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How to Write and Self Publish Your Family History Book with Author J.M. Phillips

How to Write and Self Publish Your Family History Book with Author J.M. Phillips

If you’ve been wondering how to write and self-publish a book about your family history, my guest in this week’s free webinar has answers for you!

Amazon Link to Buy the Book

Click here to buy the book. (Thank you for using this link which helps make this free show possible.) J.M. Phillips is the author of the new book Lamlash Street, A Portrait of 1960’s Post-War London Through One Family’s Story available at Amazon in paperback or Kindle. 

Elevenses with Lisa Episode 50

Join me on Thursday, April 1, 2021 at 11:00 am CENTRAL TIME for the live premiere of my interview with J.M. Phillips. I’ll be joining you live in the chat as watch together at the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel. 

In this episode author J.M. Phillips shares:

  • How to be a great family history storyteller
  • Her favorite writing techniques that help create a compelling story
  • What she learned about self-publishing (and what you need to know)
  • Her experience living on and writing about Lamlash Street

My Guest: Author J.M Phillips

Jill Phillips is a family storyteller with a passion to inspire families to connect through the telling of their past. She started life on Lamlash Street in London, emigrated to Canada, where she obtained her master’s degree, and spent 30 years working as an Occupational Therapist and Hospital Manager. Motivated by her family’s experiences in 1960’s London, Jill shares their stories to celebrate a time of close family connections in difficult life situations and a way of life which is fondly remembered. 

About the Book Lamlash Steet:

Explore a world that can’t be visited anymore—South East London, 1963.

On Lamlash Street, Cockney families have more life and character than money, living among the bombed out and condemned buildings. Post WWII London will evolve swiftly into the era of The Beatles, Twiggy, and modern, swinging London.

Experience the lively true story of a girl on her way to being a young woman, coming-of-age at a moment in London’s history unlike any other. Jill Phillips tries to capture her first kiss while navigating a world turning upside down and the trauma that her parents and uncle experienced during the war.

It’s a time when a local factory shutting down could mean more than just job loss. As families are torn apart, they rely on questionable yet quirky neighbors and find inventive ways to survive—like pay cigarette machines in the house and Christmas presents “special ordered” for a fraction of the cost.

Seen-but-not-heard by the adults in her life, Jill looks for young love and how to define herself. Stories of Nazi aircraft on the walk home from school, watching Doodle bugs (flying bombs) drop on London from rooftop perches, and her uncle’s many unsettling stories of war as young merchant mariner give her a unique lens of the world and what a better future could look like for her family.

Lamlash Street: A Portrait of 1960’s Post-War London Through One Family’s Story is a heartfelt and funny historical memoir. 

How to be a family history storyteller.

In her new book Lamlash Street, Jill talked about how her uncle often shared his stories of fighting in World War II. I asked her what she thinks the value is of passing family stories like these from one generation to the next. Jill described how sharing family stories can often form  connections between family members that previously couldn’t exist. By re-telling the past, we can learn how families can move stronger into the future. We can learn more about family decision making. Jill gained a sense of peace about turbulent times in her childhood from learning more about why her mum and dead did what they did, such as moving from Lamlash St. to Kent.

Jill’s uncle was a talented storyteller and I asked her if she had been one before writing the book. While she was emphatic  that as an academic in her career she did not consider herself a storyteller, ultimately the experience of writing the book was “one of the most rewarding things I’ve done.”

Jill now takes comfort from her mum’s stories, and feels that they connect her more with her family. Writing and publishing your family’s history can help you learn even more about it because it so often generates even more connection and conversation within the family. That was certainly Jill’s experience, although she found her family very skeptical about the book project at first!

Lisa: Were there any tangible things you did to hone your skills as a storyteller and writer?

Jill: “I told myself ‘yes, you can do this!’”

How to Get Started Writing Your Family History Book

  • Just do it
  • The more you write the better you get at it.
  • The more you tell the stories, you better you get at the storytelling
  • Don’t think on day one that you should be able to write a great massive novel. Take it a piece at a time.

