Family History Event Brings California Lawmakers Together for Juneteenth Celebration

Contributed By Margaret Snider, Church News contributor

  • 12 July 2017

Chairman Chris Holden of the California Legislative Black Caucus opens the 2017 CLBC Juneteenth celebration and Freedmen’s Bureau African American family history event. Photo by Patrick Twomey.

Genealogy consultants and experts gathered and helped visiting judges, members of the California Legislative Black Caucus, and others to search Freedmen’s Bureau records at the California State Capitol in Sacramento on June 26. The event took place, appropriately, in the “Eureka” room—translated, “I have found it!”

The event was held in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the California Legislative Black Caucus and legislative recognition of California African American judges. It also coincided with the legislative celebration of Juneteenth, marking the abolition of slavery in the United States.

After the special legislative session honoring the judges and African American members of the legislature, many of the participants moved downstairs to attend the CLBC family history program, organized by California assembly members Tom Lackey and Brian Dahle. The event partnered with FamilySearch, the Freedmen’s Bureau, the California African American Museum, the Smithsonian Institute, and the Church.

Bryson Gray of Logan, Utah, offered a stirring rendition of “Deep Are the Roots” at the end of the CLBC family history event. Photo by Patrick Twomey.

Members of the California Legislative Black Caucus and their staffs and California African American judges receive assistance looking up their ancestry in Freedmen’s Bureau records. Photo by Margaret Snider.

“I’m excited to welcome you all to an event with the Freedmen’s Bureau project which chronicles the family histories of African Americans,” said Chris Holden, CLBC chairman, during his opening remarks. “The legacy continues in this, our 50th year of the Black Caucus, where we recognize the importance of knowing your past and determining what transformative actions we would take to make our future more promising and prosperous.”

The Freedmen’s Bureau has made records of nearly 2 million individuals searchable online, many of whom were formerly enslaved African Americans. The records can be accessed at DiscoverFreedmen.org.

“Despite the fact that the completed database has been only available for one year and six days, many African Americans are finding success in locating their Civil War-era ancestors,” said Thom Reed of FamilySearch International. Reed is a senior global outreach manager working with the African diaspora throughout the world.

Other speakers included Diane E. Watson, former U.S. Representative and ambassador to Micronesia; George O. Davis, executive director of the California African American Museum; and Judy Matthews, representing the National Congress of Black Women. Many other dignitaries attended and conferred with consultants on their ancestry.

“This is really a great opportunity for us to participate in a project that is very meaningful and allows us individually to make a connection to our roots,” Holden said. “It also is an opportunity for others within the community to make an equal connection.”

 

Chris Holden, chairman of the California Legislative Black Caucus, goes over his ancestry records with Jackie Stewart of the African American Genealogy Society of Northern California at the Freedmen’s Bureau African American family history event. Photo by Margaret Snider.

Thom Reed of FamilySearch International gave an overview of the Freedmen’s Bureau project at the special event at the California Capitol on June 26. Photo by Patrick Twomey.

Members of the California Legislative Black Caucus and their staffs and California African American judges receive assistance looking up their ancestry in Freedmen’s Bureau records. Photo by Patrick Twomey.

The CLBC 50-year celebration and African American judges legislative day coincided with the Freedmen’s Bureau African American family history event on June 26. Photo by Margaret Snider.