Digital Collection Highlight: The Freedman’s Bureau Records

The Freedmen’s Bureau was established in 1865 to help emancipated individuals transition from slavery to citizenship after the Civil War.

The Bureau provided food, housing, education, and medical care. Millons of records were created and the names of hundreds of thousands of formerly enslaved were systematically recorded for the first time in United States history.

In 2015, the Freedmen’s Bureau Project started as a partnership 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.

The project began on Juneteenth (June 19) 2015 and with the help of more than twenty-five thousand volunteers, was completed on June 20, 2016. As a result of the tireless effort of thousands, the names of nearly 1.8 million men, women and children are now searchable online. Now that the images have been indexed, millions have access to the names of their ancestors, allowing individuals to build their family trees and connect with their heritage.”

Since the completion of the Freedmen’s Bureau Project, the National Museum of African American History and Culture has collaborated with the Smithsonian Transcription Center to transcribe more than 1.5 million image files from the Freedmen’s Bureau records. The work of volunteer transcribors will allow full text searches that connect with the images and transcriptions of the original records. Additionally, the records will be keyword searchable increasing accessibility and ability to find a person or topic.

Currently, four North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau collections are being transcribed.

Related Links:

Learn More about the Freedman’s Bureau Project
The Freedmen’s Bureau Transcription Project
What is the Freedman’s Bureau?
Discover what types of Freedman’s Bureau records were created and are currently maintained by the National Archives
Read the Congressional “Act to establish a Bureau for the Relief of Freedmen and Refugees”