5 Strategies for Writing a Compelling Family History Book

  1. Jill started by just writing down a list of the stories she could remember. Then she could add to it and go ask more questions of family members. Her advice: ‘Focus on just getting the stories down.”
  2. To turn your family history book into a page-turner, create a “washing line”. Jill started by printing all her stories and then spreading them out. She says that individual stories are the article of clothing you pin on the story line. The washing line is the way you string them together.
  3. Look for a common theme. Jill also used a single year as a theme and then string the stories to the events of the year. She would look at the remaining stories to see how she could combine them with what she had.
  4. You should always have some romance in your stories. Jill decided to include a childhood crush.
  5. Bookend the story by starting and ending with something consistent or thematic. Jill chose Christmas. The circumstances between Christmas 1962 and Christmas 1963 were dramatic, and provided contrast to the consistency of the familiar holiday.

Lisa’s tool suggestions:

  • Scrivener
  • Powerpoint slides
  • Paper, sticky notes, index cards

Jill’s Encouragements for Writing Your Story:

  • Don’t be overwhelmed by it.
  • Just stick with your family’s stories.
  • Don’t worry about stringing everything together until you have collected all your stories.
  • “Just take it a piece at a time.” You have to find what works for you.

How to Ask Relatives for Stories

I asked Jill if she ever anybody who resisted sharing their stories when she asked. Did she have any special techniques to warm things up?

Jill’s tips for gathering stories from reluctant relatives:

  • You have to be sensitive that there will always be stories people don’t want shared.
  • Keep things on the light side.
  • Remember you don’t have to include everything. Jill didn’t.
  • “I didn’t push it. Because we don’t know the details. We don’t know what happened at that time, why it’s such a sensitive area. And I really wanted something that the family would be warm and positive towards.”
  • Consider ways to make it less controversial. Jill felt that the fact that her book was about a 10 year old made it less controversial. “The whole point of this was to celebrate the family, not to cause division.” Some authors opt to do so. It’s your decision.

Publishing Your Book

Jill decided to self-publish her book because it gave her more control over the process and the outcome. It’s also an affordable option. However, she didn’t shy away from asking for help. She was very happy with the experience.

She used a full-service self-publishing company called Book Launchers. They hand-help her through the process of self-publishing and promotion. You can also go with more do-it-yourself print-on-demand services like Lulu, Book Baby, or Create Space. Need more references? Try talking to a local printer in your town.

Avoiding Self-Publishing Pitfalls

  • If you get easily overwhelmed with decisions and details a hand-holding self-publishing company is a good way to go.
  • Speak to someone who has been through the process before.
  • Understand that it’s much more complex than you can imagine.
  • Find an online self-publishing support group.
  • Relax and realize that the process of self-publishing takes a lot longer than you think it will.

 

Secrets for Turning Family History into an Entertaining and Compelling Book

  • Drop little breadcrumbs along the storyline to keep people anticipating and engaged.
  • Keep the sections within the stories short.
  • Include a variety of perspectives, locations etc. when you can.
  • Help the reader visualize the scenes with great descriptions and details.
  • Don’t get too involved in very long scenes.
  • Resist going over and over something. It doesn’t drive the idea home – it makes it boring!

 Lisa mentioned the use of linguistics in tracing heritage. You can hear Lisa’s conversation with forensic linguist Dr. Robert Leonard in Episode 89 and Episode 90 of The Genealogy Gems Podcast.  

About the Book: Lamlash Street by J.M. Phillips

(A portrait of 1960s post war London through one family’s story) Explore a world that can’t be visited anymore—South East London, 1963. On Lamlash Street, Cockney families have more life and character than money, living among the bombed out and condemned buildings. Post WWII London will evolve swiftly into the era of The Beatles, Twiggy, and modern, swinging London.

 

East London 1960s Cockney

Please use this link if you decide to pick up a copy of the book. 

Experience the lively true story of a girl on her way to being a young woman, coming-of-age at a moment in London’s history unlike any other. Jill Phillips tries to capture her first kiss while navigating a world turning upside down and the trauma that her parents and uncle experienced during the war.

It’s a time when a local factory shutting down could mean more than just job loss. As families are torn apart, they rely on questionable yet quirky neighbors and find inventive ways to survive—like pay cigarette machines in the house and Christmas presents “special ordered” for a fraction of the cost.

