clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Juneteenth: FamilySearch seeks volunteers to transcribe records for new database of people of African descent

FamilySearch regularly celebrates Juneteenth, the most significant Black celebration of emancipation in the United States, also known as Emancipation Day or African American Freedom Day

An image of a “Colored Census” from the archives of the Freedmen’s Bureau that was organized near the end of the American Civil War to assist newly freed slaves in 15 states and the District of Columbia. The LDS Church, FamilySearch.org, the Smithsonian and other groups partnered on a project to recruit volunteers to index 1.5 million records from the Freedmen’s Bureau archives through discoverfreedmens.org. Similar projects need additional volunteers today.
An image of a “Colored Census” from the archives of the Freedmen’s Bureau that was organized near the end of the American Civil War to assist newly freed slaves in 15 states and the District of Columbia.
DiscoverFreedmen.org

SALT LAKE CITY — Those looking for a Juneteenth weekend activity can go online and transcribe a small batch of digital images of records about people of African descent.

“We need indexers,” said Thom Reed, FamilySearch’s deputy chief genealogical officer for African heritage. “Come help us with this Caribbean Civil Registration Project.”

Indexing involves looking at a digital image and typing what is written in it so that a searchable database of the information can be created.

The Caribbean Civil Registration Project is 2% complete.

To join the project, go to familysearch.org/indexing/projects and click on “Projects.”

FamilySearch regularly celebrates Juneteenth, the most significant Black celebration of emancipation in the United States, also known as Emancipation Day or African American Freedom Day.

“We’ve used this day, Juneteenth, to announce things to help the African American community,” said Reed, who is African American.

On Juneteenth 2015, FamilySearch launched an effort to index 1.5 million records created by the Freedmen’s Bureau from 1865-72. The Freedmen’s Bureau was established to help emancipated slaves enter free society, aiding them with food, housing and more.

Some 25,550 individual volunteers helped transcribe nearly 1.8 million digitized records containing information about 4 million former slaves. All of the information is now searchable at discoverfreedmen.org.

While the Freedmen’s Bureau Project is complete, work continues in the effort to document African history and genealogy and to connect African Americans and others of African descent to their ancestors, Reed said.

For example, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints last year gave $2 million to help with the construction of the Center for Family History at the International African American Museum.

The museum is located in Charleston, South Carolina, on the location of what was the largest slave port in United States, what Reed called “ground zero for slavery in America.”

A team at Michigan State University is creating an online platform that will allow people to use one search engine to crawl seven major databases, “a huge breakthrough,” according to Reed.

Emory University has created the definitive Transatlantic slave trade database, slavevoyages.org, which documents 34,000 voyages to the Americas. Most slaves were taken from Africa to the Caribbean or Brazil.

Relatively few, about 400,000, reached the United States, which is why FamilySearch is turning to the Caribbean and Brazil.

Cornell University also is seeking indexing help for “Freedom on the Move,” an effort to transcribe ads about runaway slaves to create another searchable database.

There’s even another Freedmen’s Bureau project underway. The National Museum of African American History and Culture is looking for help to transcribe correspondence that wasn’t indexed in the FamilySearch project, which centered on the most genealogically significant records.

To learn more about what FamilySearch is doing and how to help, read the FamilySearch blog entry about Reclaiming Our African Roots.

Reed has benefited personally from the efforts to uncover more people on his family tree, he said Friday, when he spoke with Wendy Smedley in a FamilySearch livestream event.

“I’m so thankful,” Reed said, “for all the work people are doing to document anything that helps my people make a connection with their ancestors.”