All Americans who are descendants of slaves will now have an opportunity to experience and share in the Alex Haley “Roots” dream by helping index the 4 million names of former slaves.
These names were stored in the archives of the Freedmen’s Bureau (a.k.a. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands).
Ron McClain, Director of Minority Relations, Oakland/San Francisco Public Affairs Council of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, invited Bay Area residents, especially Blacks who are descendants of slaves, to volunteer to be a part of the Freedmen’s Bureau Project.
“We have invited you to encourage you to help us index or organize the records of primarily freed slaves and to recruit others to assist with this effort,” said McClain, welcoming Bay Area religious and community leaders to the introduction of the Freedmen’s Bureau Project. “This project is critical to the efforts of those of us with slave ancestors to be able to break through the proverbial wall that we encounter in our family research efforts, which predate the 1870 census.”
The Freedmen’s Bureau Records contain the names of 4 million former slaves that many Black genealogists claim to be a priceless collection of information that will permanently change the landscape of Black genealogy.
Thom Reed, a Family Search Partner Marketing Manager, the keynote speaker, demonstrated how once the records are converted from handwritten script to an indexed digital format they could become available and searchable online by individual name.
With a simple click of a computer key, a descendant of a former slave can help unite with his ancestors.
Savannah Bello, a Richmond resident, said these records can help to identify Black Descendants of Slaves as a distinct group rather than calling them African Americans, Negroes or Black Americans.
“When we understand our history and embrace it with pride, we will call ourselves ‘Descendants of Slaves,’” she said.
The Freedmen’s Bureau, created by President Abraham Lincoln, kept records that covered the post-Civil War Era period from 1865 to 1872 and includes detailed information about marriages, military service, bank records, property claims, labor contracts, hospital records, school and legal documents, death, and births.
The Bureau was tasked with helping newly freed slaves and other individuals devastated by the Civil War to claim and reclaim their liberty and livelihoods. For information, visit: www.discoverfreedmen.org/