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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A Family History Photo Display with Mementos: What Would Yours Look Like?

mary ann photo trayRecently, 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 the link to 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.

large_thumb_tack_800_16520We’ve got more beautiful ideas like this on our Pinterest boards! Check them out: Family History Craft Projects, Legacy Displays and Heritage Scrapbooking for Family History.

 

Search for Early New England Ancestors FREE this Coming Week

New England ancestorsIn honor of Independence Day in the United States, AmericanAncestors.org is offering free access to databases on early New England ancestors starting TODAY through July 8.

If you have Mayflower, Pilgrim or Puritan ancestors (or want to confirm the rumor that you do!), you’ll want to take advantage of this offer from the New England Historic Genealogical Society. For many years the society has been researching “the 20,000 men, women, and children who crossed the Atlantic between 1620 and 1640, seeking opportunity and relief in New England.”

The Great Migration Study Project, as their work is known, has resulted in several databases, nine of which are open to the public for FREE during the first week of July 2015:

The Great Migration Begins.  This database “attempts to identify and describe all those Europeans who settled in New England prior to the end of 1633,” states an NEHGS press release. “As a rough estimate, about 15 percent of the immigrants to New England arrived in the fourteen years from 1620 to 1633, with the remaining 85 percent coming over in half as many years, from 1634 to 1640.”

The Great Migration Newsletter. “This database comprises Volumes 1 through 20 of the Great Migration Newsletter, published between 1990 and 2011. Each 32-page issue contains one or two feature articles, a column with editor’s comments, and a review of recent literature on the Great Migration. Each issue also contains a section with detailed coverage of one of the towns settled during the Great Migration, or of a specific critical record, or group of records.”

The Great Migration:  Immigrants to New England, 1634-1635, Volumes I—VII, A-Y. (7 separate databases) “As many as 2,500 people immigrated in 1634 and again in 1635….In May 1634, the population of Massachusetts doubled in just one month….Each alphabetical entry for a family or individual includes:

  • Place of origin, if known
  • Date and ship on which they arrived in New England, if known
  • Earliest known record of the individual or family
  • First residence and subsequent residences, when known
  • Return trips to their country of origin, whether temporary or permanent
  • Bibliographical information such as birth, death, marriage(s), children, and other important family relationships, church memberships, and civil and military offices held.”

 

Click here to access these databases for free between July 1-8, 2015. (Registration at AmericanAncestors.org is required as a FREE Guest Member.)

how to start a genealogy blogLooking for more FREE New England genealogy resources? Check out these blog posts!

Old Artifacts Become New Again: Jewelry with Found Objects

necklances closeupWhat 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.)

FullSizeRender (1)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.

How to Add Text to a Web Clipping in Evernote

Here’s a simple solution for making additions to an existing web clipping in Evernote.

By CBS Television (eBay item photo front press release) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Have you ever clipped something with Evernote and realized after the fact that you would like to copy and paste additional information (such as a genealogical source citation) to the clipping?

Carolyn wrote me recently when she ran into this problem of how to add text to a web clipping in Evernote: “I clipped a wedding document from FamilySearch to Evernote Notebook [and] added URL to dropdown menu. But where can I add the citation that is given on FS document page?

I tried copy/paste but…back at Evernote, nowhere to paste citation.  I like to document everything I use in my family records, so this is important to me…I enjoy using Evernote and following your tutorials that came with my (Genealogy Gems Premium website) membership. I have been using Evernote for just two weeks.”

Carolyn, I’m thrilled to hear that source citation is important to you, because it is the backbone of solid genealogical research! Here’s a simple solution.

How to Add Text to a Web Clipping in Evernote:

1. In Evernote, click once on the web clipping in the existing note

2. Press the right arrow key on your keyboard (you will see that now there is a big flashing cursor to the right of the clipped image)

3. Press the Enter key on your keyboard (just like a Return on a typewriter, your cursor has now moved one line below your clipping.)

4. Type or paste copied source citation as desired.

5. Use the formatting options at the top of the note to change the font size, type, and color, etc.

6. Click the INFO icon to see and add more data as desired (such as the original URL of the webpage where you clipped the item.)

How to add text to a web clipping in Evernote

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Click here to learn more about using Evernote for genealogy.

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