Thursday, March 31, 2016

A Push to the Finish for the Freedmen's Bureau

Last year I wrote about the Freedmen's Bureau transcription project, the effort coordinated by FamilySearch to create an (almost) every-name index to all the surviving records created by the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands.  FamilySearch had already digitized the records and placed them online.  What was needed next was to create the index.

Unfortunately, the genealogical community has not jumped onto this project with the same enthusiasm it had for the 1940 census.  I don't remember how long that took, but I think it was something like four or five months?  We're nine months into the Freedmen's Bureau project now, and it's only about 64% complete.

The project was started last year on Juneteenth.  FamilySearch is hoping that enough volunteers can be energized to finish the transcription in time for this year's Juneteenth celebrations.

Remember, these records are so important in black family history research because they are one of the most easily accessible primary sources that can indicate the last owner of a formerly enslaved individual.  Many of the records created by the Freedmen's Bureau directly asked for the name of the last slave owner.  That owner's name is critical to finding more information about the individual prior to Emancipation.

And these records are helpful even if your ancestors were not Freedmen!  Judy Russell, the Legal Genealogist, posted about how the records are useful to anyone doing Southern research.

New "indexing parties" are being organized to help get us to the finish line.  At the Oakland FamilySearch Library, we have three scheduled for April:
Thursday, April 14,  3:00-9:00 p.m.
Thursday, April 21,  3:00-9:00 p.m.
Monday, April 25, 3:00-9:00 p.m.

If you haven't used the FamilySearch indexing software yet, we'll have volunteers on hand who will be happy to teach you.  We'll also have people there who have worked on these records already, who can give advice on working with them.

If you think working with a group on this sounds good, come over and join in!  The library is at 4766 Lincoln Avenue in Oakland, California.

If it's difficult for you to get to the library, you're not in our area, or you just would prefer to work on your computer, we've got you covered:  You can help from the comfort of your own home!  Go to, where you'll find the information you need to transcribe at home, maybe while wearing bunny slippers.

C'mon, guys, we can do it!

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