Seen-but-not-heard by the adults in her life, Jill looks for young love and how to define herself. Stories of Nazi aircraft on the walk home from school, watching Doodle bugs (flying bombs) drop on London from rooftop perches, and her uncle’s many unsettling stories of war as young merchant mariner give her a unique lens of the world and what a better future could look like for her family.

Learn a Little Cockney with Author Jill Phillips

Apples and Pears rhymes with Stairs
Bonnet Fair rhymes with Hair

So her mum would say: “Jill, can you go up the apples and comb your bonnet?”

Trouble and Strife is your (rhyming) Wife
Plates of Meat is your (rhyming) Feet
If your dogs are barking it means your feet are aching!

 

Resources

Best Ways to Search for Photos with Google Images

Best Ways to Search for Photos with Google Images

Google offers a variety of ways to help you find and search for images. In fact, there are so many different ways it can get a little confusing. In this video and article I’m going to show you how to find images and photographs that apply to your family history. Who knows, we may even find an ancestor’s photo. I’m also going to show you how you can use Google Images to even help identify some of the images and photos you have in your family scrapbooks. These are my best image search strategies and they come my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox.

The Genealogist's Google Toolbox Third edition Lisa Louise Cooke

Available in the Genealogy Gems Store

Elevenses with Lisa Episode 49 Show Notes

Follow along in the show notes below. The step-by-step instructions are available in an ad-free show notes cheat sheet which is downloadable in the Resources section at the end of these show notes. (Premium Membership required.)

How to Find Photos and Images with Google Images

When it comes to searching for images, part of the confusion comes from the fact that the search experience on desktop and mobile are a bit different. So, let’s start with running a basic image search on computer desktop. There are actually two ways to do that.

#1 Google search for images at Google.com on desktop:

  1. Go to Google.com
  2. Run a search
  3. Click Image results

#2 Search for images at Google Images on desktop:

  1. Go to https://images.google.com or go to Google.com and click Images in the top right corner (Image 1) 

    How to get to Google Images from Google.com

    Image 1: How to get to Google Images from Google.com

  2. Run a text search: Example: John Herring
  3. Images results will be presented

If I’m in a hurry, I’ll usually just search from Google.com because I’m probably over there anyway. But if I really want to find the best image, or I expect to do some digging, I go directly to Google Images.

How to Get the Best Google Images Results

Searching for a name is fine, but chances are there are and have been many people with that name. You’ll need to narrow things down and provide Google with more specific information about what you want.

There are a several excellent ways to refine and dramatically improve your results. The best place to start is by using a few powerful search operators.

The first search operator is quotation marks. By putting quotation marks around a word or a phrase you are telling Google that it must:

  • Be included in each search result,
  • Be spelled the way you spelled it,
  • And in the case of a phrase, the words must appear in the order you typed them.

You can also use an asterisk to hold the spot for a middle initial or middle name. This is important because without it, Google may pass over these since the name was presented in quotation marks which means its to be search exactly as types.

Notice in the following screen shot how this refined search appears. The search operators have made quite an improvement in the image results. I’ve located four photos of my great grandfather! (Image 2)

Google Images search results

(Image 2) Google Images found photos of my great grandfather

Google might restrict how many images it shows you. Click See more anyway at the bottom of the screen to reveal all the results. (Image 3)

Find more Google Image search results

(Image 3) Click to see more image results

You may need to scroll down to see even more results. Click an image to preview it. (Image 4)

Preview Google Image results

(Image 4) Click to preview Google Image results

Click the enlarged preview image again to visit the website where it is hosted. I’ve got my fingers crossed that since this website is hosting a photograph of my ancestors, it just might have more. And indeed, it does – genealogy happy dance! (Image 5) 

google image results

(Image 5) Old family photos found on this web page

 

How to Narrow Down an Image Search to Old Photos

One of the ways you can zero in on old photos is by filtering down to only Black and White images. This makes sense because most of our older family photos are black and white.

On the Google Images search results page click the Tools button. This will cause a secondary menu to drop down. Click the Any Color menu and select Black and White. (Image 6) 

How to filter Google Image results

(Image 6) How to filter Google Image results

Now all of your image results will be black and white. It’s easy to tell that most of these are older photos. (Image 7)

c

(Image 7) Filtered image results

Permission to Use Images Found with Google Images

If you want to use any of the photos you find, you’ll need to ensure that you have permission to do so. Start with the FAQ at Google Search Help. This page will help guide you through issues like Fair Use and how usage rights work. In the end, the best thing to do when in doubt is to contact the person who posted the photo and explore any requirements they may have regarding use of the image.

