The Freedmen’s Bureau Project, Revealing 1.8 Million Names, is Now Complete

Thom Reed, a project manager for FamilySearch in Salt Lake City, talks about the Freedmen's Bureau Project at a news conference at the California African American Museum in Los Angeles on Friday, June 19, 2015. FamilySearch, the largest genealogy organization in the world, partnered with several African-American genealogy organizations on the project and launched discoverfreedmen.org. (LDS Church)
Thom Reed, a project manager for FamilySearch in Salt Lake City, talks about the Freedmen’s Bureau Project at a news conference at the California African American Museum in Los Angeles on Friday, June 19, 2015. FamilySearch, the largest genealogy organization in the world, partnered with several African-American genealogy organizations on the project and launched discoverfreedmen.org. (LDS Church)

The following teaser is from the June 22 2016 edition of the Deseret News.

SALT LAKE CITY — A project to index the records of 4 million freed African-American slaves is now completed, almost a year to the day after the project was launched by the LDS Church’s FamilySearch International genealogy service with an announcement June 19 of last year at the California African American Museum in Los Angeles.

The Freedmen’s Bureau Project has marshaled the efforts of 18,940 volunteers working coast to coast in the United States and Canada, uncovering the names of nearly 1.8 million of some 4 million pre-Civil War era slaves.

Nationwide chapters of the Afro-American Genealogy and Historical Society and the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture — slated to open later this year — partnered with FamilySearch to undertake the project, which drew upon documents from the National Archives and Records Administration.

Read the full article.

Check out the Discover Freedmen website.

New FamilySearch Database Collections Update as of March 14, 2016

The following is from FamilySearch:

FamilySearch Logo 2014

There are 25 new collections updated time! Check out Denmark Deeds and Mortgages 1572-1928, Maryland Church Records 1668-1995, North Carolina Civil Marriages 1763-1868, United States War of 1812 Index to Service Records 1812-1815, United States Freedmen’s Bureau Marriages 1861-1872, and Utah LDS Missionary Registers 1860-1937. Search these and more by following the links below.

COLLECTION – INDEXED RECORDS – DIGITAL RECORDS – COMMENTS

Brazil Pernambuco Civil Registration 1804-2014 – 204,849 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
California San Pedro Immigration Office Special Inquiry Records 1930-1936 – 2,736 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
Denmark Deeds and Mortgages 1572-1928 – 0 – 2,993,164 – Added images to an existing collection
England Cornwall and Devon Parish Registers 1538-2010 – 11,418 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
Hawaii Index to Filipino Arrivals to Honolulu 1946 – 7,408 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
Illinois Church Marriages 1805-1985 – 9,190 – 0 – New indexed records collection
Illinois Civil Marriages 1833-1889 – 8,975 – 0 – New indexed records collection
Illinois County Marriages 1810-1934 – 179,181 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
Indiana Marriages 1811-2007 – 0 – 16,771 – Added images to an existing collection
Maryland Church Records 1668-1995 – 137,984 – 27,644 – New indexed records and images collection
Maryland Piney Point Crew Lists 1950-1956 – 5,429 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
Michigan County Marriages Index 1820-1937 – 1,012 – 0 – New indexed records collection
New Jersey Church Records 1675-1970 – 1,144 – 613 – New indexed records and images collection
New Jersey State Census 1865 – 0 – 3,646 – New browsable image collection.
New York New York Soundex to Passenger and Crew Lists 1887-1921 – 5,800 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
North Carolina Civil Marriages 1763-1868 – 53,614 – 4,567 – New indexed records and images collection
Ohio Marriages 1800-1942 – 3,567 – 785 – New indexed records and images collection
Peru Junín Civil Registration 1881-2005 – 87,987 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
Spain Province of Cádiz Municipal Records 1784-1956 – 0 – 155,324 – Added images to an existing collection
Tennessee Civil Marriages 1838-1888 – 5,946 – 1,079 – New indexed records and images collection
Texas and Arizona Arrivals 1903-1910 – 59,299 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
United States Freedmen’s Bureau Marriages 1861-1872 – 34,323 – 599 – Added indexed records and images to an existing collection
United States War of 1812 Index to Service Records 1812-1815 – 1,130,851 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
Utah LDS Missionary Registers 1860-1937 – 48,207 – 0 – New indexed records collection
Virginia Alexandria Passenger and Crew Lists of Vessels 1946-1957 – 6,669 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection

WWI Black Veteran Memorials to be Posted at a Website Created by WVU

The following teaser was posted December 8, 2015 at jbhe.com:

WWI-black-soldier-133pw

A new project underway at the Reed College of Media at West Virginia University seeks to document the history of African American veterans of World War I. The new website will allow users to visit memorials to Black veterans around the world through virtual reality. Visitors will also be able to view historical photographs, film, audio recordings, and other documents. Site users will also be able to post information on their knowledge of the contributions of Black World War I veterans.

