Descendants of slaves have a new tool to dig into their family history, in the form of thousands of records now preserved forever.

The documents are from the Freedmen's Bureau -- a group that helped African-Americans transition out of slavery.

"Freedmen Bureau records help tell the remarkable, true stories of a newly freed people," said Maureen Elgersman Lee, executive director of the state's black history museum, at a news conference Thursday in Richmond.

Now, thanks to modern technology, these records from the past have been preserved for the future.

"This will be an invaluable way for people to connect to their past," said Gov. Tim Kaine (D).

The Commonwealth worked with the state's black history museum to digitize hundreds of thousands of documents from the Virginia Freedmen's Bureau.

"These have been called the Genesis records of African-American identity after the Civil War," Elgersman Lee said.

Kaine says it's an meaningful step for the place where slavery came to the new world.

"It's important that we are first, first to make these records available to be searched," said Kaine.

For years, the records sat on shelves. The history museum and state officials stepped in three years ago.

The governor says it's about more than words on a page.

"If you destroy the past and you destroy records, you know, you destroy more than just pieces of paper," he said.

Reported by Adam Rhew
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Descendants of slaves have a new tool to dig into their family history, in the form of thousands of records now preserved forever.