How to Use Google Images to Identify Images and Photos

Do you have unidentified photographs, old postcards or other images in your family scrapbooks or photo albums? Google Images just might be able to help!

Start by first digitizing the image (I use a flatbed scanner) and saving it to your computer hard drive. Then head to Google Images on your computer and click the camera icon in the search field. This will give you two options:

  1. Paste URL (we’ll get to that in just a bit)
  2. Upload an image (this is the one you want – click it)

Click Choose File and grab the photo you saved to your computer. Google Images will search the Web for that image. It may find an exact copy, or it may deliver visually similar images.

Notice on the Google Images search results page that Google has added keywords to the search field at the top of the page. You’ll also see a tiny version of the image you searched. The keywords may be rather generic such as gentleman, family, etc. Try replacing these words with more specific words about the photos and what you are looking for. For example, you could replace the word gentleman with your ancestor’s name in quotation marks, or replace the word family with the family surname and the town where they lived. Experiment and try different variations to see what provides the best results.

How to Upload an Image to Google Image Search (Reverse Search):

  1. Digitize the image and save it to your computer.
  2. On your computer, go to https://images.google.com or google Google Images.
  3. Click the camera icon in the search field.
  4. Navigate to and select the digitized photo you saved to your computer.
  5. Google will attempt to find that exact image. If not the closest visually. You will see words in the search field along with your photo. These words describe what Google AI noted about the photo. For example, when I upload a photo of Margaret Scully sitting in her rocking chair, Google note “sitting” and delivered old photo of people sitting. When I upload a photo of the John Herring family Google notes “family” and provides old photos of family groups. Neither Margaret nor the Herrings are well-known, so this isn’t a surprise. If I upload a postcard from an ancestor’s scrapbook of a well-known or famous location, Google will likely find additional copies on the web and provide background information on the location and a website address for it if there is one.
  6. You can revise this search by replacing the words that Google noted (i.e. family) with the person’s name of the surname. In the case of the John Herring group photo, I replaced family with Herring and then John Herring.

Remember the option to Paste URL? Use this when you find a photo on a website, (or if you have posted a photo on your own website or blog) and you want to find more like it. Right-click (PC – or Control Click on a Mac) on the image and Copy Image Address. Next, head back to Google Images, click the camera icon and paste the URL. Google will use that image to run your image search.

How to Search an Online Photo with Google Images (Reverse Search):

  1. Right-click on a PC (Control Click on a Mac) on the image on the web page.
  2. In the pop-up menu select Copy Image Address.
  3. Got to Google Images.
  4. Click the camera icon in the search field.
  5. Paste the image URL that you copied to your computer clipboard (on a PC use Control V on your keyboard.)
  6. Click the Search by Image button to run your search.

Searching with your own image or an image you find online can help you discover many more website that have the visual content you need. In this episode I searched using an Elevenses with Lisa viewer’s old photo and revised the search with the name of the town. This resulted in a wonderful assortment of websites to look at that also hosted photos from the same town and timeframe.

The initial Google Image results added the keyword gentleman to the search field. But you can see by the visually similar images it found that it was able to target photos that included more similarities than just gentleman. These photos also matched in other important ways (Image 8):

  • House
  • Porch
  • Multiple People
  • White dress
  • Old photo
best ways to find old photos with Google

(Image 8)

Who might have photos online of your family? Here’s just a short list of possibilities:

  • Archives
  • Libraries
  • Historical Societies
  • Newspapers
  • Genealogy Websites
  • Cousins
  • Social Media

How to Use Google Image Search on Mobile

The Google Images camera icon allows you to conduct reverse image searches. However, whether you use a browser app like Safari or Chrome to go to Google Images or you use the Google search app, you won’t find the Google Images camera icon in the search field. Google Images is different on mobile than it is on computer desktop. The main difference is that there is no camera icon for uploading images to search. However, there’s a little secret for getting around that problem.

On an iPhone / iPad you can switch your settings for the Safari app so that it behaves more like a desktop computer. And for our purposes, that means getting the camera icon in Google Images.

