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Special Project

Special Project
From the 14th Annual Shorty Awards

Ancestry Records of Resilience

Entered in Branded Content, Branded Series


For centuries Black Americans fought injustices and overcame challenges that still echo in the world today. Understanding those challenges relies on us continuing to learn about the people and history that come before our time. These stories often uncover a powerful resiliency in our ancestors that impacts who we are today and shapes generations that follow.

Unfortunately, many Black Americans face what is known as “the brick wall,” a reality wherein formerly enslaved families cannot access their own genealogical history. Barred from reading or writing, Black people were at the mercy of others to document their lives. But these stories are not lost. Ancestry has contributed to breaking down this wall by making more than 3.5M records from the Freedmen’s Bureau fully digitized and searchable.  The Freedmen’s Bureau was constructed after the civil war to provide aid to the formerly enslaved, and the first time these individuals would be documented as freed people.

This collection, made free on Ancestry, is bringing life to stories that have never been told. Black Americans have a new opportunity to connect with their heritage and inspire the next generation through the resilience of those who came before.  

Ancestry and New York Times Advertising set out to:

Strategy and Execution

With the goal of inspiring audiences to learn more about their own families, New York Times Advertising and Ancestry came together to create Records of Resilience, a series of five powerful films that showcased the stories of Black Americans. In each inspirational story we watch as families use Ancestry to journey back in time and uncover groundbreaking discoveries and break down the brick wall. Each family emerges from the experience inspired by the resilience of their ancestors and with a better understanding of who they are.

Amarie Baker learned the value of voting has been in her family since 1867. Kimberly Cook was able to trace her family back to Louis B. Toomer, a Black educator and organizer who taught newly freed people how to read during the Reconstruction Era. And Ancestry connected Corey Cambridge with a new family member, their ancestors torn apart by slavery, helping each other retrace and understand their past.  

Each video positioned Ancestry as a crucial tool to breaking down the wall that many Black people in America experience when learning about their past. We inspired viewers to learn where their family’s resilience comes from through inspirational and emotionally engaging stories.

Each video was distributed across the New York Times, digital and social. Native drivers and FlexXL video cutdowns drove an engaged audience to watch the full-length videos.

To help drive contextual credibility for the series Ancestry had a year-long sponsorship of The New York Times editorial platform Black History, Continued; a newsroom series that explores pivotal moments and transformative figures in Black culture and examines how the past shapes the present and future. Additionally, Ancestry sponsored virtual events with Black History, Continued; connecting with our most-engaged audience to build real human connection with potential consumers.


This powerful campaign unearthed stories of resilience that had been buried and inspired those who watched to do the same. Exposure to the campaign led about 2 in 3 readers to take some action, from interpersonal discussion to online actions. The insightful stories and historic images helped over 8 in 10 New York Times readers remember all five Paid Posts, signaling effective branding.

The stories successfully positioned Ancestry as the main tool for Black Americans to break down the wall, with most respondents signaling the content was impactful; one noting that “For many Black Americans or any Blacks for that matter, the use of Ancestry could be the only way they can learn about their past, mostly because of slavery.” Another acknowledging that “[Ancestry] is inclusive of all.”

Successfully featuring Ancestry as the driver behind the discoveries, these stories of resilience generated a

The video series had a powerful hold on audiences proven by the significant time spent watching the stories on the NYT landing page; all five videos outperformed NYT benchmarks for Session Time by 230%.



Entry Credits