Read the full article.

Milestones Reached in Freedmen’s Bureau Project – With More Volunteers Needed

The following news release is from FamilySearch:

Freedmans-Records-Project-250pw

SALT LAKE CITY, (December 1, 2015)—FamilySearch International, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), and the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society (AAHGS) are pleased to announce that exciting milestones have been reached with the historic Freedmen’s Bureau Project (see DiscoverFreedmen.org) since its launch on Juneteenth of this year. The 10,000th online indexing volunteer has contributed to the project, and volunteers have made more than 15 percent of the records searchable online, bringing the total number of records indexed to more than 440,865. The goal of this ambitious project is to make more than one million Civil War era historical records—records of about four million freed men, women, and children and refugees—discoverable at the click of a button online.

The Freedmen’s Bureau, officially known as the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, served all who needed intervention after the war. In the name of the bureau, the “freedmen” referred to were black, the “refugees” were white, and the “abandoned lands” were lands once owned by landowners who were eventually re-settled. From 1865 to 1872, the bureau opened schools, managed hospitals, rationed food and clothing, and solemnized marriages. In the process, it gathered information about marriages and families, military service, banking, schools, hospitals, and property records on potentially four million African Americans.

Discover-Freedmen-marriage_certificate_for_george_and_ann_rapier-owensboro_kentucky

Since the project’s launch in June of this year, 10,223 volunteers have contributed online from across the nation. Many more volunteers are needed. The goal is to have the records fully indexed and freely available online in time for the opening of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in November 2016.

“We came together with great anticipation and excitement,” said Bernice Alexander Bennett, who organized a recent indexing event in Washington, D. C., which representatives from five AAHGS chapters attended. “Through this process we have identified an array of documents that show how difficult it was for this country to come back together with individuals from all walks of life. Hence, the Freedmen indexing project is not just for African Americans and represents a major initiative for everyone.”

At the University of Oklahoma, two pastors from the local community challenged each other’s congregations to an “index-off” competition. In Rio Rancho, New Mexico, many volunteers indexed their first records online in participating in this project. Elizabeth Aikin, a representative of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of New Mexico, was one of them. In just a few hours and with a little patience, Aikin was able to read through several pages of historical Freedmen’s Bureau labor contracts online and transcribe the names in those records. Like many volunteers, she was inspired by the opportunity and importance of making the Freedmen’s Bureau records available and thereby helping millions of African Americans discover their roots and reconnect their stories.

“We greatly appreciate the contributions made by our partners, by national and international volunteers, and by Smithsonian volunteers,” said Hollis Gentry, genealogy specialist at NMAAHC. “Each indexed document brings us closer to reclaiming our ancestral heritage and historical past. We look forward to the completion of the project in 2016 and invite everyone with an interest in American history and African American culture to support our efforts to index the records of the Freedmen’s Bureau.”

It only takes a little training for anyone with a computer and Internet access to join the project, which involves reading online the digital images of the records and entering names and other key information to make them searchable. Once the records are indexed and published online, finding an ancestor can be as easy as going to FamilySearch.org, entering a name and, with the touch of a button, discovering your long-hidden family member.

Free assistance is available at any of the 1,864 family history centers throughout the nation. For more information or to volunteer for the initiative, visit discoverfreedmen.org. You can also follow the effort on social media using the hashtag #DiscoverFreedmen.

About DiscoverFreedmen.org
The #DiscoverFreedmen project is making thousands of historical Freedmen’s Bureau records freely and easily searchable online to help African Americans reconnect with their Civil War­-era ancestors. The project was created through a set of partnerships between FamilySearch International, 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.

New FamilySearch Database Collections Update as of November 17, 2015

The following is from FamilySearch:

FamilySearch Logo 2014

Nearly half a million more free records were added to the Billion Graves Index this week. Russia Tatarstan Church Books 1721-1939 , Minnesota Duluth and Wisconsin Superior Crew Lists 1922-1958, Poland Evangelical Church Books 1700-2005, and the US Freedmen’s Bureau Hospital and Marriage Records also have significant additions. For these and more, follow the links below.

