a research project for the Freedmen


“Every time an old person dies, it is as if a library has burned down.”

— from an old African proverb


Whispers from the Dust

In the News

Freedmen's Bureau Indexing

Dr. Walden's Short Bio

African American Family History Resource Page



The Virginia Freedmen Project's mission is to encourage and strengthen families, particularly those within the African American community, to discover their genealogy and family history. We accomplish this mission through research, development, and presentations in Virginia and beyond. Our research and development consultants helped to facilitate "Freedmen's Bureau Indexing," a pilot project to scan, transcribe, and index the Freedmen's Bureau records beginning in 2007. This is NOT the official website for "Freedmen's Bureau Indexing," which is now available online for Virginia as of January 15, 2007 involving the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia and the Genealogical Society of Utah. To volunteer for indexing go to the link above.

As part of our mission, we educate the public through our must see and highly acclaimed free-of-charge presentation called "Whispers from the Dust." Many African Americans believe that limited information is available for them to do their family history research. This is not true.  Exciting new resources of direct relevance to African Americans and genealogical researchers are now becoming available.

The "Whispers from the Dust" presentation provides a moving account of the Freedman’s Bank and the Freedmen’s Bureau, which assisted more than four million slaves and Black soldiers as they transitioned to freedom at the end of the Civil War.  You and your organization will learn how the Freedmen records, long stored in the National Archives, are emerging as invaluable resources for African American family history research.

We offer “Whispers from the Dust” to you and your organization at no charge.  Our goal pursuant to our mission is to encourage and strengthen families, particularly those within the African American community, to discover their genealogy and family history.  We have found that audiences are enthusiastic about the presentation, as evidenced by a number of newspaper articles and television interviews.

The search for ancestors is especially challenging and frustrating for many African Americans, who often discover their ancestral roots are shrouded in the institution of slavery.

Several very important developments in just the past few years are having a particularly important impact on African American family history research – the preservation and digitalization of the Freedmen’s Bureau records (microfilming completed September 2006) and the digitalization of Freedman’s Bank records (CD completed in 2001 and available over the Web in 2006). These Freedmen records provide the earliest comprehensive glimpse into the lives of nearly four million slaves, turned “freedmen,” as well as Black soldiers who fought with the North in the Civil War. Other possible developments involving the Freedmen's records could add considerably to their availability and utility for family history research.


“In all of us there is a hunger marrow-deep, to know our heritage—to know who we are and where we come from. Without this enriching knowledge, there is a hollow yearning. No matter what our attainments in life, there is still a vacuum, an emptiness, and the most disquieting loneliness.”

— Alex Haley, the Pulitzer Prize 

winning author of Roots