Robert Frederick Smith Explore Your Family History Center

The Robert Frederick Smith Explore Your Family History Center helps people begin their family history journey and learn the basics of researching African American genealogy. Visit the Explore Your Family History Center on the 2nd floor of the Museum in our Explore More! gallery to attend a genealogy research session, view objects from the collection, and engage with our interactive digital experience, Transitions in Freedom: Records from the Freedmen’s Bureau.

Genealogy Research Sessions 

Staff members show visitors how to research their family histories using online databases including Ancestry Library Edition, and Visitors can begin their genealogy research, while those with more experience can receive additional guidance.

Visitors may sign up for a session in person during their visit. Sessions are held at the following times on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays:

Individual Sessions 

  • 10:30 AM 
  • 11:30 AM 

Group Sessions 

  • 1:30 PM 
  • 2:30 PM 
  • 3:30 PM

When sessions are not being held, visitors can explore the Family History Center, which is home to two exhibits, including the Transitions to Freedom interactive table.

Family portrait
Gift of Charles Schwartz and Shawn Wilson © Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture

Public Programs

On one Saturday each month, the Center offers public programs and workshops to visitors in the areas of genealogy, oral histories, digital archiving and preservation. Programming includes lectures and workshops. 

Upcoming Programs

  • July 25, 2020 - North Carolina's Free People of Color 1715 - 1885 with Prof. Warren E. Milteer, Jr.

If you are interested in attending any of our public programs, please RSVP by emailing us at We begin taking RSVPs one month prior to the event. 


The Center features two exhibition areas: the Transitions in Freedom: Records from the Freedmen’s Bureau interactive and a small display highlighting objects from the Museum’s collection that relate to family history. Transitions in Freedom: Records from the Freedmen’s Bureau traces the history of an African American family from slavery to freedom through Freedmen’s Bureau documents, maps, photographs and other records.

Featured Exhibit

Visit our gallery on the Museum's 2nd Floor as part of Explore More!
Second Floor Interactives; Photo credit: Walter Larrimore

Explore More!

Explore More! is an interactive, multifaceted educational space dedicated to helping visitors connect and engage with African American history and culture in ways that expand perspectives, spark curiosity and creativity, and increase knowledge.
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The Center offers a variety of resources to help visitors through the genealogy research process. Staff is currently creating State Resource Guides that detail the archives, libraries and organizations relevant to conducting African American genealogy research in each state. Check our webpage periodically to see if your state has been added. An Explore Your Family History Center blog is forthcoming.

Robert Frederick Smith Fund 

The Explore Your Family History Center operates as part of the larger Robert Frederick Smith Fund. The RFS Fund provides digital resources supporting the preservation, digitization and sharing of African American family history. The other initiatives of the Fund include the Great Migration Project, Community Curation, Professional Curation and the Internship and Fellowship program.

Explore the Collection

Search the Museum's Collection for objects related to African American family and community traditions.