COLLECTION – INDEXED RECORDS – DIGITAL RECORDS – COMMENTS

BillionGraves Index – 471,375 – 471,375 – Added indexed records and images to an existing collection
California Immigration Registers of Japanese Filipinos and Hawaiians at San Francisco 1928-1942 – 9,385 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
Guam Passenger and Crew Lists 1947-1952 – 8,127 – 663 – New indexed records and images collection
Maine Bath Seamen’s Proofs of Citizenship 1833-1868 – 3,555 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
Michigan Crew Lists for various ports 1929-1966 – 163,256 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
Minnesota Duluth and Wisconsin Superior Crew Lists 1922-1958 – 208,667 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
Poland Evangelical Church Books 1700-2005 – 0 – 168,622 – New browsable image collection.
Russia Tatarstan Church Books 1721-1939 – 0 – 897,183 – Added images to an existing collection
United States Freedmen’s Bureau Hospital and Medical Records 1865-1872 – 132,483 – 41,496 – Added indexed records and images to an existing collection

Help Us Publish More Free Records Online
Searchable historical records are made available on FamilySearch.org through the help of thousands of online volunteers worldwide. These volunteers transcribe (or index) information from digital copies of handwritten records to make them easily searchable online. More volunteers are always needed (particularly those who can read foreign languages) to keep pace with the large number of digital images being published weekly online on FamilySearch.org. Learn how you can volunteer to help provide free access to the world’s historical genealogical records online at FamilySearch.org/Indexing.

About FamilySearch International
FamilySearch is the largest genealogy organization in the world. FamilySearch is a nonprofit, volunteer-driven organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Millions of people use FamilySearch records, resources, and services to learn more about their family history. To help in this great pursuit, FamilySearch and its predecessors have been actively gathering, preserving, and sharing genealogical records worldwide for over 100 years. Patrons may access FamilySearch services and resources for free at FamilySearch.org or through more than 4,600 family history centers in 132 countries, including the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Alfre Woodard to Be Featured on TLC’s Who Do You Think You Are? Sunday, August 9, 2015

TLC was kind enough to supply me with a screener for the upcoming show again this week. Alfre Woodard will be the featured celebrity on TLC’s Who Do You think You Are? this Sunday, August 9, 2015. The episode is scheduled for 8pm/9c.

Actress Alfre Woodard’s grandfather died before she knew him, and his family tree was a mystery. She weny on a journey searching for his roots, and uncovered the triumphant story of her great-grandfather Alec, who endured the horrors of slavery and ascended from servitude to successful landowner, an extraordinary feat of his time.

The episode was filmed from June 14 to 21, 2015. The following cities/locations were visited:

  • Alfre’s home, Los Angeles, CA;
  • Houston County Courthouse, Perry, GA;
  • Woodard land, Houston County, GA;
  • Louisiana State Archives, Baton Rouge, LA;
  • Jackson Parish Courthouse, Jackson Parish, LA;
  • Alec Woodard’s land, Chatham, LA

Alfre-Woodard-1

Award-winning actress Alfre Woodard new a lot about her mother’s family, but her father’s Woodard line was a mystery. Her grandfather, Alex Woodard, died when her father was three, and the family history died with him. All she’d heard is that his family came to Oklahoma from Texas, but she was curious about their earlier origins.

To start her journey, Alfre dug into census records, locating her infant grandfather with his parents (Alfre’s great-grandparents) Alex Woodard, 39, born in Georgia, and Lizzie, his wife. Alfre calculated that her great-grandfather Alex was born about 1841 in Georgia, and suspected he may have been enslaved there – and that “Woodard” was his slave name. Alfre headed off to Georgia see if she could trace her great-grandfather, Alex Woodard’s, trail.

In Georgia, Alfre poured over white Woodard estate records to see if she can locate her ancestor. Alfre found her great-grandfather, Alex, listed as “Alec,” at about age 10, and appraised at $400. The records revealed that Alec’s owner, John Woodard, had died and all of his property – including his eleven slaves – is inventoried to divide among his heirs.

The information did not specify Alec’s biological family, but he was consistently listed with several children. Enslaved people were often sold away from their biological families, so they developed strong kinship networks with other slaves who worked and lived with them.

Alfre saw that Alec was given to a William Woodard, but members of Alec’s kinship network are sold to different owners. The expert promised to look into what happened to Alec once William Woodard claimed him.

The next morning, Alfre drove out to the Woodard land to see where her great-grandfather lived and labored as a slave. As she turns onto the road bordering the land, she noticed the road sign: Woodard Road! Alfre poured a libation on the land her ancestor worked to pay her respects.

Alfre reconvened with the expert, and discovered that Alec moved to Jackson Parish, Louisiana with his slave owner, William Woodard, by 1860.

Alfre followed her great-grandfather to Louisiana. The historian explained that Alec would’ve been emancipated after the Civil War in 1865. Alfre’s journey through her ancestor’s life as a slave was over, so now she wanted to know how he established himself as a free man. The expert explained that 1867 marked the first time black men could vote, but restrictive Southern laws required they pay a “poll tax” to do so. Poll tax rolls reveal that Alec was registered to vote and over the years he ascended from having no property to owning 240 acres of land in Jackson Parish! He was firmly part of the middle class at a time when any amount of land was significant to a former slave living in Louisiana. Owning land was the ultimate goal for every freedman, but only about 25% of them achieved it. Alfre’s great-grandfather accomplished an extraordinary feat. But something was amiss; Alfre then discovered that just a year later, Alec was now paying taxes on only 80 acres, and likely lost some of his land in an economic collapse.

