Project
What is the GU272 Memory Project?
The GU272 Memory Project is the product of a collaboration among the GU272 descendants, the Georgetown Memory Project, and American Ancestors, the oldest non-profit genealogical society in America. The collective work of these groups -- which is accessible via this website -- includes a searchable online database of genealogical data for GU272 families, oral histories of more than 40 descendants, and educational material about genealogy.
In 2017, the Georgetown Memory Project partnered with American Ancestors, the oldest non-profit genealogical society in America, to digitize the GU272 genealogical research and turn it into a searchable online database that would be free to everyone. This website is the product of the partnership between GMP and American Ancestors.
Who are the primary partners in the GU272 Memory Project?
The GU272 Memory Project is a collaboration between the following institutions and individuals:
- The Georgetown Memory Project, Ltd.
- The New England Historic Genealogical Society (American Ancestors)
- Individual GU272 Descendants and their families
- Individual friends, scholars, and contributors to the GU272 Memory Project
The GU272 Memory Project is not affiliated in any way with Georgetown University or the Maryland Jesuits.
How do I contact the GU272 Memory Project?
Please email GU272@nehgs.org for inquiries or information about the project.
About American Ancestors
Who is American Ancestors?
American Ancestors and New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) is America’s founding genealogical organization and the most respected name in family history. Established in 1845, we are the nation’s leading comprehensive resource for family history research and the largest organization of its kind in the world. We provide expert family history services through our staff, original scholarship, data-rich website, educational opportunities, and research center to help family historians of all levels explore their past and understand their families’ unique place in history.
We are a member-based nonprofit corporation dedicated to advancing the study of family history in America and beyond, by educating, inspiring, and connecting people through our scholarship, collections, and expertise.
Who is the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS)?
American Ancestors is the global brand of the New England Historic Genealogical Society.
Why does American Ancestors support the GU272 Memory Project?
As a non-profit, American Ancestors finances all GU272 Memory Project through philanthropic support.
Does American Ancestors make money from the GU272 Memory Project?
American Ancestors receives no revenue directly from the GU272 Memory Project.
Do I have to complete a free registration with American Ancestors to access the GU272 Memory Project?
Accessing the GU272 database and AmericanAncesTREES requires visitors to create a FREE Guest User account. No money is required to access any GU272 data.
Do I have to become a paid member of American Ancestors to access the GU272 Memory Project?
No. Only the GU272 database and AmericanAncesTREES require visitors to create a FREE Guest User account. Most other content on the site is available to anyone without an account.
How can I become a member of American Ancestors?
Please read about membership here:
How do I contact American Ancestors?
For general questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Georgetown Memory Project
Who is the Georgetown Memory Project (GMP)?
The Georgetown Memory Project is an independent, non-profit research institute headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Founded in November 2015 by Georgetown alumnus Richard Cellini, the GMP is dedicated to identifying and locating approximately 300 enslaved people (known today as the “GU272”) sold by Georgetown University and the Maryland Jesuits to southern Louisiana in 1838, and tracing their direct descendants (living and deceased).
The GMP is guided by the Jesuit principle of magis (doing more), and is committed to the ideals of Truth, Reconciliation and Reunion. The GMP’s registered membership consists of more than 500 individuals, and includes educators, academics, scholars, graduate students, researchers, genealogists and family historians.
As of May 1, 2019, the GMP had identified 215 of the original members of the GU272, and located 8,425 direct descendants (more than half of whom are alive today). In addition, the GMP produces and supports original research, DNA studies, and oral histories about the GU272 community. The work of the Georgetown Memory Project has been extensively chronicled over the past three years by the national media, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Yorker, CBS News, and National Public Radio.
For more information about the Georgetown Memory Project, please visit:
How is the GMP related to Georgetown University and the Maryland Jesuits? [RJC]
The Georgetown Memory Project is not affiliated in any way with Georgetown University or the Maryland Jesuits. The GMP is an independent non-profit corporation organized under the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and is recognized as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. The GMP is funded entirely by voluntary contributions from individual donors, and receives no financial support of any kind from Georgetown University or the Maryland Jesuits.
Why did the GMP select NEHGS as its partner?
