Arkansas, Freedmen's Bureau Field Office Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)Edit This Page

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FamilySearch Record Search This article describes a collection of historical records available at FamilySearch.org.

Contents

Record Description

The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (often called the Freedmen’s Bureau) was created in 1865 at the end of the American Civil War to supervise relief efforts including education, health care, food and clothing, refugee camps, legalization of marriages, employment, labor contracts, and securing back pay, bounty payments and pensions. These records include letters and endorsements sent and received, account books, applications for rations, applications for relief, court records, labor contracts, registers of bounty claimants, registers of complaints, registers of contracts, registers of disbursements, registers of freedmen issued rations, registers of patients, reports, rosters of officers and employees, special and general orders and circulars received, special orders and circulars issued, records relating to claims, court trials, property restoration, and homesteads. This collection corresponds with NARA microfilm publication M1901, Records of the Field Offices for the State of Arkansas, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1872.

Record Content

The following information is often found in Bureau records:

  • Name of the freedman
  • Name of the freedman’s former owner
  • Date of the record
  • Birthplace
  • Residence
  • Age
  • Bride
  • Groom
  • Marriage date
  • Marriage place

How to Use the Records

The Freedmen’s Bureau records are a major source of genealogical information about post Civil War African Americans. To begin your search it is helpful to know:

  • The name of you ancestor
  • Identifying information such as age, residence or former owner

Search the Collection

To search the collection:
⇒Select the "Browse" link in the initial search page
⇒Select the appropriate office or field location
⇒Select the appropriate item of interest which takes you to the images

Look at each image comparing the information with what you already know about your ancestors to determine which one is your ancestor. You may need to compare the information about more than one person to make this determination.

Using the Information

When you have located your ancestor’s record, carefully evaluate each piece of information given. Save a copy of the image or transcribe the information. These pieces of information may give you new biographical details such as a title, an occupation, or land ownership. Add this new information to your records of each family. You should also look for leads to other records about your ancestors. For example use the place of residence, age, and other information for each person to search for the individuals in census records and other types of records.

Tips to Keep in Mind

  • The records are a good source to quickly identify a family group and residence.
  • Former slaves may have had used multiple names or changed their names until they decided upon one particular name. Search all possible names along with variations or spellings of their known names.
  • If you cannot find your ancestor search the indexes and records of neighboring localities.

General Information About Freedmen's Bureau Records

The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands was established in the War Department in March of 1865. It was commonly called the Freedman’s Bureau and was responsible for the management and supervision of matters relating to refuges, freedmen, and abandoned lands. The Bureau assisted disenfranchised Americans, primarily African Americans, with temporal, legal and financial matters, with the intent of helping people to become self-sufficient. Matters handled included the distributing of food and clothing; operating temporary medical facilities; acquiring back pay, bounty payments, and pensions; facilitating the creation of schools, including the founding of Howard University; reuniting family members; handling marriages; and providing banking services. Banking services were provided by the establishment of the Freedman’s Saving and Trust Company, or Freedman’s Bank.

The Bureau functioned as an agency of the War Department from approximately June 1865 until December 1868. In 1872, the functions of the Bureau were transferred to the Freedmen’s Branch of the Adjutant General’s Office.

The Bureau assisted over one million African Americans, including many of the nearly four million emancipated slaves, which was over 25% of the population of former slaves in America.

The records identify those who sought help from the Bureau at the end of the Civil War. Most supplicants were freed slaves, some of which were military veterans. In addition, a few veterans who were not African Americans also sought help from the Bureau. Freedmen’s Bureau records are usually reliable, because the records were supplied through first-person correspondence or the recording of a marriage.

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Citing Family Search Historical Collections

When you copy information from a record, you should list where you found the information. This will help you or others to find the record again. It is also good to keep track of records where you did not find information, including the names of the people you looked for in the records.

Citation for This Collection

The following citation refers to the original source of the data and images published on FamilySearch.org Historical Records. It may include the author, custodian, publisher and archive for the original records.

"Arkansas, Freedmen's Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1872." Images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2013. Citing NARA publication M1901. National Archive and Records Center. Washington, D.C.

 

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  • This page was last modified on 3 July 2014, at 11:25.
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