Alfre-Woodard-2

Next, Alfre examined an 1898 land deed from Alec Woodard and his wife Elizabeth, to Aaron Stell. Alfre saw that after Alec purchased land in Texas, he sold his Louisiana land to this man Aaron Stell for just $35 – but why so cheap? Alec sold the property with his wife Elizabeth (Alfre’s great-grandmother) and in fact, Aaron Stell was Elizabeth’s brother. Alec was doing well enough in Texas that he’s giving his brother-in-law the “family discount” on his Louisiana land.

Alfre drove out to the rural, thickly wooded plot formerly owned by her great-grandfather in Jackson Parish. Alfre walked the land and reflected on all she has learned about her impressive great-grandfather Alec Woodard and his resilience that has been passed down through generations.

The following information was discovered, but included not in the episode:

A sales and receipts record revealed Alec and his kin were hired out to different white farmers in Georgia. The expert explained that while Alec was officially the property of William Woodard, he was being temporarily rented to J. Mercer. A significant portion of enslaved people were rented for days, months or years when their owners could not or would not provide for them. Alec’s rate of $48.50 suggests he was rented for a full year. The following documents shows that after a year of being rented to J. Mercer, Alec was being reclaimed by William Woodard. Alec was roughly 17, and he and his kin were now being permanently separated among the estate heirs.

On her great-grandfather’s former land, Alfre met an 80-year-old African American woman who lived on that corner. Roye said that Stells have lived there as far as anyone can remember, and she’s a Stell by marriage. So Alfre and Roye are kin! Roye told Alfre about growing up on the old farm – picking cotton in the early morning darkness, climbing the pecan trees, and playing among the cows and horses. She said that generations of her family have been proud to own that land, and she hopes it always stays in the family.

New FamilySearch Collections Posted the Week of July 13, 2015

The following is from FamilySearch:

FamilySearch Logo 2014

Family historians hungry for historic Irish records will enjoy FamilySearch’s new collection, Ireland Petty Sessions Court Registers 1828-1912. These indexed court documents bring 22 million records to your fingertips. These records were originally filmed at the National Archives of Ireland and the index was created by findmypast.com. See the table below for additions to over 60 historical record collections, including 46 million US obituaries. Click on the collection’s link to start your discovery.

COLLECTION – INDEXED RECORDS – DIGITAL RECORDS – COMMENTS

Australia New South Wales Census (fragment) 1891 – 0 – 21,315 – Added images to an existing collection
Belgium Antwerp Civil Registration 1588-1910 – 0 – 1,670 – Added images to an existing collection
Brazil Pernambuco Civil Registration 1804-2014 – 0 – 164,642 – Added images to an existing collection
Brazil São Paulo Immigration Cards 1902-1980 – 1,642,660 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
France Finistère Quimper et Léon Diocese Catholic Parish Records 1772-1863 – 970 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
Germany Saxony Dresden Citizens’ Documents and Business Licenses 1820- 1962 – 0 – 855,956 – Added images to an existing collection
India Bihar Koilukh Pandit Kirtinand Jha Maithil Brahmin Genealogical Records 1750-1990 – 0 – 175,363 – Added images to an existing collection
India Hindu Pilgrimage Records 1194-2015 – 2,782,487 – 2,843,557 – New indexed records and images collection
Ireland Petty Sessions Court Registers 1828-1912 – 21,833,839 – 0 – New indexed record collection
Italy Caltanissetta Civil Registration (State Archive) 1820-1935 – 0 – 318 – Added images to an existing collection
Italy Cremona Civil Registration (State Archive) 1744-1942 – 0 – 1,325,362 – New browsable-image collection.
Italy Grosseto Civil Registration (State Archive) 1851-1907 – 0 – 393,814 – New browsable-image collection.
Italy L’Aquila Civil Registration (State Archive) 1809-1865 1911-1943 – 0 – 111,837 – Added images to an existing collection
Italy Pesaro e Urbino Pesaro Civil Registration (State Archive) 1808-1813 1861- 1865 – 0 – 75,456 – New browsable-image collection.
Italy Pesaro e Urbino Urbino Civil Registration (State Archive) 1866-1942 – 0 – 709,381 – New browsable-image collection.
Italy Ragusa Civil Registration (State Archive) 1900-1940 – 0 – 111,281 – New browsable-image collection.
Italy Toscana Civil Registration (State Archive) 1804-1874 – 0 – 80,833 – Added images to an existing collection
Mexico Baja California and Baja California Sur Catholic Church Records 1750-1984 – 0 – 363 – Added images to an existing collection
Mexico Chihuahua Catholic Church Records 1632-1958 – 0 – 195 – New browsable-image collection.
Mexico Guanajuato Catholic Church Records 1519-1984 – 0 – 1,077 – Added images to an existing collection
Mexico Hidalgo Catholic Church Records 1546-1971 – 0 – 574 – Added images to an existing collection
Mexico Michoacán Catholic Church Records 1555-1996 – 0 – 2,758 – Added images to an existing collection
Mexico Tamaulipas Catholic Church Records 1703-1964 – 0 – 1,294 – Added images to an existing collection
Peru Callao Civil Registration 1874-1996 – 0 – 42,583 – Added images to an existing collection
Perú Lima Civil Registration 1874-1996 – 0 – 111,769 – Added images to an existing collection
Philippines Negros Occidental Roman Catholic Diocese of Bacolod Parish Registers 1755-1976 – 0 – 95,820 – New browsable-image collection.
Spain Province of Valencia Miscellaneous Records 1251-1950 – 0 – 850,597 – Added images to an existing collection
Sweden Halland Church Records 1615-1904; index 1615-1860 – 0 – 972 – Added images to an existing collection

