Freedmen’s Bureau Project Reaches Halfway Point

  • 1 March 2016

More than 15,750 volunteers have digitally indexed over 1 million records in the Freedmen's Bureau Project.

“Each indexed document brings us closer to reclaiming our ancestral heritage and historical past.” —Hollis Gentry, genealogy specialist at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC)

A significant milestone was recently achieved in the Freedmen’s Bureau Project. According to FamilySearch International, 50 percent of the records have been indexed and arbitrated.

Over 15,750 volunteers have digitally indexed over 1 million records. The project was announced at a news conference on June 19, 2015, in the California African American Museum in Los Angeles, on “Juneteenth,” the celebration of Emancipation Day more than 150 years ago.

The Freedmen’s Bureau Project is expected to be completed in time to coincide with the September 2016 opening of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington, D.C.

The Freedmen’s Bureau, which was organized at the end of the Civil War, offered assistance to freed slaves. Handwritten records of these transactions include marriage registers, hospital or patient registers, educational efforts, census lists, labor contracts, and indenture or apprenticeship papers. The records were compiled in 15 states and the District of Columbia.

Maria Marion, Hilton Wright, and others work on indexing the Freedmen's Bureau records while attending RootsTech in Salt Lake City February 4–6, 2016. Marion is the associate program manager and diversity council member for Pepperdine’s Graduate School of Education and Psychology. She has been an avid supporter of the Freedmen's Bureau project. Photo by Thom Reed.

“The genealogical community is fully embracing these records,” said Hollis Gentry, genealogy specialist at NMAAHC. “You’ll find African American genealogists are quite excited about the Freedmen’s Bureau Project. It offers a tremendous potential for them to find their ancestors in this large group of federal records that may bridge the gap between freedom and slavery in the records.

“We greatly appreciate the contributions made by our partners, by national and international volunteers, and by Smithsonian volunteers. Each indexed document brings us closer to reclaiming our ancestral heritage and historical past.”