Find Your Ancestors in Freedmen’s Bureau Records–or Help Others Do the Same

freedmens bureau announcementThe 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.”

freedmens bureau infographicHere’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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Create a Family History Website with Your Tree

Recently I heard from David with this question:

“Because of your consistent message of starting a family blog [and] anecdotal success from listeners, I started a family history website. A blog just seemed too small….  The ultimate goal is to display the family information for my known relatives as well as create a site that will pop up on Google search results and hopefully put me in contact with new relatives.

My question is about displaying the family tree on the website.  I want to have a page that shows my family tree.  I did not know how to accomplish that, so I decided to include links to my ancestry and myheritage family trees.  The problem with this method is that ancestry requires you to have an account to view the tree, and MyHeritage only shows you some of the family tree and requires an account to view the rest.  This is not a great method to share the family tree with relatives because not everyone has, or wants, an account with these sites.  Is there a website where I can upload my family tree’s GEDCOM file and then link to it on my website where it will display all the members of my tree?”

It’s always great to hear that Genealogy Gems is helping out. Congrats on the website David! I download backblazerecommend blogs to my readers because they are quicker and easier to set up, but in reality I would rather recommend they create a family history website like you are doing. It’s better suited for the long haul of getting your word out and connecting with others.

You pose a great question, and so I did what I just coached everyone in my latest episode #171 to do: just Google it! What you are describing is a ‘website plugin’ so I Googled: family tree website plugin and…Ta-da! There are some out there.

I found one for Word Press (which is where I build my site) so I may have to give that one a try. However, since you are using Weebly I went back and added “weebly” to the search and there are definitely some hits there, though I’m not sure if they specifically include a visual tree plug in. Try the searches and see if you find something you like.

My friend Caroline Pointer has a YouTube video called “Build a Family History Website & Blog on Weebly.” Around the 5:50 mark she shows how she embedded family tree charts into Weebly. Looks like she used Scribd.

Keep up the great work on your family history site!

See the Incredible Piece of History This Auctioneer Stumbled Into

HMS Alert in pack ice during the Arctic Expedition of 1875. Wikimedia Commons image; click to see image and full citation.

HMS Alert in pack ice during the Arctic Expedition of 1875. Wikimedia Commons image; click to see image and full citation.

Every man-made object has a story behind it–and sometimes an entire chapter in history. One such object is a bottle of ale recently discovered in a garage in Shropshire, England. As reported by TheBlaze.com, a British auctioneer found the bottle. “It looked interesting, so I took a closer look — and, lo and behold, there on the cap were the words ‘Allsopp’s Arctic Ale,’ then embossed on the seal was ‘Arctic Expedition 1875.’”

Now the bottle is up for auction! Here’s the description from the auction site:

“An unopened bottle of Arctic Expedition beer dated 1875, with original intact label and contents. Allsopp’s Arctic Ale was brewed for The British Arctic Expedition of 1875. The Expedition was an attempt by the British Admiralty to reach the North Pole and included two ships HMS Alert and HMS Discovery under the leadership of Vice-Admiral Sir George Nares (1831-1915). Unfortunately the expedition failed to reach the pole but succeeded in mapping the coast lines of Greenland and Ellesmere Island.”

I wondered whether anyone else has sampled another bottle of ’75 Arctic brew. So I googled it. I found a beer blogger who loves the stuff! From Martyn Cornell’s Zythophile: Beer Now and Then blog post of June 10, 2012:

“One indisputably legendary beer is Allsopp’s Arctic Ale, the powerful, rich Burton Ale, original gravity 1130, north of 11 per cent alcohol, brewed in Victorian times….There are a very few bottles left of the Arctic Ale brewed for the expedition under Sir George Nares which set out in 1875 to reach the North Pole. And this week I drank some….

Amazingly, there was still a touch of Burtonian sulphur in the nose, together with a spectrum of flavours that encompassed pears, figs, liquorice, charred raisins, stewed plums, mint, a hint of tobacco, and a memory of cherries. It was dark, powerful and still sweet….Those frozen sailors on the 1875 British Arctic Expedition, some of whom set a new record for furthest north, traveling to within 460 miles of the North Pole, must have cheered whenever another bottle was thawed out and decanted into their mugs.”

Navy/Marine Corps Purple Heart Medal with gold 5/16 inch star and lapel button in presentation case. World War II. Wikepedia Commons image; click to view full citation.

Navy/Marine Corps Purple Heart Medal with gold 5/16 inch star and lapel button in presentation case. World War II. Wikepedia Commons image; click to view full citation.