Canada: Newfoundland Vital Records 1840-1949 – 347,134 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
Canada: Nova Scotia Births 1864-1877 – 0 – 6,103 – Added images to an existing collection
Canada: Nova Scotia Deaths 1864-1877 – 0 – 20,661 – Added images to an existing collection
Canada: Nova Scotia Marriages 1864-1918 – 0 – 15,831 – Added images to an existing collection

BillionGraves Index – 1,513,553 – 1,513,553 – Added indexed records and images to an existing collection

United States Records

United States Census 1790 – 1,606 – 62 – Added indexed records and images to an existing collection
United States Census 1800 – 20 – 18,454 – Added indexed records and images to an existing collection
United States Freedmen’s Bureau Hospital and Medical Records 1865-1872 – 4,641 – 44,734 – New Indexed records and images collection
United States GenealogyBank Obituaries 1980-2014 – 46,769,836 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
United States Index to Service Records War with Spain 1898 – 123,334 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
California Death Index 1905-1939 – 2,086,638 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
Delaware Vital Records 1680-1971 – 624,395 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
District of Columbia Marriages 1811-1950 – 83,822 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
Illinois County Marriages 1810-1934 – 504,033 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
Iowa State Census 1915 – 0 – 9,802 – Added images to an existing collection
Iowa State Census 1925 – 5,573,816 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
Kentucky Vital Record Indexes 1911-1999 – 9,865,944 – 0 – New indexed record collection
Louisiana First Registration Draft Cards compiled 1940-1945 – 39,967 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
Massachusetts Boston Passenger Lists Index 1899-1940 – 1,577,127 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
Massachusetts Town Clerk Vital and Town Records 1627-2001 – 0 – 182 – Added images to an existing collection
Michigan Births 1867-1902 – 0 – 1,428 – Added images to an existing collection
Michigan Obituaries 1820-2006 – 1,389,458 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
North Carolina Probate Records 1735-1970 – 0 – 1,952 – Added images to an existing collection
South Dakota School Records 1879-1970 – 2,807,212 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
Tennessee County Marriages 1790-1950 – 3,024,053 – 1,831,660 – Added indexed records and images to an existing collection
Utah Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel Database 1847-1868 – 58,333 – 0 – New indexed record collection
Utah Uintah County Discharge Records 1893-2009 – 0 – 2,362 – New browsable-image collection.
Utah Uintah County Land and Property Records 1888-2004 – 0 – 195,963 – New browsable-image collection.
Utah Uintah County Marriage Records 1888-2015 – 0 – 8,687 – New browsable-image collection.
Utah Uintah County Naturalization and Citizenship Records 1888-1929 – 0 – 409 – New browsable-image collection.
Vermont St. Albans Canadian Border Crossings 1895-1924 – 6,696,703 – 0 – Added indexed records to an existing collection
Vermont Town Clerk Vital and Town Records 1732-2005 – 0 – 458,533 – Added images to an existing collection

Help Publish More Free Records Online
Searchable historical records are made available on FamilySearch.org through the help of thousands of online volunteers worldwide. These volunteers transcribe (or index) information from digital copies of handwritten records to make them easily searchable online. More volunteers are always needed (particularly those who can read foreign languages) to keep pace with the large number of digital images being published weekly online on FamilySearch.org. Learn how you can volunteer to help provide free access to the world’s historical genealogical records online at FamilySearch.org/Indexing.

About FamilySearch International
FamilySearch is the largest genealogy organization in the world. FamilySearch is a nonprofit, volunteer-driven organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Millions of people use FamilySearch records, resources, and services to learn more about their family history. To help in this great pursuit, FamilySearch and its predecessors have been actively gathering, preserving, and sharing genealogical records worldwide for over 100 years. Patrons may access FamilySearch services and resources for free at FamilySearch.org or through more than 4,600 family history centers in 132 countries, including the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

White Woman, 72, thought She Was Black for Most of Her Life

White-Not-Black

The crazy Rachel Dolezal story had many of us puzzling over why anyone would go to so much risk and effort to make themselves appear to be something they were not. Now comes the story of Verda Byrd, who was told as a child that she was black, and went throughout her life believing a lie. Following is an excerpt from an article posted at jezebel.com.

