Community Members Make Freedmen’s Records Available

September 30, 2015  - by 

On Saturday, September 26, community members met to learn about and index Freedmen’s Bureau records at a church in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. Thom Reed, Senior Marketing Manager with FamilySearch International, presented a historical perspective about the Freedmen’s Bureau and the importance of indexing and making these Freedmen’s records more broadly available.

For most of the attendees, this was the first time they had heard about the Freedmen’s Bureau in any detail and certainly the first time they had indexed these important records. With a little help from Thom and others, everyone was able to index and submit several batches of records.

This indexing event was part of the New Mexico Statewide Day of Service in which thousands of volunteers joined together to serve others and their communities. Dozens of projects were completed on this Day of Service. In addition to this indexing event, projects included cemetery cleanup, harvesting fruit and collecting food for local food banks, litter pickup, and many more.

Thom Reed Freedman's Class.2jpg

Emancipation freed nearly 4 million slaves. The Freedmen’s Bureau was established to help transition “freed men” 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.

For many African Americans, their family history efforts stop with the 1870 US Census because prior to 1870, slaves had not been included in US Census records. Once these indexed records become available in 2016, the Freedmen’s Bureau records will help millions discover their roots.

Thousands of volunteers are needed to make these records searchable online. No specific time commitment is required, and anyone may participate. Volunteers simply sign on, pull up as many documents as they like, and enter the names and dates into the fields provided. Once published, information for millions of African Americans will be accessible, allowing families to build their family trees and connect with their ancestors.

Elizabeth Aikin, a representative of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of New Mexico, is one of the attendees who had never tried indexing before. Yet, with a little patience she read through pages of Freedmen’s Bureau labor contracts to transcribe the names within those records. Elizabeth completed several batches in just a few hours. She was inspired by the opportunity and importance of making the Freedmen’s Bureau records available and thereby helping millions of African American’s discover their roots and reconnect with their stories.


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  1. Buenos dias a quien corresponda.
    informarme que puedohacer com mi el Arbol genelogico.pues tengo pendiente a mi padre y hermanos(a) ,de mi madre y otros cuñados -apoyenme con alguien para ponerme desde el momento de su
    ayuda-todos mis hermanos algunos partieron sin tener fecha de su nac. nac.falleci todos por el norte si acordarse hoy sola mi madre por
    por mi pueblo de san Jose guerrero pue-
    que se esta quedando y abandonadopor ahi aprovecho.por favor por ahi mi practica de la indexacion esto casi no pues me falta mucha practica. un saludoal pdte Bravo y
    casi se vera solo.

    1. English Translation:

      Good morning to whom it may concern:
      Inform me what I can do with my genealogical tree. I have my father and siblings pending, of my mother and other in-laws. Support me with someone that can put me from the moment of your help. All of my siblings, some have left without a date of birth, all of them passed away by the north if you remember today only my mother for my people of San Jose Guerrero. She is staying and abandoned there I take advantage. Please for there mi for indexing practice, since I need a lot of practice. Regards, President Brave. It will almost be seen by itself.

      Jose, si necesita ayuda, vaya a esta página y ponga el país donde vive. Habrá un número que puede llamar para recibir ayuda:

  2. Brother Reed This is EteU Spencer. I and my cousin, Bishop R. Christopher Barden are connecting 5-6 generations of our mutual heritage through use of the Freedman’s Records. We’ve connected Af-Am relatives to their and our mutual Eur-Am families.
    Our work is specifically bring these people together. He represents the White family and I represent the black. This is a legendary effort People should know that some are addressing these needs. Please contact me.
    EteU Spencer 801-916-1438

    1. Brother Reed. No one else is connecting slaves to their appropriate white owners their mulatto children and connecting these families like we are. We’ve got hundreds of these families together. Slave children being tied to their White ancestry is a first. We’ve been doing it for years now.
      The work we are doing is now to be made easier by the Freedman’s info. We are to connect hundreds maybe thousands of these families. Please contact us we think this will have far reaching effects within and without the church. It’s worth looking into what we do It will inspire so many