The Georgetown Memory Project is committed to sharing its work on the GU272 genealogy with the widest audience possible (including, but not limited to actual and potential GU272 descendants), in perpetuity, on a non-commercial basis.
After giving extensive consideration to number of potential collaborators around the world, in July 2018, the GMP selected the New England Historic Genealogical Society (American Ancestors) as its partner in developing the GU272 Memory Project, for reasons that included the following:
Founded in 1845, NEHGS (American Ancestors) is the oldest and largest non-profit organization in the United States dedicated to the study and practice genealogy, and the preservation and presentation of family histories.
NEHGS (the institution entrusted by the Mayflower Society with the digitization of the Mayflower genealogy) is the “gold standard” in family research.
NEHGS has developed the world’s most sophisticated software made available in the world today on a non-profit basis for the preservation and presentation of genealogical information.
NEHGS has the capacity and willingness to make the GU272 genealogy available to the general public not just in one place or location, but literally throughout the world over the Internet.
NEHGS has made an extremely generous institutional and financial commitment to sharing the GU272 genealogy with the world in perpetuity, on a non-commercial basis, free of charge, to all interested members of the general public.
NEHGS is dedicated to the preservation and presentation of the histories of all families from all regions of the United States, and has a keen and demonstrated interest in telling the stories of African-American families in particular.
NEHGS possesses an unrivaled reputation for institutional scholarship, integrity, public outreach, and research excellence.
Does the GMP make money from the GU272 Memory Project?
The Georgetown Memory Project generates no revenue and earns no money from the GU272 Memory Project.
Voluntary contributions to the GMP may be made through the GMP’s website, located at www.georgetownmemoryproject.org. All contributions received through this website will be used to support the GU272 Memory Project and other non-profit initiatives sponsored by the Georgetown Memory Project.
How do I join the Georgetown Memory Project?
To join the GMP, please email: joinGMP@gmail.com
How do I contact the Georgetown Memory Project?
For more information about the GMP, please email: aboutGMP@gmail.com
About the GU272 Descendants
What is the definition of a “GU272 Descendant”?
There is no single “official” definition of who qualifies as a GU272 Descendant. Different organizations, initiatives, families, and people use different definitions, tailored to their own particular needs and requirements.
The GU272 Memory Project has adopted the definition used by the Georgetown Memory Project (i.e., the independent non-profit research institute founded by Richard Cellini in November 2015 to identify the GU272 Ancestors, and trace their direct descendants, living and deceased).
Specifically, the Georgetown Memory Project has defined a GU272 Descendant as any person (living or deceased) who both:
Is directly descended (i.e., as a child, grandchild, great-grandchild, etc.) from one or more “GU272 Ancestors” (i.e., the 314+ distinct individuals involved in the mass-sale of enslaved people conducted by the Maryland Jesuits during the period 1838-1843); and
Has a claim of descent that is supported by evidence that satisfies the Genealogical Proof Standard.
The GMP’s definition of GU272 Descendant includes any person (living or deceased) who is directly descended from a GU272 Ancestor or earlier GU272 Descendant as a matter of biological fact (whether conceived inside or outside of marriage). In addition, the definition includes persons connected to a GU272 Ancestor or earlier GU272 Descendant through adoption or some other commonly-recognized form of non-paternal or non-maternal event (i.e., a situation in which a child is strongly presumed to be the offspring of a person who is not in fact the child’s biological parent).
The GMP’s definition of GU272 Descendant does not include the spouses of GU272 Descendants (unless such spouses have their own independent basis for claiming direct descent from a GU272 Ancestor).
For more information about the GMP’s definition of GU272 Descendant, please contact the GMP at: aboutGMP@gmail.com.
How many GU272 Descendants are there?
As of May 1, 2019, the Georgetown Memory Project had identified 8,425 direct descendants (living and deceased) of the GU272 Ancestors. The GMP estimates that more than half of those descendants were alive as of May 1, 2019.
The GMP estimates that there are approximately 12,000-15,000 GU272 Descendants in all (living and deceased). Approximately half of these descendants are believed to be alive today.
Who determines who is a GU272 Descendant?