Verda Byrd is a 72-year-old white woman who thought she was black for most of her life.

…Byrd says she had no clue about her white ancestry growing up.

A foster kid since age 2, Byrd was raised in Missouri by her black foster parents, Ray and Edwina Wagoner, who were only able to adopt her because officials at the time thought her mom was white.

In 2013, after uncovering her adoption papers many years after her parents’ deaths, Byrd found out she was white and also learned that she had three biological sisters, who are also white.

Read the full article.

Here’s another article at eurweb.com.

23andMe – DNA Tests That Are Being Using For Far More Than Just Ancestry


Discover 23andMe & find out what your DNA says about you & your family! Buy one, get 20% off each ad

I ordered a 23andMe DNA test yesterday. Yes – I’ve taken one from Sorenson’s, and later AncestryDNA, but I’d like to see how the test done by 23andMe matches up to the earlier tests. I’m also fascinated by all the non-family history research that 23andMe does with our DNA – lots of health-related stuff. One of their areas of research deals with Lupus. When I registered my test, I was given the opportunity to fill out questionnaires that were to help advance their health-related research projects. I found it fascinating, and was pleased that I could be involved in a project that would help others. Click on the illustration to learn more about 23andMe.

DNA testing can also have a sociological side to it. A fascinating article was written by Carl Zimmer and posted at the New York Times website December 24, 2014. It was titled White? Black? A Murky Distinction Grows Still Murkier. In the article he explains how 23andMe data was used to study how the ancestral makeup of self-identified African Americans, Latinos and European Americans differs by region-and why. I don’t remember reading this article when it was posted, but was prompted to do so by an email from 23andMe after I registered my test. Following is a teaser:

In 1924, the State of Virginia attempted to define what it means to be white.

The state’s Racial Integrity Act, which barred marriages between whites and people of other races, defined whites as people “whose blood is entirely white, having no known, demonstrable or ascertainable admixture of the blood of another race.”

There was just one problem. As originally written, the law would have classified many of Virginia’s most prominent families as not white, because they claimed to be descended from Pocahontas.

So the Virginia legislature revised the act, establishing what came to be known as the “Pocahontas exception.” Virginians could be up to one-sixteenth Native American and still be white in the eyes of the law.

People who were one-sixteenth black, on the other hand, were still black.

In the United States, there is a long tradition of trying to draw sharp lines between ethnic groups, but our ancestry is a fluid and complex matter. In recent years geneticists have been uncovering new evidence about our shared heritage, and last week a team of scientists published the biggest genetic profile of the United States to date, based on a study of 160,000 people.

Read the full article.

Additional Freedmen’s Bureau Records Posted at FamilySearch

The following news release is from Globe Newswire:

Note that links to the Freedmen’s Records at FamilySearch are found at the end of this blog.

Freedman's-Bureau-Records-Illustration-250pw

SALT LAKE CITY, June 18, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — In recognition of Juneteenth, FamilySearch announces the online publication of additional Freedmen’s Bureau records—popular historic sources for those doing African American research that extends back to the Civil War period when slavery was abolished in the United States. Juneteenth is an important historical and joyous African-American holiday celebrated by millions and commemorates the abolition of slavery. It begins June 19 and lasts at least that day or a week or an entire month. The latest Freedmen’s Bureau records added to FamilySearch.org’s historical record collections are for Arkansas, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia.

The Juneteenth celebration commemorates the June 19, 1865, arrival of General Gordon Granger and 2,000 troops arriving in Galveston, Texas, enforcing the freeing of the slaves. The celebration of Juneteenth (Emancipation Day) began in the streets of Galveston by the former slaves and is now celebrated throughout the nation every year on the same date by millions of people.

In March of 1865, the Federal Government had created the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands—the Freedmen’s Bureau. The Freedmen Bureau’s records include documentation of the legalization of marriages entered into during slavery, labor contracts (the beginning of share cropping), military payment registers, hospital logs, former slave owners, the number of children, and other details from the time of slavery—tremendous resources for those doing family history research from this period.

Robin Foster, a National Genealogy Examiner and a member of the South Carolina Genealogical Society, says, “The Freedman Bureau records are crucial to tracing your African American genealogy back past 1870. Until now, we had to travel to national, state, or local archives to have any hope of finding records. With FamilySearch, many of those records can be seen online on your home computer.”

FamilySearch.org published the South Carolina bureau records in December 2013. FamilySearch published the popular Freedmen’s Bank Records in 2001.

