Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Freedmen's Bureau Indexing Initiative Begins June 19th

Live Announcement to be streamed online

A major initiative will be announced live on Friday June 19th at 1:00 pm EDT. Coming live via video stream from California, Family Search will announce that the genealogically critical records from the Bureau of Refugees Freedmen and Abandoned Lands---the Freedmen's Bureau, are now available online for genealogists to study. And for this critical record set to be used best by the genealogy community, Family Search is putting forth a call to action to get these records indexed!

Genealogists of all backgrounds will find the amazing records of the Bureau, to be vital to all 19th century southern research. The Bureau is also known by many researchers and scholars as National Archives Record Group 105. Now thanks to digitization genealogists with ancestors throughout the south, will be able to explore labor contracts, transportation records, hospital records and much more.

All Cultures Are Reflected in the Bureau Records

One thing must be emphasized---Record Group 105 should be of interest to all Americans, white, black and even Native American. The "refugees" served by the bureau were white southerners. The Freedmen were black people once enslaved, and newly freed, and the abandoned lands belonged to the white land owners, left abandoned during the years of the Civil War. This record set will allow many people to find their ancestors during those critical  years between 1865 and 1870 when they appear in the first Federal census as citizens in the land of their birth. And many southern whites whose families were left without land and resources after the Civil War will also find their ancestors receiving rations and petitioning for aid after the surrender.  Those whose ancestors served in the Union Army will find their ancestors among the workers of the Bureau, and others may find them as teachers in the Freedmen schools throughout the south. In western field offices like Ft. Smith Arkansas, one will even find Cherokee citizens being served by the bureau.

Early Marriages Recorded
For many, a particular treat will come with the dozens of Field offices of the Freedmen's Bureau that allowed formerly enslaved men and women to have their marriages recorded. Some of the records appear as simple ledgers while others are full elaborate certificates. These ceremonies were often recorded by the chaplain stationed at the military post that became the site of the Bureaus's field office. In some field offices full pre-marriage data was collected, in the form of co-habitation records as well. This name-rich record set will provide new information for researchers, and the access to these records is going to open doors once considered closed to many researchers whose ancestors were enslaved.

In previous posts I have shared samples of records from the Bureau. Hospital Records as well as marriage records, and transportation records reflect the vast amount of data found in the various field offices. In addition, bounty records reflecting payment of US Colored Troops after the war are also among the wonderful records to be found.

In 2011, I wrote a piece devoted to the Ft. Smith Arkansas marriage records that reflected ceremonies performed by Chaplain Francis Springer. 

The Challenge
The challenge is to get them indexed, so that families can be found. 

Many unwritten chapters in American history lie among the millions of pages to be indexed. 

Our charge is to get to them, and bring forth their names so that we can bring forth their stories!

We can get this done!


Ms Vicky said...


Anonymous said...

This is so exciting! I can't wait to start indexing.

Linda Simms said...

Thanks Angela!! I will participate in this effort.