No single authority or individual has exclusive power to determine who is a GU272 Descendant. Different organizations, initiatives, families, and people make their own determination, applying definitions and standards that are tailored to their own needs and requirements.
When deciding who to include in its database of GU272 Descendants, the GU272 Memory Project relies on the definitions and determinations made by the Georgetown Memory Project Ltd. (the independent non-profit research institute founded by Richard Cellini in November 2015 to identify the GU272 Ancestors and trace their direct descendants, living and deceased).
What role does the Georgetown Memory Project play in identifying GU272 Descendants?
The Georgetown Memory Project is one of several organizations and initiatives actively engaged in researching and identifying GU272 Ancestors and their descendants.
The GMP follows its own internally-developed evidentiary standards and definitions when identifying GU272 Ancestors and Descendants for use in GMP-sponsored initiatives, publications, and events.
Since its founding in late 2015, the GMP’s definitions and determinations have been voluntarily adopted and applied by a wide array of organizations, initiatives, families, and individuals with a special interest in GU272 history and genealogy. The GU272 Memory Project has adopted the GMP’s definitions and determinations in connection with the materials presented on this website.
On what basis does the GMP make its determinations?
The GMP’s genealogical determinations are made by professional genealogists, based on archival (i.e., paper) records, in accordance with the requirements of the Genealogical Proof Standard.
In all cases, the GMP strives to produce and publish research that is:
Credible, objective, rigorous, and compliant with the requirements of the Genealogical Proof Standard.
Independent, unbiased, and beyond the influence and control of third-party organizations, institutions, and individuals.
Methodologically-consistent over time.
Useful by others seeking to expand and extend the world’s stock of knowledge relating to the GU272 Ancestors and their direct descendants.
Transparent and readily subject to examination, criticism and review by interested third-parties and experts.
Widely accepted by outside experts as the “gold standard” in GU272 genealogical research.
Where does the GMP get its genealogical information?
GMP genealogical conclusions are derived from archival (i.e., paper-based) evidence collected by expert genealogists from historical records available in the public domain. These historical records includes (among others) the following:
- Birth records
- Sacramental (i.e. church and religious) records
- Tax records
- Runaway slave advertisements and notices
- Mortgage filings
- Wills, testamentary bequests, and estate appraisals
- Bankruptcy records
- Manumission records
- Apprenticeship indentures
- Civil War pension filings
- Emancipation-related records and filings
- Freedmen’s Bureau records
- US Census records
- Court filings and testimony
- Residential property deeds and records
- Newspaper articles and obituaries
- Death certificates
- Burial information and cemetery maps
Although occasionally helpful in guiding or confirming our archival research, the GMP does not base its determinations solely on any of the following types of information (alone or in combination):
- Family oral tradition
- Private individual testimony, opinions or beliefs
- Geographical proximity to known GU272 Ancestors or descendants
- Surnames commonly found among known GU272 Ancestors or descendants
- DNA test results
To the greatest extent possible, the GMP uses its best efforts to exclude private (i.e., non-public) information from its published databases, works, and reference materials.
What role does DNA testing play in the GMP’s process?
The GMP’s genealogical determinations are based on archival (i.e., paper) records, and in all cases satisfy the requirements of the Genealogical Proof Standard.
A DNA match (i.e., evidence of shared DNA between a given individual and a verified GU272 descendant) is not by itself sufficient to prove descent from a GU272 Ancestor. (While the shared DNA may have been contributed by a common GU272 Ancestor, it may also have been contributed by a common ancestor completely unconnected to the GU272).
Nevertheless, the GMP often encourages potential descendants to take a commercially available DNA test, and to compare their test results with the results of verified GU272 descendants. While not conclusive proof of GU272 descent, DNA matches (especially so-called “strong” matches) can be helpful in guiding or confirming the GMP’s archival research.
Does the GMP ever exclude anyone as a GU272 Descendant?
No. The GMP never issues a research determination or conclusion that excludes someone from the GU272 community. The GMP’s role is to include as many people in the GU272 Descendant community as possible (consistent with the available archival evidence, and the requirements of the Genealogical Proof Standard).
About My Connection to the GU272
How do I know if I am related to the GU272?
