St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church is hosting a workshop and luncheon for anyone who would like to get involved in The Freedmen Bureau Project, or who is interested in Black family history research. The workshop will be at 11 a.m. on Jan 30, at St. John’s, 5700 North Kelly Ave, OKC ,73111. The lunch is free, but please reserve a seat.

The Freedmen Bureau was created immediately after the end of the Civil War to help freed slaves transition to full citizenship. It created birth and marriage records, collected hospital records, addressed complaints and facilitated employment and education.

Black family history researchers have long complained that they hit a “brick wall” when they reach back to about 1870. When The Freedmen Bureau records have all been digitalized, they should unlock a gate in that wall.

For over 140 years, the records lay sealed in the National archive, searchable only in person. But now that the Freedmen Bureau Project is underway, more and more of those records are available on the website, FamilySearch.org.

This is the fifth Freedmen Bureau Project event to be held in Central Oklahoma and will have three levels of classes. A beginner class for those who are brand new to helping make the written documents searchable online (indexing), another for those who have started to index The Freedmen Bureau records but need help moving forward, and a third for those who are competent indexers and want help doing their personal family history.

Attendees should bring a laptop computer if they have access to one. Ideally, attendees will create a username and password on FamilySearch.org beforehand.

FamilySearch.org is a free family history research website. It is partnering with the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture and the African American Genealogical Society and locally, The Coltrane Group to have the records ready for the opening of the new Smithsonian museum in Washington DC at the end of this year.

For more information or to reserve a seat, email Andre’ or Jessilyn Head from The Coltrane Group at andreh@thecoltranegroup.org or jessilynh@thecoltranegroup.org.

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