THE FREEDMEN’S BUREAU
Emancipation freed nearly 4 million slaves. The Freedmen’s Bureau was established to help transition them from slavery to citizenship, providing food, housing, education, and medical care. And for the first time in U.S. history, the names of those individuals were systematically recorded and preserved for future generations.
To help bring thousands of records to light, The Freedmen’s Bureau Project was created as a set of partnerships between FamilySearch International and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society (AAHGS), and the California African American Museum.
The project began on Juneteenth (June 19) 2015 and with the help of more than twenty-five thousand volunteers, was completed on June 20, 2016. As a result of the tireless effort of thousands, the names of nearly 1.8 million men, women and children are now searchable online. Now that the images have been indexed, millions have access to the names of their ancestors, allowing individuals to build their family trees and connect with their heritage.
YOU CAN STILL BE INVOLVED
Using the indexed and browsed records provided by FamilySearch, the National Museum of African American History and Culture has begun a collaboration with the Smithsonian’s Transcription Center. The SI Transcription Center is a platform for digital volunteers to transcribe and review transcriptions of Smithsonian collections. With almost 2 million individual records in the collection, the Freedmen’s Bureau Transcription Project will be the largest crowdsourcing project ever sponsored by the Smithsonian.
To supplement the indexing work done by FamilySearch volunteers, the Freedmen’s Bureau Transcription Project will transcribe word-for-word every document in the collection. When completed, the papers will be keyword searchable. This joint effort will help increase access to the Freedmen’s Bureau collection and help the public learn more about the United States in the Reconstruction Era.