Earlier this year, a series of very special indexing projects were launched containing the records of The Freedmen’s Bureau, a government office established to supervise relief and educational opportunities for freed slaves (see DiscoverFreedmen.org). At the time they were launched, FamilySearch recommended giving those with family ties to the Freedmen’s Bureau collection the honor of having the first opportunity to index these precious records.
Since that time more than 10,000 new volunteers have begun indexing the records with a goal to index the million Freedmen’s Bureau images in time for them to be published in June 2016. Despite the valiant efforts of these dedicated, mostly beginner indexers, the hand-written, mostly paragraph-style nature of the records has slowed the project considerably. Today the project is still just over 20% complete, which is far off the pace needed to meet its stated goals.
An Opportunity to Stand Shoulder to Shoulder
Anyone who has researched their ancestors knows the pain of hitting the proverbial “brick wall.” African Americans run into brick walls at nearly every turn because of a dearth of records maintained during the slavery period. The Freedmen’s Bureau collection is one shining exception that has the power to connect individuals in our day with their families that were separated by slavery. If there was ever an example of how indexing matters to others, this is it!
Some important dates are approaching that make it important right now to stand shoulder to shoulder with these new volunteers and help bolster their amazing effort. February is celebrated as Black History Month, and it also coincides with the goal to have the indexing and arbitration portion nearly complete so the collection can be published on FamilySearch.org by Juneteenth—an annual celebration, held June 19th, that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.
What a wonderful expression of gratitude and love it would be if many experienced volunteers would take time from their normal indexing activities to index and arbitrate batches from the Freedmen’s Bureau project! With that kind of help, the project completion percentage will skyrocket, and these highly anticipated milestones and celebrations will proceed as anticipated. More importantly, it will send a powerful message about our desire as an indexing community to help everyone experience the joy of discovering their ancestors.
Show your gratitude and love for your fellow men and women by looking for indexing projects that begin with “US—Freedmen’s Bureau.” For more information about the Freedmen’s Bureau project, visit http://www.discoverfreedmen.org/.
Please note: The Freedmen’s Bureau project does not diminish the ongoing, critical need for records in non-English languages. If you have begun using your language skills to help in this area, please be thoughtful as you consider how you can best contribute at this time.