How to Search Your Own Image Using Google Images on an iPhone or iPad 

  1. Open the Settings app
  2. Scroll down and tap the Safari app
  3. Scroll down and tap Request Desktop Website
  4. Tap the slide to activate All Websites
  5. Close the Settings app
  6. Open Safari
  7. Go to Google.com – if you’re signed into your account you can tap the apps icon (9 dots) and open Images or just google Google Images
  8. Now you have the camera icon in your search bar ready to reverse search images!

How to Reverse Search a Web Image on an iPhone or iPad (Reverse Search Images)

  1. When you find a photograph on a website in Safari, press and hold the image
  2. Tap Copy
  3. Go to Google Images (after changing your settings to Desktop Website)
  4. Tap the camera icon
  5. In the Paste URL field press and hold and tap Paste
  6. The web image URL will appear in the search field.
  7. Tap the Search by Image button to run your search.

How to Reverse Search an Image on Android:

  1. Open the Chrome browser app.
  2. Go to google.com.
  3. Tap the three dots at the top right to open the  menu.
  4. Tap to check the box for Desktop Site.
  5. The Google Images page will refresh and you will now have the camera icon ready to run reverse image searches.

How to Reverse Search a Web Image on Android (Reverse Search Images)

  1. In the Chrome browser, go to the web page hosting the image.
  2. Tap and hold on the image until the menu pops up.
  3. Tap on Search Google For This Image.
  4. You’ll be taken to Google Image results for that image.

Resources

 

 

Ohio Memory and Freedmen’s Bureau – 2 Record Groups for Genealogy

Ohio Memory and Freedmen’s Bureau – 2 Record Groups for Genealogy

Elevenses with Lisa Episode 48 Show Notes.

One of the great things about genealogy is that there are always new records. Well, not really new records, new OLD records. These records have been around sometimes hundreds of years, but they may have been languishing in the basement of an archive, library or even a private collection. Every day, old records are becoming available, and often  right from the comfort of our own home. Who doesn’t love that?! When we can get our hands on those records, it can throw the doors open to new possibilities. Our genealogy brick walls start shaking in their boots because it can take just one record, the right record, to knock it down.

In this article and video we will explore two major genealogy record collections. They are very unique, and yet have some important things in common. Both the Ohio Memory collection and the Freedmen’s Bureau collection are online, and they are both free. Click below to watch the video. We start with Ohio Memory, and the Freedmen’s Bureau discussion begins at the 23:58 mark. Follow along with the show notes below. 

Ohio Memory

Website: https://ohiomemory.org
Special Guest: Jenni Salamon, Ohio Memory Digital Services Manager

If your family has any connection with the state of Ohio – and sometimes I think it’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t have at least one ancestor who did – then you’re going to love the Ohio Memory collection and website.

Even if you don’t have a direct connection with the state of Ohio, like all collections its worth taking a peek. Records don’t care about state lines, and many items in the Ohio Memory collection touch far beyond the Ohio border.

OhioMemory.org was featured in Family Tree Magazine’s 75 Best State Genealogy Websites list in a recent issue of the magazine. I host the Family Tree Magazine podcast, and recently had the opportunity to interview Ohio Memory’s Digital Services Manager, Jenni Salamon for that audio show. Since there’s so much to see at Ohio Memory I’m excited to share the video of that conversation.

What is Ohio Memory?

Ohio Memory is the collaborative digital library program of the Ohio History Connection and the State Library of Ohio. Established in 2000. It was originally established as a bicentennial project they wanted a way to capture some of Ohio’s history and share it more broadly. Ohio turned 200 years old in 2003.

Ohio Memory worked with institutions around the state to build the online collection. They picked their favorite collections which were then digitized and made available as an online scrapbook. Initial submission by 260 institutions resulted in over 13,000 contributed items, and Ohio Memory continues to grow.

Most of the contributing organizations are public libraries, and some are university libraries. Other organizations such as historical societies, government institutions, special libraries, religious archives also contribute to the collection.

What kind of genealogical resources are available at Ohio Memory?

