The more I learn about U.S. history and records, the more I appreciate the challenges faced by those researching their African-American roots. In addition to the emotional toll of learning about their ancestors’ hardships, today’s researchers face the practical challenges of finding kin in records that mostly ignored their existence.
That’s why I’m super excited that the Freedmen’s Bureau records are finally being fully indexed. Scattered records are already transcribed (see the Freedmen’s Bureau Online). But there hasn’t been a comprehensive index of its 1.5 million state field agency documents. These include military pensions, marriage records, property claims, hospital records, trial summaries, labor contracts, school rolls, registers and censuses. Many of the four million African-Americans freed from slavery are mentioned, as are many white Southerners.
FamilySearch indexers began quietly indexing Freedmen’s Bureau records in 2009: the state of Virginia’s records are already searchable. Last week, in observance of the Juneteenth holiday (which celebrates emancipation), FamilySearch issued a call to action. They asked for help indexing the rest of the Freedmen’s Bureau within the year.
“Records, histories and stories will be available on DiscoverFreedmen.org,” says a release. “Additionally, the records will be showcased in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is currently under construction on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and expected to open in late 2016.”
Here’s a quick history lesson: The Freedmen’s Bureau was organized after the Civil War to aid newly-freed slaves in 15 states and Washington, DC. For several years it gathered “handwritten, personal information on freed men, women and children, including marriage and family information, military service, banking, school, hospital and property records,” according to FamilySearch.
The richest genealogical records of the Freedmen’s Bureau are in the field office records of each state. Click here to download a PDF from the National Archives about these original records.
Find more tips on finding African-American and other Southern U.S. ancestors here on the Genealogy Gems website. Recent posts include:
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Recently, Genealogy Gems Premium member Mary Ann shared some beautiful family history crafts with us. One is this exquisite family history photo display she made for a cousins’ gift exchange. It’s a collage concept that incorporates pictures with mementos and meaningful embellishments, but in a beautifully orderly fashion.
“This was so easy to make,” Mary Ann wrote. “The hardest part was rounding up the photos I wanted to use, then sizing them to fit the appropriate little openings. I use Photoshop Elements for my photos and digital scrapbooking so I cropped and sized the photos there, put them all into one larger page so I could print all at once, printed a draft on printer paper to make sure the photos were the correct size then printed my good version on photo paper.
“When I made the photo tray a few years ago, I found the tray in my local Archiver’s scrapbooking store. Archiver’s has since closed their retail stores but they sell online. I was looking at their site last night and found the same item for sale that I used in my project. Here is thelinkto the item.
“I cut out my photos, some of which filled the entire little opening, but if they didn’t, I added some scrapbook paper as a background to those. The “generations” and “ancestry” tags, as well as the ovals, flowers and key, are all scrapbooking embellishments. I used little pieces of ribbon under the outhouse photo, as a bow on the key and to cover the “handle” of the tray. I had some leftover lace I used to trim the bottom of the box. I copied a piece of a census record that showed my grandparents’ names and some of my aunts and uncles. I used acid-free double sided tape made for scrapbooking to attach it all. And I found the little frame to put on my grandfather’s photo.”
Mary Ann also hopes to create a photo tray like this for her son’s school photos (she saw the idea online) but hasn’t gotten to it yet. But she got a lot of mileage out of the one she did finish. “I made a total of 6 of these, all alike, and gave the remainders later as Christmas gifts to my mom, an aunt and a couple cousins,” she tells us. “And I was even clever enough to keep on for myself. My aunt told me she cried when she opened it and saw what it was.”
I remember little display trays like this being popular in the 1970s or 1980s, too. I’ve seen them at resale and antique shops, and tucked away in friends’ basements and attics. You may be able to find vintage trays that are less-expensive than the new ones. This inspiring idea made me wonder what mementos, tiny memorabilia, embellishments and even photocopied genealogy records I would tuck into my own version of this project.
Every genealogist eventually finds themselves with more paper than they know what to do with. Records, photos, letters, and other ephemera inevitably begin to pile up in the pursuit of our ancestors. So how do you preserve it and protect it for future generations? One...
Do you use Evernote for Genealogy? Genealogists everywhere are singing its praises and it’s a regular feature here on Genealogy Gems. Well, Evernote just got a little better today.
Evernote has just released a new web clipper and it oozes with awesomeness. It works with Safari, and may be the catalyst for reluctant Windows users to finally say goodbye to Internet Explorer and make the commitment to Google’s Chrome web browser.
My favorite feature (so far) of Evernote’s new web clipper is easy to spot. The Screenshot clipper that was once only available using the desktop app is now built right into the browser web clipper. You gotta love it!
But it doesn’t stop there. Once you have clipped the desired web content, there are a load of new annotations you can add to highlight what’s important to you.
Watch the video to see it in action:
Here are some key features:
The Evernote Web Clipper has been updated on Chrome, Opera, and Safari. You’ll need to restart your browser once it’s updated.
Clipping from Gmail, LinkedIn, YouTube and Amazon has been customized to allow you to clip only the parts of the page you want. It saves as a clean and clutter-free note. With Gmail, Web Clipper includes any email attachments.
You can share clips right from the new Web Clipper. You can even embellish clips with text and visual callouts.
You can assign clips to notebooks and tags right from the clip screen. The more clips you save, the better Evernote gets at predicting where you want it saved.
What old family artifacts do you have that would make a great piece of jewelry?
Recently I heard again from Gems follower Jen McGraw, whose question inspired a recent blog post on researching in state capitals. “I make necklaces with vintage postage stamps (from the 1890s thru 1970s) or vintage skeleton keys,” she told me. “I would love to make one for you and give it to you as a gift of thanks for your info and help.” She asked what countries I’m interested in (she has stamps from just about everywhere) and what color metals I wear, then custom-created this gift for me. (She does this for others, too: here’s her Facebook page.)
A public thanks to Jen–I love this new necklace! What fun to see how she has incorporated these old stamps and keys into new jewelry. Jewelry with found objects is unique and trendy, but I love it because it can be a real conversation-starter. The colorful designs on stamps and their history can say something about the wearer’s family history. To me, old keys symbolize unlocking the fascinating mysteries of the past.
I have blogged before about incorporating family history into jewelry, like this post about turning a piece of found jewelry (a single earring) into a unique hair accessory. I love hearing about YOUR creative displays and jewelry, too: feel free to send your pictures and stories! Click here to read our blog posts about crafts and displays, or follow my Pinterest board on Family History Craft Projects.