Lo­cal church help­ing lo­cal res­i­dents re­search fam­ily lin­eage

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By TIF­FANY WAT­SON twat­son@somd­news.com

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.

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