A wide-variety of materials make up Ohio Memory including:

  • Early Ohio state history
  • American Indians
  • The Civil War
  • World War I
  • Maps
  • Drawings
  • Paintings
  • Archaeological artifacts
  • Photographs
  • Journals
  • Objects
  • Oral Histories (audio and video)
  • Newspapers
  • Yearbooks
  • Present Day government records

All 88 Ohio counties are represented in the Ohio Memory collection.

Tips for Searching for Records at Ohio Memory

Everything at Ohio Memory is digital and keyword searchable thanks to Optical Character Recognition (OCR). However, they do sometimes connect back to other catalog records.

Search Tip: Finding Images at Ohio Memory
When you use the search box on the home page you will be searching both the text and the metadata provided by the contributor. If you want to search just visual items (photos, images, etc.) select “exclude full text sources.”

It’s important to use keywords relevant to the time period that you are searching. Restrict your format to what you want right from the homepage.

Historical Newspapers at Ohio Memory

The newspaper collection of Ohio Memory does not overlap with the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America collection, but they are all part of the same story and collection. They have contributed a large amount of newspapers to Chronicling America over the years. At last count there are a million pages between the two collections.

Ohio Memory focuses on titles and time periods different from the content on Chronicling America. At Ohio Memory you’ll find deeper runs of newspapers and more recent newspapers. New newspaper content is being added regularly.

They also have some very early newspapers that are significant to Ohio history such as the Ohio State Journal which was the paper of record for Ohio during the 19th century. The Ohio State Journal collection covers 1830-1875 an important time period in Ohio’s growth and the Civil War.

The Lebanon Western Star newspaper from southwest Ohio near Cincinnati and Kings Island is another important newspaper. It covers Ohio history from a more rural area.

Old Yearbooks at Ohio Memory

A lot of Ohio Memory’s public library partners have access to yearbook collections through their partnerships with local schools. Many have worked to digitize their materials and put them on Ohio Memory. Some are quite early, some more recent although not very recent due to privacy concerns.

Many of the yearbooks at Ohio Memory come from northwest and northeast Ohio. You’ll also find student histories from southwest Ohio from a couple of universities, as well as other related materials such as student photos.

Is Ohio Memory Free?

Yes! They used to have one collection that was behind a pay wall. That was the Underground Railroad Wilbur H Siebert collection which features information about underground railroad activities in Ohio and beyond. It’s a strong resource for looking at research methods of the era, and the stories of how the underground railroad operated. That collection was opened up a couple of years ago and has remained free.

Ohio Memory Help Resources

Videos, an FAQ and search guides are available to help you learn how to dig into the Ohio Memory website. You can also reach Ohio Memory by email for additional assistance.

The Future of Ohio Memory

They continue to digitize and add new materials based on their strategic goals. Recently they focused on President Warren G. Harding since it is the 100th anniversary of his election. They are continuing to add more content to that collection.

Ohio Memory has about 40 active partners around the state that are choosing items from their own collections for inclusion. Examples include Wood County in northwest Ohio, Mount Saint Joseph University and the Sister of Charity in the Cincinnati area. They welcome new partners every year.

Copyright and Usage at Ohio Memory

While you may or may not find things specifically about your ancestors, Ohio Memory offers a wonderful opportunity to find things that help fill in their story and their community.

You are free to use items for educational and personal use without needing extra permission. If you’re a family historian and you are wanting to put a picture in a presentation for your family or you just want to keep it with your own research records, you are welcome to do so.

Jenni Salamon, Ohio Memory’s Digital Services Manager says that if you want to post something on social media, simply include a link back to the Ohio Memory site so others know where it came from Ohio Memory. If you want to use an item for a formal publication or commercial use, contact Ohio Memory. Copyright varies by item and research is required.

Record Collection #2: 

Freedmen’s Bureau Records

FamilySearch’s Freedmen’s Bureau Project website: http://www.discoverfreedmen.org
Guest: Thom Reed, Deputy Chief Genealogical Officer FamilySearch International

FamilySearch is always busy bringing new, exciting and unique record collections to genealogists, and the Freedmen’s Bureau records certainly fall into that category. FamilySearch Deputy Chief Genealogical Officer at FamilySearch, Thom Reed spearheaded the project.

What was the Freedman’s Bureau?

The Freedmen’s Bureau (known as The Bureau of Refugees Freedmen and Abandoned Lands) was established shortly after the Civil War to help newly freed individuals and poor Southerners get back on their feet and start anew.