The new online additions are currently viewable as digital images of the original records. As FamilySearch’s online volunteers complete indexing them, the searchable name index will be added to the digital images.

Foster says, “All these [Freedmen Bureau] records were created by Bureau offices in Washington, DC, and state, district, or field offices. The district or field offices were local points of contact for services. These records are so valuable because they create the bridge from before the Civil War to the 1870s. They provide names; dates of birth, marriage, and death; and clues to past slave owners and locations.”

Janis Forté, a lecturer, author, and publisher, and Recording Secretary of Afro-American Genealogical and Historical Society of Chicago, stresses the importance of these latest additions to the Freedmen Bureau records collections now on FamilySearch.org, “This enables all researchers to have access to Freedmen Bureau records at no cost, any time.”

Forté has personally experienced the value of these records. “In one instance, a Bureau record took me back three generations, even mentioning daughters’ names and their married names. I discovered a great-great uncle had two marriages, one I didn’t know about. These records cover a transitional period that is hard to imagine. People went from being completely dependent on someone to having to take care of themselves. People who hadn’t been allowed to learn to read or write now had to compete with the rest of society. The Freedmen Bureau, Bank, and Societies helped bridge that gap with everything from hospitals to schools, labor contracts to insurance. Now, their records bridge the genealogical gap from slavery to freedom.”

Joan Healy, research consultant with the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, explains the Freedmen’s Bureau had vast responsibilities and therefore abundant records. “The goal of the Bureau was to help 4 million slaves make the transition to freedom. They provided services including rations, medical care, employment assistance, and support for education. Two hundred hospitals were built and 4,000 schools were established.”

Foster encourages everyone to engage in family research. “When you’re getting started and need some direction, find a family history center, FamilySearch center, or local library with a genealogy section, and look for records tied to localities. Organize your findings by putting what you know on FamilySearch.org. Then search the records there. FamilySearch.org provides more immediate results.

Foster continues, “Search, record, and share are the three pillars of good family research. Be sure you share. That gives to others and brings information from them. Since I can remember, we had family come visit. I wanted to know about them and remembered every detail. My daughter shouldn’t grow up without knowing the family stories and being true to the name they gave us.”

Read more by clicking here.

Read more at the FamilySearch blog.

Click on the following links to views current Freedmen’s Bureau records at FamilySearch:

Freedmen’s Records Title – Records – Last Updated

Alabama, Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1872 – Browse Images – 07 Jul 2014

Arkansas, Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1864-1872 – Browse Images – 18 Jun 2014

District of Columbia, Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872 – Browse Images – 23 May 2014

Georgia, Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1872 – Browse Images – 09 Dec 2014

Kentucky, Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1872 – Browse Images – 09 Dec 2014

Louisiana, Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1872 – Browse Images – 20 Jan 2015

Maryland and Delaware, Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1872 – Browse Images – 24 Apr 2014

Mississippi, Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1872 – Browse Images – 26 Jun 2014

Mississippi, Freedmen’s Department (Pre-Bureau Records), 1863-1866 – Browse Images – 03 Mar 2015

Missouri, Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1872 – Browse Images – 23 Jun 2014

North Carolina, Freedmen’s Bureau Assistant Commissioner Records, 1862-1870 – 127,316 – 24 Jun 2014

North Carolina, Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872 – Browse Images – 23 Apr 2014

South Carolina, Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1872 – Browse Images – 20 Dec 2013

Tennessee, Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1872 – Browse Images – 27 Feb 2015

Texas, Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1870 – Browse Images – 22 Apr 2014

United States, Freedmen’s Bank Records, 1865-1874 – 480,597 – 20 Feb 2015

United States, Freedmen’s Branch Records, 1872-1878 – Browse Images – 09 Jun 2015

United States, Freedmen’s Bureau Hospital and Medical Records, 1865-1872 – 4,641 – 19 Jun 2015

United States, Freedmen’s Bureau Marriages, 1815-1869 – 7,796 – 25 Aug 2010

United States, Freedmen’s Bureau, Records of the Assistant Commissioner, 1865-1872 – Browse Images – 20 Jan 2015

United States, Freedmen’s Bureau, Records of the Commissioner, 1865-1872 – Browse Images – 12 Feb 2015

United States, Freedmen’s Bureau, Records of the Superintendent of Education and of the Division of Education, 1865-1872 – Browse Images – 09 Mar 2015

Virginia, Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1872 – 834,422 – 25 Jun 2014

“Roots” Gets a Television Remake by A&E Networks – to Air in 2016

The following except is from the CNN website.

Roots

(CNN) One of the biggest TV events of all time is being reimagined for new audiences.

“Roots,” the epic miniseries about an African-American slave and his descendants, had a staggering audience of over 100 million viewers back in 1977. Now A&E networks are remaking the miniseries, to air in 2016.