For information about determining whether you or someone else might be related to the GU272 Ancestors, please visit the Georgetown Memory Project website located at www.georgetownmemoryproject.org. Please download the GMP’s free PDF entitled “How Do I Know if I am Related to the GU272?”
If I think I might be related to the GU272, who should I contact?
If you think that you or someone you know might be related to the GU272, please contact the GMP at aboutGMP@gmail.com.
When emailing the GMP about a possible connection to the GU272 community, please provide some or all of the information suggested in the GMP’s PDF entitled “How Do I Know if I am Related to the GU272” (downloadable at no cost from the GMP website).
The GMP does not presently have the staff or resources required to thoroughly research the family tree of everyone contacting it by email. Likewise, the GMP’s staff is not available for hire on a private basis by individuals wishing to explore a possible connection between themselves and the GU272 Descendant community.
However, at no charge whatsoever, the GMP will compare whatever family names you choose to share with the GMP, to names already contained in the GMP’s database of verified GU272 descendants.
If the GMP is able to connect your family to one or more GU272 Ancestors, it will provide you with a family tree documenting the known connections, free of charge. If the GMP is unable to make a connection based on the names you have shared, it may suggest that you take a DNA test (at your own expense) and compare your results against a library of DNA test-results obtained from verified GU272 ancestors. While never conclusive by themselves, DNA results are occasionally helpful in guiding or confirming the GMP’s archive-based research activities and conclusions.
In all events, if the GMP is unable to establish a connection between you and the GU272 community at the present time, you are always welcome to contact the GMP at a later date. The GMP’s database are constantly growing, and new information is added on a regular basis.
How can I take a DNA test?
DNA tests are available to members of the general public, from a number of commercial providers, including Ancestry.com (among others).
The GMP manages a collection of DNA test-results from approximately 25-50 verified GU272 Descendants, on Ancestry.com. These kits are managed under the name “Georgetown Memory Project” and are labelled as such when they appear in a test-taker’s list of DNA matches. While never conclusive by themselves, DNA results are occasionally helpful in guiding or confirming the GMP’s archive-based research activities and conclusions.
The Georgetown Memory Project has no special commercial partnership or relationship with Ancestry.com.
Do I have to take a DNA test in order to establish my connection to the GU272?
No. It is not necessary to take a DNA test in order to establish a connection to the GU272 Ancestors.
I have a DNA match with one or more GU272 Descendants. Does this mean that I am a GU272 Descendant?
A DNA match with a verified GU272 Descendant is not, by itself, sufficient to prove descent from a GU272 Ancestor. While the shared DNA may have been contributed by a common GU272 Ancestor, it may also have been contributed by a common ancestor completely unconnected to the GU272.
I took a DNA test, and have matches to GU272 Descendants. How can I contact them?
The GMP manages a collection of DNA test-results from approximately 25-50 verified GU272 Descendants, on Ancestry.com. These kits are managed under the name “Georgetown Memory Project” and are labelled as such (along with the initials of a verified GU272 Descendant) when they appear in a test-taker’s list of DNA matches.
The GMP cannot disclose the identity of a GU272 Descendant participating in the GU272 DNA study, without the Descendant’s permission. However, the GMP will be happy to pass along email messages to participating Descendants. Some Descendants will respond to these messages, while others will not. The GMP has no influence or control over these decisions.
About Our Database
Who is included in the GU272 Memory Project’s online database?
The GU272 Memory Project’s online database contains the names of GU272 Descendants who have been identified and/or verified by the Georgetown Memory Project. Every person named in the database is a verified GU272 descendant.
As of May 1, 2019, the Georgetown Memory Project had identified a total of 8,425 descendants (living and deceased). The GMP estimates that more than 4,000 of these descendants are alive today.
Each month, the GMP locates an additional 200 descendants (living and deceased). The GU272 Memory Project’s online database will be updated at regular intervals (most likely on an annual or semi-annual basis).
For privacy-related reasons, only a portion of all known GU272 descendants are included in the online database. Specifically, the online database only contains the names and genealogical records of persons who were born in 1919 or earlier.
