Skip navigation
Share this page

Freedmen’s Bureau Project

Help Us Index
Freedmen’s Bureau

We need
2,016 volunteers!

The National Museum of African American History and Culture has partnered with and the National Archives to index records of the Freedmen’s Bureau to make them freely accessible to researchers online.

To achieve this goal we need 2,016 volunteers to index the records so that we can complete the indexing project by June 19, 2016 when we celebrate the Juneteenth anniversary, the day when slaves in Texas learned they were free.

Get Started Today!

Getting Started

  • You will be indexing the names and other data from the handwritten records of the Freedmen’s Bureau.

    To start:
    1. 1. Register that you are volunteering to index in support of NMAAHC

      Note: All volunteers MUST register with NMAAHC prior to indexing.

    2. 2. Once registered with us, you will be redirected to the Family Search website to create an account.
    3. 3. Download the indexing software to your computer. The software allows you to view the digital images and index the data you see.
    4. 4. View indexing instructions, tutorials and guides. FamilySearch also provides technical assistance for any difficulties you experience with indexing.
    Once the indexing is complete, the names will be added to databases grouped by location. They will be made available for free access to the public on all of the partner’s websites.

    This project has no specific time commitment or minimum requirement on the number of records to transcribe.

About the collaboration

  • The National Museum of African American History and Culture, FamilySearch, and the National Archives and Records Administration are working together to make digital records of the Freedmen’s Bureau available to the public.

    The National Archives and Records Administration
    The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is the federal agency responsible for preserving the important records of our national government such as original copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Emancipation Proclamation. NARA currently houses the original Freedmen’s Bureau records and has provided microfilm copies of these original records for use with the indexing project.

    FamilySearch, a non-profit organization, collects genealogical data around the world from individuals, government agencies, institutions, and organizations. FamilySearch digitized the microfilmed Freedmen’s Bureau records, and hosts the websites and where the indexing project is managed.

    The National Museum of African American History and Culture
    The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) is committed to making these materials available to wider audiences by recruiting volunteer indexers and providing visitors access to these files on our website.

What are the Freedmen’s Bureau records?

  • The Freedmen’s Bureau was created by the Federal Government after the Civil War on March 3, 1865 to provide assistance to freed slaves and loyal destitute whites in the Southern and Border States. Bureau agents established offices in the following areas: Alabama, Arkansas, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

    The records created by the Freedmen’s Bureau agents contain an unparalleled source of information on African Americans and their families in the years immediately following emancipation. They allow genealogists, historians and other researchers to examine the American experience in the post-Civil War and Reconstruction eras on subjects such as economics, education, emancipation, family, government and military policies, health, labor, law, local history, marriage, and race relations.

    The Freedmen’s Bureau records include

    Administrative records
    Labor contracts
    Census returns
    Marriage and cohabitation records
    Letters of Bureau officials
    Correspondence from freedmen
    Freedmen court proceedings
    Hospital records
    Special orders
    Employment records
    School reports
    Pension records
    Oaths of Allegiance
    Transportation records

How will I be contributing to this project?

  • Indexing is the process of entering information from historical records into an online, searchable database. You will be indexing names and other data from the handwritten records of the Freedmen’s Bureau to make it easier to find individuals within those records.

    Volunteers have already completed the name indexes for the Virginia microfilm (NARA publication M1913). They are currently available for searching and browsing at under the database title “Virginia, Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1872.”