A&E, Lifetime and History (formerly the History Channel) announced Thursday that the three networks would simulcast a remake of the saga of Kunta Kinte, an African who was captured, shipped to America and sold into slavery to work on a Virginia plantation.

LeVar Burton, who portrayed Kinte in the original, will co-executive produce the new miniseries.

Read the full article.

Ben Affleck’s ancestor may not have owned slaves at all…

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I and many others wrote last week about Ben Affleck and his ancestor’s slaves. Now comes an article posted on The Daily Beast website that points out that Affleck’s ancestor may not have owned slaves at all. Following is a teaser.

But new research conducted by The Daily Beast and Georgia genealogist Barbara Stock suggests that Benjamin L. Cole—Affleck’s great-great-great-grandfather on his mother’s side—was hardly the wealthy Southern plantation owner that Finding Your Roots claimed, and that the small-town Georgia sheriff may not have owned slaves at all.

Using Georgia tax digests from Chatham County and Savannah — which give an annual account of wealth, including slave ownership—in conjunction with the census, which took a count only once a decade, Stock found evidence that while Affleck’s ancestor was the executor of estates that included slaves, he owned none himself.

Read the full article.

Another story from The Guardian

Indiana’s Early Black Settlements Documented With Online Resource

The following teaser is from an April 22, 2015 post at flyergroup.com:

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The Indiana Historical Society (IHS) has made available online the results of its research on early black settlements in Indiana. This effort is part of the Early African American Settlement Heritage Initiative.

During the summer of 2014, the Indiana Historical Society embarked upon a journey to identify African-American rural settlements that existed in Indiana by 1870. As a possible foundational step for statewide research, IHS worked with several individuals, organizations and communities to develop and implement the Early African American Settlement Heritage Initiative—an effort to identify agrarian communities that had dotted the Hoosier landscape.

The new online resource, available at www.indianahistory.org/EBS, identifies 61 early black settlements in 43 counties, and research for all 92 counties is also accessible.

Read the full article.

Ben Affleck Apologizes for Attempting to Conceal Slave-Owning Ancestry

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A few days ago, Ben Affleck apologized for the attempt to conceal slave-owning ancestry, which turned up during research for the PBS documentary “Finding Your Roots.” Wikileaks published emails which showed the attempt – which seemed to have worked… for a while.

I find it humorous to see that Affleck was embarrassed by the facts. Goodness, if genealogists let stuff like that worry them, we’d all be embarrassed and would have given up the hobby years ago. Face it. Our ancestors were human, and they did human things… Which were often “not so good.” What I find more interesting is the apparent willingness on the part of PBS and Sony (Gates and Lynton) to “focus on different ancestors.”

Following is a teaser posted April 21, 2015 at the Variety website.

An “embarrassed” Ben Affleck admitted on Tuesday that he tried to conceal his slave-owning ancestors from the PBS documentary “Finding Your Roots.”

The disclosure was made earlier this week after WikiLeaks published over 30,000 hacked emails from Sony Pictures Entertainment.

“I felt embarrassed,” Affleck wrote on Facebook. “The very thought left a bad taste in my mouth.”

Sorry – you can’t choose your ancestors – or relatives for that matter!

Read the full article.

Here’s a CNN article with a different spin

Another view on the story at the Time magazine website.

About the embarrassing ancestor – from Gawker…

Enough already…

Central Lunatic Asylum for Colored Insane of Petersburg, VA Records to be Digitized

Central State Lunatic Asylum for Colored Insane

April 8, 2015 – AUSTIN, Texas — Three faculty members at The University of Texas at Austin’s School of Information have received a grant from the Andrew Mellon Foundation to develop and field test a digital infrastructure for preserving and managing the historical public records from the Central Lunatic Asylum for Colored Insane in Petersburg, Virginia.

King Davis, Patricia Galloway and Unmil Karadkar will use the $763,000 to develop methods and tools for critical policy analysis, digital technology and archival preservation methods to increase access to historical mental health records and documents while still protecting privacy.

The project is expected to begin this month and end in 2018.

“Families and scholars have requested access to these records for many years to enable them to conduct genealogical and academic research. However, most states limit access to such records based in part on historical precedents and concerns about stigma and privacy,” said Davis, a former commissioner of mental health for the Commonwealth of Virginia and current professor of research in the School of Information and professor emeritus in African and African Diaspora Studies.

The asylum was established in 1868 and was the first of its kind in the United States. It has maintained over 800,000 public records that detail the origins of the hospital and the racially segregated services provided for almost 100 years.

Galloway will work with postdoctoral students and families of the institution’s patients to ensure that the new digital library is easy to access.

“Providing possible solutions to both mental health providers and archival custodians of these records can both help guarantee their preservation and enable their lawful release for research by scholars and families,” Galloway said. “However, opening access to families and scholars must still abide by the prevailing state and federal laws on privacy.”

Read the full press release.