Recently, FamilySearch, a large genealogy organization, announced that it is in collaboration with several other organizations to digitally release records they collected through the Freedmen’s Bureau. They plan to have the records searchable by 2016. This is a fascinating and important step, allowing millions of Americans to discover their true ancestry. It will also give people the opportunity to connect with relatives they never knew existed.
The Freedmen’s Bureau obtained information about an estimated 4 million newly freed slaves, including their previous owners, marriage and family history, military service, banking practices, and hospital and property records. These records serve as a treasure trove for African Americans who have been unable to learn more about their ancestry for years. They will also allow all Americans to learn how the United States transformed once Reconstruction began.
“The records serve as a bridge to slavery and freedom,” said Hollis Gentry, of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, which will showcase the records when it opens next year. “You can look at some of the original documents that were created at the time when these people were living… We get a sense of their voice. We get a sense of their desires, their goals, their dreams, their hopes.”