FamilySearch, a nonprofit genealogy organization operated by the Mormon Church, has announced that it will soon make available online the millions of records of former slaves that were collected by the Freedmen’s Bureau. Participating in the project are the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the American Historical and Genealogical Society, and the California African American Museum.
The Freedmen’s Bureau was established in March 1865 to give food, clothing, and other rations to newly freed slaves. The bureau also was entrusted with providing education and healthcare resources to the former slaves. The bureau compiled information on more than four million individuals. The information included names, family history, marriages, former slaveowners, property and financial records, and other information. Until now, the handwritten records have been accessible only in the National Archives. But FamilySearch will digitize the records and develop an index to make the information readily available and searchable.
“These records are a treasure trove of information, but previously, one had to travel to the National Archives to access the records in their original form,” said Hollis Gentry, genealogy specialist at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. “Our museum is so excited to participate in this project because it allows us to share these valuable records with a much wider audience.”
FamilySearch and its partners hope to complete the project in time for the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in the fall of 2016.