Ancestral Records of African-Americans to Go Online in 2016

Ancestral Records of African-Americans to Go Online in 2016

Database of over one million records will soon be made available to the public.

Published June 24, 2015

When attempting to locate ancestry records, many African-Americans have trouble finding important pieces of their family’s history. Since slaves were seen as property, many files only mark the presence of a body with a single dash mark.

That's all about to change with Discover Freedmen, a free, online service that offers African-Americans access to an abundance of information collected by the Freedmen’s Bureau in 1865. The Freedmen’s Bureau, an administrative body created by Congress, assisted slaves as they transitioned into life as free citizens. These records include marriages as well as full names, dates of birth and history of slave ownership.

The announcement of this historical undertaking was made in line with Juneteenth holiday on June 19. Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery within the United States, as Union troops traveled to the South to inform slaves that the Civil War had ended.

This groundbreaking project was made possible by the efforts of the Smithsonian, the National Archives, the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society and the California African-American Museum. Over one million records, which include over four million names, will be digitized by volunteers. The release of the online records is slated for late 2016 in conjunction with the opening of Washington, D.C.’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture.

“The land was stolen from the Native-Americans. The labor was provided for free by African slaves. The entire foundation of American capitalism is based on slavery, on a free labor market," said Sharon Leslie Morgan, founder of Our Black Ancestry Foundation. "People don’t want to deal with that, and you have to." 

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(Photo: Corbis)

Written by Isabelle Thenor-Louis


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