Freedmen’s Bureau records available on Ancestry.com

Credit: Special

Credit: Special

Ancestry.com recently announced that it now has on its website the largest digitized and searchable collection of the Freedmen’s Bureau records.

More than 3.5 million records can be viewed for free at www.ancestry.com/freedmens. Also included are the Freedman’s Bank Records. Both of these provide valuable information on African Americans, starting at the end of the Civil War in 1865.

While the Freedmen’s Bureau records have long been available on microfilm through the National Archives, there was no index. A major project was started a few years back at FamilySearch.org to index them on that website. Ancestry.com now has moved one step further in making the records more accessible than ever.

A good source of information are contracts made between former plantation owners and the newly freed men and women. They show former slaves assuming surnames for the first time, or revealing surnames that they had but were not allowed to use. Not all former slaves took the last names of former slave owners. They sometimes chose other surnames. You can also search for a plantation owner’s name in order to locate records for your geographical area. This new availability will be a boon to genealogists and historians.

ExploreRead more about using the Freedmen's Bureau records for family research

Tombstones, not for everyone

Many genealogists spend a lot of time looking for marked graves. But many people could not get a permanent marker because stone, such as marble or granite, was not available at that time or was too expensive. I know one prominent Georgia family in the late 1790s had to order a tombstone from New York City to be shipped to Georgia. So many graves, especially in rural areas, were marked in ways that did not survive. There are books for most Georgia counties that have listings of all the marked graves discovered in that county. The best collection is at the Georgia Archives.

President at your ancestor’s birth

It might be interesting, as part of your genealogy research, to look up the name of the president when an ancestor was born. My parents were born during the Harding administration, and my grandparents during Teddy Roosevelt’s.

Contact Kenneth H. Thomas Jr., P. O. Box 901, Decatur, Ga., 30031 or www.kenthomasongenealogy.com.