After close consultation with senior advisors from the GU272 Descendant community, the 1919 cut-off date was established by the GMP and American Ancestors for the purpose of protecting the privacy of living GU272 Descendants (and especially children under the age of 18). For information about GU272 Descendants born after 1919, please contact the Georgetown Memory Project at the following email address: about GMP@gmail.com
Fortunately, the online database publishes the names and records of the oldest and most-distant GU272 Descendants (i.e., those born in 1919 or earlier). Family historians typically consider these records to be the most difficult and valuable ones to locate.
Are some GU272 Descendants not included in the online database?
Every person included in the GU272 Memory Project database is a verified GU272 Descendant. However, not every verified GU272 Descendant is included in the database. This fact does not in any way alter or diminish their status as a GU272 Descendant.
Among others, the following categories of GU272 Descendants are not included in the database at this time:
- Descendants who were born after 1919 (the names of these descendants have been excluded from the online database for privacy-related reasons).
- Descendants who have expressly requested that their names be excluded from the online database (any person can request exclusion of their own name from the database at any time).
- Descendants who have been located and verified by the Georgetown Memory Project, but not yet added to the GU272 Memory Project’s online database (updates are scheduled to occur on an annual or semi-annual basis).
Who decides who is included in the online database?
The Georgetown Memory Project determines who is included in the online database of the GU272 Memory Project.
If you wish to suggest a name for inclusion in the database at the next regular update (or wish to request the exclusion of your own name from the database), please contact the Georgetown Memory Project at the following address: aboutGMP@gmail.com.
How do I merge information from a GU272 Family Tree into my own tree?
The best way to get data from a GU272 Family Tree into your tree platform is to do it manually, by entering each individual in your tree. Currently there is no automatic import function, though we are planning that for a future release.
Can I suggest someone for inclusion in the database?
To suggest someone for inclusion in the online database, please contact the Georgetown Memory Project at: aboutGMP@gmail.com.
Can I share suggestions for changes and corrections to the database?
To share suggestions for changes and corrections to the database, please contact the Georgetown Memory Project at: aboutGMP@gmail.com.
Can I request the exclusion of my own name from the database?
To request the exclusion of your own name from the database, please contact the Georgetown Memory Project at: aboutGMP@gmail.com.
My ancestor isn’t in the database – why not?
There are a number of reasons why a GU272 Descendant may not be included in the online database, including the following:
- The Georgetown Memory Project is not yet aware of the Descendant.
- The GMP is not yet able to independently verify the Descendant.
- The Descendant was born in 1920 or later.
- The Descendant has requested that his or her own name be excluded from the database.
- The Descendant’s name is scheduled to be added in an update has not yet been completed.
If you would like to suggest someone for inclusion in the online database, please contact the Georgetown Memory Project at: aboutGMP@gmail.com.
Will the database be revised and updated in the future?
We intend to revise and update the online database at regular intervals (most likely on an annual or semi-annual basis).
For queries relating to database updates, please contact the Georgetown Memory Project at: aboutGMP@gmail.com.
How do I get my oral history recorded with this project?
If you would like to have your oral history recorded in connection with this project, please contact the Georgetown Memory Project at: aboutGMP@gmail.com.
Does Georgetown University offer any benefits to GU272 Descendants?
For more information on this topic, please visit: https://uadmissions.georgetown.edu/descendants
I’m a GU272 Descendant. Can I include information from this website in my application for admission to Georgetown University?
Yes. GU272 Descendants are welcome to include information from this website in their applications for admission to Georgetown University. No further permission or authorization is required.
I’m a GU272 Descendant. Who should I contact if I want help showing Georgetown University how I am related to the GU272?
For additional assistance in showing Georgetown University how you are related to the GU272, please contact the Georgetown Memory Project at: aboutGMP@gmail.com.
The GMP provides this assistance completely free of charge.
How do I hire a professional genealogist to do research on my ancestry?
American Ancestors and other organizations offer this service for a fee. To hire an American Ancestors genealogist, please visit
How can I support this project?
The GU272 Memory Project is a joint collaboration of the Georgetown Memory Project and American Ancestors (New England Historic Genealogical Society).
- To support the Georgetown Memory Project, please visit: www.georgetownmemoryproject.org.
- To support American Ancestors (New England Historic Genealogical Society), please visit: https://www.americanancestors.org/services/which-service
Your contributions are most welcome.