Local church helping local residents research family lineage
The world has yet to invent a time machine and there are quite a few unanswered questions about family ancestry from centuries ago. The Emancipation period divided many families, left slaves having to start a new life and many family records were lost. A local church is dedicated to helping local residents who are descendants of slaves, learn more about their family lineage through the Freedmen’s Bureau Project.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in White Plains and the White Plains Family History Center are making community leaders and local residents aware of the Freedmen’s Bureau Project and it’s contribution to helping make past family records available to individuals who are descendants of slaves. So far, the information has helped residents find marriage records, the number of children their descendants had, their ages, and their descendants’ slave master.
Joyce Candland, genealogist and director of the White Plains, Family History Center said the Emancipation Proclamation freed approximately four million slaves and the Freedman’s Bureau was established to help transition slaves from slavery to citizenship. Freedmen’s Bureau established schools, hospitals and even set up court systems to allow former slaves to regress.
“It started in 1865 in the
South and since then these records were kept by families. The Freedmen’s Bureau partners and volunteers have archived, digitized and then indexed the family records as time went on,” Candland said. “I did a presentation on May 26 discussing how people can conduct their family lineage research online at their homes or on the ten computers available at the White Plains Family History Center.”
Freedmen’s Bureau helped bring in 1.5 million family lineage records. The Freedmen’s Bureau Project was created as a partnership between FamilySearch International, the National Archives (NARA),
the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Afro-American Historical and Genealogy Society (AAHGS) and the California African American Museum.
FamilySearch recently announced the completion of the Freedmen’s Bureau Project, indexing the names of millions of African Americans collected directly following emancipation.
Mollyanne Margolis, a Charles County representative for the Freedmen’s Bureau Project in White Plains, said that as of this week the project is 100 percent complete. FamilySearch is still finding more records that will be completed by September 2016, but the initial records that they were targeted to have finished are now complete.
“FamilySearch needed 20 percent of the records indexed and these were intermediate records or difficult records,” Margolis said. “The records allow individuals to type in the names of their ancestors and the records from the Freedmen’s Bureau would pop up.”
The project is nationwide and with the help of the White Plains Family History Center and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in White Plains, Charles County is doing their part to contribute family records and pertinent information to the project. Their goal is to complete the Freedmen’s Index in time for the dedication of the National Museum of African American History & Culture in September 2016.
“We have a very large
African American population in Charles County so there are many people who will be able to build their family trees using these records. We believe that it’s an important way for local African American families to know who they are and which family lineage they belong to,” Margolis said.
Once published, information for millions of African Americans will be accessible, allowing families to build their family trees and connect with their ancestors.
“I want others to enjoy and exceed in the research process and identifying their ancestors,” Candland said. “We live in a time with people scattered around the world but they are now free and I think their stories would benefit us all.”
Candland said she sees a general interest in many residents researching and
having knowledge of their roots and the Freedmen’s Bureau Project presents a way to help African Americans learn more about their family and themselves.
“I thought it was amazing that this church is putting so much effort into helping African Americans, the people that were definitive slaves, being able to trace their names,” said Charles County Del. CT Wilson. “Personally, I don’t really know who my parents are, being the oldest of 17 kids and having been in foster care, so I was interested in it because it can be frustrating trying to research family lineage. But if you don’t know your past then you won’t know your future.”
Wilson said the project itself is large and very well organized. It gives local Charles County residents the opportunity to look at handwritten records that are difficult to interpret and manage to track down their family lineage.
“I know people who are anxious to track down their family lineage and I find it amazing, the effort that this local church, individuals and genealogists have put into this project,” Wilson said.
Candland and Margolis said the project has been very successful and the wonderful history that comes with finding families of African Americans is a gift from God. They said the fact that families can be brought back together through these records is a blessing and as local representatives for the Freedmen’s Bureau Project, they want these records to be a blessing to other families as well.