What history do your family artifacts hold? Click here to read about other family heirlooms, lost and found, trashed or treasured, reported here on our blog, like a post about a Purple Heart medal like the one shown here.

Have you heard a great story like this? Post it on our Genealogy Gems Facebook page or email me!

 

NEW Genealogy Book Club: Here’s a Gem Inspired by You!

genealogy book club genealogy gemsWe’ve heard from you, our readers and listeners that you LOVE to read! Well, we’ve just launched a great new FREE program for you: the Genealogy Gems Book Club!

This is an idea we have been percolating on for quite a while with your encouragement. You regularly send me the names of books you love. I also hear from publishers and the authors themselves. Now we can all come together as a genealogy book club community!

The Genealogy Gems Book Club is a virtual, no-commitment option that features a book every three months that I consider a genealogy gem. We will focus on mainstream nonfiction and fiction titles that explore themes you care about, like family ties, heritage and history. These are books you will want to read for pleasure and recommend to anyone, not just other genealogy lovers.

My favorite part of the Genealogy Gems Book Club is the exclusive author interviews that will appear on the Genealogy Gems free and Premium podcasts in the third month of the featured book (after people have had time to read it). After all, podcasts are all about conversation! I’ve learned in the past that you love interviews with authors, whether you have read the book or not.

genealogy book club

She Left Me the Gun: My Mother’s Life Before Me by award-winning U.K. journalist Emma Brockes. It recounts the author’s discovery of her mother’s traumatic childhood in South Africa. Genealogy Gems Contributing Editor and Book Club Guru Sunny Morton loves this book: This is a genealogical journey, complete with trips to archives, poring over old court cases and dramatic reveals. It’s also about learning the past from living relatives. This is the ultimate how-to book for exploring and sharing sensitive family stories because she shows you how it’s done.”

Here’s how the three-month cycle works for this new genealogy book club:

  • In the first month, Sunny Morton, our Genealogy Book Club Guru will introduce us to a new title on the Genealogy Gems free podcast, the Premium Podcast and on the Genealogy Gems blog. She will share a quick run-down on the book and why she recommends it.
  • In the second month, Sunny and I will discuss a gem from the book, and recommend additional titles in case you are looking for something more to read.
  • In the third month, our featured author will join the Genealogy Gems podcast for an exclusive interview. Excerpts from the interview will run on the free podcast and the entire interview will air on the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast.

To follow the Genealogy Gems Book Club, go to our home page and sign up to receive our FREE monthly newsletter (you’ll receive my Google Search ebook too as a welcome gift!) Then check in periodically at the Genealogy Gems Book Club webpage, which summarizes all books covered to date and includes additional recommendations. And of course, subscribe to the Genealogy Gems Podcast in iTunes.

Ready to become a Premium member so you’ll catch the full author interviews as well as all the other in-depth coverage on the Genealogy Gems Premium Genealogy Gems book clubpodcast? Click here to learn more.

Listen to Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 172 for more details.

See you at the Genealogy Gems Book Club!

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“Just a Mom” and Becoming a Professional Genealogist

Recently I heard from Emily, a mom of younger children who is feeling inspired to take her love for family history in a more professional direction. Have you considered becoming a professional genealogist yourself? You’ll want to check out an interview I told her about (see below). Anyone can take their life’s experiences and channel them into their career path!

“Dear Lisa,

I was at the Midwestern Roots conference today and I just wanted to say ‘thanks’ for something you said at your opening session this morning.  You were talking about when your daughters gave you the iPod and how you were at a point in your life when you were trying to figure out what to do, and I think you even used the expression ‘just a mom.’ 

I really related to what you said. I am a mom to two younger kids, I love my family history research, and I’m trying to find a new professional direction in life.  So, you’ve given me some hope that maybe I can use my love of genealogy to (somehow) help and teach other people.

Probably not the typical type of ‘thank you’ note you usually receive, but I just wanted you to know.”

Hi Emily,

You are very welcome and how sweet of you to take the time to write. Believe me when I say that “just a mom” was a reference to the fact moms often get that sort of response from the culture these days. (I know that other moms know what I mean.)  Being a mom is the highest calling possible, and remains my first priority. And the great news is that technology makes it possible more than ever to pursue additional dreams!

I think you might enjoy a special interview I gave recently to the Genealogy Professional Podcast. It was for folks just like you.  You’ll also find additional interviews at the bottom of my About page on my website.

Wishing you great success as you pursue your dreams!!
Lisa

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