FamilySearch Releases Groundbreaking African American Records

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FamilySearch, a family history resource sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, released four million names of former slaves from the Freedman’s Bureau on June 19, 2015.

The conference was held at the California African American Museum in Los Angeles on “Juneteenth,” the celebration of Emancipation Day 150 years ago.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, spoke at the event and said,

[These records] can potentially reunite the black family that was once torn apart by slavery.

Christofferson also explained that the Freedman’s Bureau not only recorded names of former slaves, but it also gathered personal accounts from their pre-Civil War lives.

“These are personal, sometimes difficult accounts to read at a turning point in our nation’s history when our forebears were struggling with their own humanity,” Christofferson said. “But what one also sees in these records is triumph, hope and resilience. What a great testimony to the sheer will and determination of this generation.”

The 1.5 million digitized images of the Freedman’s Bureau have yet to be indexed. Thom Reed, product manager at FamilySearch in Salt Lake City, invited people to index the records so the names can be more accessible for family history purposes.

“We’re calling for volunteers, specifically those that have ties to these records, the African American community,” Reed said. “[We invite you] to get involved with this to help us break down this brick wall to help us overcome these barriers in genealogical research and making these family connections.”

For more information, visit discoverfreedmen.org.

Bridget is a newsroom writer at LDS.net. She graduated in April 2015 from Brigham Young University in communications with an emphasis of public relations. She served a Spanish speaking LDS mission in McAllen, Texas. She is a skilled pianist and an expert baker of chocolate chip cookies.