ASALH Philadelphia Heritage Branch President Regina Vaughn was recently featured in USA Today article, “Black genealogists’ surprising findings using Ancestry’s digitized U.S. Freedmen’s records,” as written by Terry Collins of USA TODAY.

“Regina Vaughn has been painstakingly tracing her family legacy dating back to slavery to keep a vow she made to her late mother more than a decade ago.

She has spent countless hours, days, nights, weekends, sometimes holidays through weary and watery eyes from all of the tears while trying to uncover her lineage, primarily through written documents and files on microfilm.

The retired Philadelphia public schools teacher has lost count of how many miles she has flown – to places as far as Cameroon, West Africa, or driven up and down the tobacco roads to states like Virginia and South Carolina to learn more about her ancestors.

Many times, however, Vaughn kept hitting a roadblock that many Black Americans face finding their roots. The infamous “1870 Brick Wall.” That’s when tracking information back to when Congress passed the Freedmen’s Bureau in 1865, an act that created a federal agency designed to help millions of formerly enslaved Black Americans in the South adjust to freedom after the Civil War.

But now, Vaughn said a new free search created by the online DNA site has been helping her learn more details about her family during the Reconstruction more quickly and why the name “Tribble” means so much to them.

In August, Ancestry released what it says is the most extensive and searchable Freedmen’s Bureau records by making available more than 3.5 million documents from the National Archives and Records Administration. Some records date back to 1846.

And more than a month since the release, researchers like Vaughn are discovering things on Ancestry they say would’ve taken them years, or things they would have never found. The site includes details such as labor contracts, bank records, marriage licenses, schools, and food and clothing for emancipated Black Americans.

“This has opened up a whole new world for my family and me,” Vaughn said. “It’s been vital.”

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