The Freedmen's Bureau Project Digitizes Almost 2 Million Slavery-Era Documents

The Freedmen’s Bureau Project Digitizes Almost 2 Million Slavery-Era Documents

Imagine how much work it would take to scan nearly 2 million Civil War-era documents related to newly-freed slaves. Now imagine the work involved to then go through those documents and painstakingly index the names and other information. This is exactly what the Freedmen’s Bureau Project did to help African Americans reconnect with their ancestors.

I’m always on the lookout for interesting scanning projects, and this one certainly qualifies.

The Freedmen’s Bureau Project was completed in summer 2016 and is a joint project of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, the Smithsonian, the National Archives, FamilySearch, and the California African American Museum.

It took almost 19,000 vounteers a year to index over 1.7 million documents, the source of which was the Freedmen’s Bureau:

The Freedmen’s Bureau, organized under an 1865 Congressional order at the conclusion of the Civil War, offered assistance to freed slaves. Handwritten records of these transactions include records such as marriage registers, hospital or patient registers, educational efforts, census lists, labor contracts and indenture or apprenticeship papers and others. The records were compiled in 15 states and the District of Columbia.

To search for a record, go to the Freedmen’s Bureau Project page, click Discover, and type in a first and/or last name.

Freedmens Bureau Project Result
Freedmens Bureau Project Result

This seems like an important and worthwhile project, and I’m amazed they completed it so quickly. Well done.

About the Author

Brooks Duncan helps individuals and small businesses go paperless. He's been an accountant, a software developer, a manager in a very large corporation, and has run DocumentSnap since 2008. You can find Brooks on Twitter at @documentsnap or @brooksduncan. Thanks for stopping by.

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Thierry - September 1, 2016 Reply

Very interesring project. But you are leaving in the middle of the story…..
It would have been nice to know more about the scanning process. Did they use some scanner like the SV600, or more basic, etc. how many scanners they had for these 19 000 volunteers?
how they oranised and save those records from so many volunteers at a time. (Its hard between my wife and I, but i cannot imagine how they did for 19 000 volunteers)

You raise so many questions and my curiosity. 🙂

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