CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The University of Virginia has hired a genealogist to help find descendants of enslaved laborers who once worked at the university.

The Descendant Outreach Program began on July 1 to research and find relatives of the men and women who helped build the university between the window of 1818 to 1865. The project is part of UVA President's Commission on Slavery, which aims to commemorate the men and women who were once enslaved at the university and reconcile with its past.

Shelley Murphy, a genealogist working on the project, is using social media and a list of names in efforts to connect people. She says it's important because the descendants will be the first to see the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers at an event in November.

"There's families that might not know that they had that attachment or that their family were even part of that, so being able to access the information that their enslaved ancestors worked, they can walk around and they're seeing the fruit of the labor that happened," Murphy said.

People involved in the project are using a public Facebook page to post names of those enslaved to help descendants communicate with the ongoing research.

So far, the initiative has been met with success and people have reached out to add more names to the list.

“It's actually hitting faster than I thought it would, and I guess that's the beauty of the social media,” Murphy said. “But yes, I've been able to reach out with some descendants of certain families locally, and some that don't even live in the area.”

Murphy says her goal is to locate as many descendants as she can for the November event. She has plans to hold community sessions and genealogy training to help people identify their ancestors.

Murphy is based out of the Jefferson School’s African American Heritage Center. People can contact her through Facebook or email if they have descendants of the enslaved laborers.

The memorial is scheduled to open to the public in April 2020.