Reconstruction Comes Alive Through FamilySearch

Historically Speaking

Over the summer, the Washington Post announced that FamilySearch International, one of the world’s major online genealogy firms, will publish 1.5 million images of records for 4 million freed African American slaves. The digitized records, owned by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), comprise Freedmen’s Bureau documents from the end of the Civil War and the start of Reconstruction. FamilySearch’s announcement appropriately came on June 19th, or Juneteenth, the annual celebration in the African American community of emancipation. WaPo noted that June 19, 2015 also marked 150 years since the Union Army declared the slaves of Texas, the last Confederate state, to be free.

The digital humanists at FamilySearch clearly recognize that release this dataset is a major work of digital history. The company has launched a standalone website, Discover Freedmen, to publicize the project. However, the records aren’t accessible on Discover Freedmen. Users still must make a free account on…

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