06/25/2015 06:18 pm ET Updated Jun 25, 2015

This Project Will Help Millions Of African Americans Find Their Ancestors

Millions of African Americans will soon have a new window into their family history and lineage thanks to the Freedmen's Bureau Project.

The organization will be digitizing hundreds of hand-written records gathered by the Freedman's Bureau Office between 1865 and 1872. The office served as a place for former slaves to report abusive slave masters, reconnect with lost family members and have marriages officiated, according to William Pretzer, a senior history curator at the Smithsonian Museum.

"In that process, they took down names -- full names -- and relationships," Pretzer told HuffPost Live's Nancy Redd on Thursday. "Those are the first time before the 1870 census in which those full names and relationships are recorded in any central place."

Now, "150 years later, [these] are the only records that we have of individuals right after the moment of slavery, as they're reconstructing their families," he added, "and we can now see that on paper."

With full names now at their disposal, African Americans will have additional resources in exploring their roots past Reconstruction and slavery, as well as discover other living relatives.

Find out more about the Freedmen Bureau Project here, and watch the full HuffPost Live conversation about the initiative above.

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