New records from the National Archives, digitized by FamilySearch, that document the lives of former slaves in the years following the Civil War have been released in time for today’s celebration of Juneteenth.

In 1865, the federal government created the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands — commonly known as the Freedmen’s Bureau — to assist former slaves in legalizing existing marriages and new labor contracts as well as making a record of the names of former slave owners, number and names of children, military register payments, hospital logs and similar items. These records, available only by searching the Archive files until recently, are extremely important to African Americans researching information about their ancestors.

These newly digitized records are from Arkansas, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and the District of Columbia. They can be viewed for free at FamilySearch is a nonprofit organization sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormons.

Through an agreement with the National Archives, copies of the original records from the Freedmen’s Bureau are given to FamilySearch, which then digitizes them and makes them available to the public for free.

The records are released in batches as they become available. Most of the work of digitizing and indexing every name within those records is done by volunteers.