October 8, 2015  - by 

Thom Reed, a FamilySearch employee, was recently featured in Time Magazine, where he shared some of his own story about the challenges of finding records about ancestors who were slaves. He, along with many others who are in the African American community, are also turning their efforts to the Freedman Bureau community indexing project, which is opening a valuable new set of indexed records that will help people who are looking for their African American ancestors.

Recently, Thom just happened to be using a FamilySearch test feature called the logged-in user page, when he located what he called #FamilyHistoryFind!!! He recalled, “I was selected to participate in a test of how my home page looks when someone logs in.” After logging in, Thom found some new information about Tom Baines. Thom said, “I followed the steps (for the first time it was ever available to users), and it led me to the 1930 census, with my grandmother Theora was listed as the oldest child!!!! I had never found this record before! It’s because it was indexed as “Barnes” not Baines. But it’s MY family! I was nearly in tears! FamilySearch found my grandma for me. I wish I could use emoticons here because I would share some tears. Indexing and new FamilySearch search algorithms that suggested a possible match made all this possible!”

Finding African American families can be difficult even in recent census records. Families often moved between census years and lived with extended family units. Name changes sometimes occurred more than once in the years following emancipation. The Freedman Bureau project will help families connect in these difficult research years leading up to and after the emancipation of the slaves in the United States. As Thom experienced, records are coming to light as indexes and new FamilySearch.org features make the task of finding people easier to do. Similar stories are heard from users worldwide as they use FamilySearch and partner tools to find their ancestors.

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  1. My only comment is I find part of the information on your site, then you will list Ancestry on the side to find at a cost.
    Either you have all the information on your site or none . It makes it very difficult for seniors who enjoy searching their families, and end up opening up their wallets to continue.

    1. I agree. They all are that way. I did belong to Ancestry before my husband passed. Just for general info they wont $200.00 a year. Now on SS & a very small retirement I can’t do it anymore. They take more & more away from us seniors every year.

  2. I feel you! It takes so long to find our ancestors, but familysearch has been a great help. I have found one great great grandfather who wasn’t a slave in the 1850 census in Virginia. That was very heart warming to me.

  3. I would like to se a compilation of records on slaves bought and sold, showing slaveholders’ names and locations and all identifying information on the slaves. Many plantation owners were meticulous record keepers, and the much information is sitting in boxes in attics. Perhaps an acknowledgement of the parties providing the records would be incentive for some desendendants of slave owners to step forward with their records.
    My ancestors had slaves in southern South Carolina, not far from the coast. I know that there re many people still in that area with my surname, both black and white. I would be interested in pursuing any leads on lost relatives, black or white.

    Perhaps this site could put out a call for owners of such records.

  4. I so want to find out who I am &where I come from. I get so disappointed when I’m lead in circulars.,when being a Sr. Has big flaws. Need free help or ill never find out. Can you help or lead us where Sr’s can go to get it. Thank you

  5. I too have ancestors that would be classified as African Americans, and though I can find them in the 1850 census, earlier information is hard to find. I can trace my other ancestor back to the 1600’s or earlier. I would welcome any sharing of information about this group.

  6. Don’t overlook this site if you have Caucasian ancestors. There are many there that have “white” listed as complexion. Do a search by birthplace and type in Germany, see how many you find. Some were probably indentured servants.

  7. Need help bridging paternal grandfather and his parentage to cards, etc. No one talked abt it, he said his parents were Cherokee and colored. He looked Indian but was not dark. My father possibly could have been adopted, but birth registered in Idaho. Told my father & older sister were registered in 1910 by the g’father. Confusing.

  8. I started to look up my family on “FamilySearch” and I didn’t get far. I think I need some help getting started.
    I started with my mothers family and then I started with my fathers family and they are not on the same page and now I can’t find my mothers family.
    Is there someone I can talk to or read info?
    What is “Notify me of new posts by email” that I checked the box below?

    1. We are excited that you want to learn more about your family. To get help with researching your family tree, we invite you to visit your local family history center, where you can get personal help with your research questions. To locate a family history center near you, visit http://bit.ly/1jmlQfl. We wish you success in finding your ancestors!