LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — For millions of African-Americans, tracing family heritage is often difficult, with records proving limited or scattered.
FamilySearch, the world’s largest genealogical organization, is hoping to change how African-Americans understand their legacy.
They announced Friday previously-unreleased genealogical records for millions of freed slaves would be made publicly available.
“Technology has come a long way to now. You don’t have to travel to the national archives or to a genealogical society in a remote location to go get those actual records,” said, Thom Reed, the organization’s Sr. Partner Marketing Manager.
FamilySearch says it has more than 5 billion files of individual names — from all backgrounds.
The information hails from the Civil War era, following the passage of the 13th Amendment.
Between 1862-1872, the Freedmen’s Bureau interviewed men, women and children freed from slavery, collecting their marriage and family information, as well as military service, banking, school, hospital and property records. Their reach extended to residents in 15 states and the District of Columbia.
Dr. Helen Williams, Dean of the Graduate School of Education and Psychology at Pepperdine University, says she has a lot to learn when it comes to her family history.
“Most of our family history is oral. We don’t have documents that prove who we are,” Williams said.
More than 460,000 historical records and stories will be available for free on DiscoverFreedmen.org. To participate in the project on social media use #DiscoverFreemen.
This release was made possible through the efforts of FamilySearch, in collaboration with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society and the California African American Museum.