The Department of the Army established the Freedmen Bureau field offices and local offices in 15 states and the District of Columbia where people could seek assistance. Many African Americans who had been enslaved were on their own and they needed, work, food and housing. In the course of administering that help the government kept great records. These records were sometimes the first records of African Americans in this country. Many had not been documented before, or perhaps were only listed by first name. These records form a sort of bridge between the “1870 brick wall” often found in African American research and earlier records.

Freedmen’s Bureau Years of Operation

The Freedmen’s Bureau operated between 1865-1872. It was difficult to maintain. After it closed, other programs surfaced. In some cases, states took over the programs.

What types of records can be found in Freedmen’s Bureau Records?

While not all the records created by the Freedmen’s Bureau are genealogically relevant, many are.

Freedmen’s Bureau Records Include:

  • Labor contracts
  • Apprenticeship records
  • Solemnized marriages
  • Education records
  • Hospital records
  • Court documents and complaints
  • Food Ration records
  • Correspondence (this is the majority of the records and may name people)
  • Banking records

The Freedmen’s Bureau Project

The Freedmen’s Bureau Project extracted the genealogically relevant information so that volunteers could index it and make it searchable. This effort resulted in 1, 783,463 names being made searchable.

There’s also pages and pages of documentation that are not yet indexed. They didn’t index a lot of the correspondence. You will need to use the finding aids, descriptive guides and pamphlets and go through and look at the images. All of the images are available online to view.

The Freedmen’s Bureau Project was completed in 2016, just 366 days since it began.

FamilySearch partnered with many organizations and 25,550 volunteers to complete the project including:

  • The National Archives and Records Administration
  • National Museum of African American History and Culture
  • They opened in 2016, and as a gift FamilySearch gave them the database.
  • Societies include the Afro American Historical and Genealogical Society – several of their 35 chapter across the United States assisted with the indexing.

How to Access the Freedmen’s Bureau Records

You can access the Freedmen’s Bureau records though FamilySearch or the Discover Freedmen website.

Where you start depends on what you want to do and what you know. For many people, Discover Freedmen is a good place to start. You can simply enter your ancestor’s first and last name and it will search all of the indexed collections that they have available at FamilySearch including the Freemen Bank records which was a separate entity from the Freedmen’s Bureau. It will allow you to search all of those record collections together and show you where that name appears.

If you know the location or the specific type of record you are interested in, you may want to go directly to FamilySearch and start searching.

The Freedmen’s Savings and Trust Bank

The Freedmen’s Bank was a separate entity from the Freedmen’s Bureau. It was based in Washington D.C. After the war it allowed newly freed individuals to deposit their funds in a bank account and start to establish some kind of wealth.

The Freedmen’s Savings and Trust Bank operated from 1865 to 1874, just a little bit longer than the Freedmen’s Bureau.

The interesting thing about their deposit records is that to be a depositor you had to include information about your family and where you lived. This means that in these records you may find entire family groups listed in a depositor’s application. You could find a husband and wife, all their children, where they lived, and in some instances who they were formerly enslaved by.

Unfortunately, due to mismanagement and other financial issues, they closed. However, the  records remain. The National Archives and Records Administration held those records for years, and FamilySearch indexed them back in 2001. Over 469,000 names and the associated digitized images can be found in the collection database at Familysearch.

Learn more about the Freedmen’s Savings and Trust Bank Records here.

Part 3: Photo Restoration and Animation Video

In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day I did some restoration work on an old photograph of my great, great, grandmother that was taken in the 1920s. She came to American from Limerick Ireland in the 1850s. Here’s the process I followed to create it:

  1. Digitize the image at the highest resolution possible.
  2. Restore the photo first – I use the free Adobe Photoshop Fix app on my phone.
  3. Head to MyHeritage and use the Enhancer tool to further improve the image.
  4. Then use MyHeritage’s Colorization tool if desired.
  5. Apply MyHeritage’s Deep Nostalgia tool to animate the face.
  6. I compiled the images and rendered the final video using Camtasia. This video software program made it possible to transition from photo to animation and back again.

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Learn more about Irish Research and how I busted my brick wall in Elevenses with Lisa Episode 18. (Premium membership required.)

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