United States, Freedmen's Bank Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)Edit This Page

From FamilySearch Wiki

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

United States.png


Record Description

The collection consists of an index and images of registers for 67,000 people who opened accounts in the Freedman's Savings and Trust Company. This is NARA microfilm publication M816 Registers of Depositors in Branches of the Freedman's Savings and Trust Company. The records are from Record Group 101 Records of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. The registers identify those who opened accounts. Because the Freedman’s Bank was required by law to protect the interests of depositors’ heirs, the branches collected an enormous amount of personal information about each depositor and his or her family when the account was opened. The registers cover approximately the years 1865 to 1874.

Each register book consists of printed forms, with information for four depositors on each page. The registers are arranged chronologically by the date the account was established and then numerically by account number. Many numbers are missing, a few are out of order, and some blocks of numbers were never used. Many registers seem to be missing.

The Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company was established and incorporated by an act of Congress on March 3, 1865, as a banking institution in Washington, D.C., primarily for the benefit of freed slaves and former African American military personnel. It was commonly called the Freedman’s Bank; however, it was not under the supervision of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (Freedmen’s Bureau).

The Registers of Signatures of Depositors in Branches of the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company contain the records of 29 branches of the Freedman’s Bank. The registers identify those who opened accounts. Because the Freedman’s Bank was required by law to protect the interests of depositors’ heirs, the branches collected an enormous amount of personal information about each depositor and his or her family when the account was opened.

Registers of depositors are usually reliable because the information came from the depositor himself or from a close family member (in the case of children). Some errors may have been made in recording the information.

The branches were located in the following cities:

  • Atlanta, Georgia 
  • Augusta, Georgia 
  • Baltimore, Maryland 
  • Beaufort, South Carolina 
  • Charleston, South Carolina 
  • Columbus, Mississippi 
  • Huntsville, Alabama 
  • Lexington, Kentucky 
  • Little Rock, Arkansas 
  • Louisville, Kentucky 
  • Lynchburg, Virginia 
  • Memphis, Tennessee 
  • Mobile, Alabama 
  • Nashville, Tennessee 
  • Natchez, Mississippi 
  • New Bern, North Carolina 
  • New Orleans, Louisiana 
  • New York, New York 
  • Norfolk, Virginia 
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 
  • Raleigh, North Carolina 
  • Richmond, Virginia 
  • Savannah, Georgia 
  • Shreveport, Louisiana 
  • St. Louis, Missouri 
  • Tallahassee, Florida 
  • Vicksburg, Mississippi 
  • Washington, D.C. 
  • Wilmington, North Carolina

In 1874, overwhelmed by the effects of the Panic of 1873, mismanagement, abuse, and fraud, the Freedman’s Bank closed. Congress appointed a three-member board and later the Comptroller of the Currency to oversee the affairs of the bank. The Comptroller was made commissioner exofficio, and he submitted annual reports to Congress. The Freedman’s Bank final report was made in 1920. Contrary to what many of its depositors were led to believe, the bank’s assets were not protected by the federal government. While half of the depositors eventually received about three-fifths of the value of their accounts, others received nothing. Well into the 20th century, some depositors and their heirs were still seeking reimbursement for the remaining portions of their accounts. Depositors included about 67,000 African Americans, or about two percent of the former slave population. In addition, thousands of non–African Americans made deposits at the bank. These people were primarily immigrants who were born in the British Isles, Scandinavia, and Continental Europe. Depositors listed the names of close relatives. All together, the records lists about 480,000 names.

You can browse through images in this collection by visiting the browse page for United States, Freedmen's Bank Records, 1865-1874.

Record Content

The registers may contain the following information:

  • Account number
  • Name of depositor
  • Date of application
  • Birthplace
  • Place brought up
  • Residence
  • Age
  • Complexion
  • Occupation
  • Name of employer
  • Spouse’s name
  • Children’s names
  • Father’s name
  • Mother’s name
  • Brothers’ and sisters’ names

Additional information included only in the early books were:

  • Name of former master or mistress
  • Name of plantation
  • Regiment and company served in during the Civil War

Sometimes the following information is also included:

  • Wife’s maiden name or the name of a former spouse
  • Names of nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and in-laws
  • Residence of these individuals and whether they were living or dead
  • Death certificate copies

In addition to individuals, African American churches, private businesses, and beneficial societies also maintained accounts. Such accounts usually list the names of leaders, owners, or officials of those institutions.

How to Use the Records

To begin your search you need to know:

  • Your ancestor's given name and surname
  • Other identifying information such as residence, age, and family relationships.

Freedman’s Bank registers are a good source to quickly identify a family group and residence. Use a person’s birthplace, age, and place of residence to search for census and other record types. The bank records probably identify persons for whom other records do not exist.

Search the Collection

To search the collection by name fill in your ancestor’s name in the initial search page. This search will return a list of possible matches. Compare the information about those in the list to what you already know about your own ancestors to determine if this is the correct family or person.

If you did not find the person you were looking for, you may need to search the collection by image.
⇒Select "Browse through images" on the initial collection page
⇒Select the “Film" category which takes you to the images

Look at each image comparing the information with what you already know about your ancestors to determine if the image relates to them. You may need to look at several images and compare the information about the individuals listed in those images to your ancestors to make this determination.

With either search keep in mind:

  • There may be more than one person in the records with the same name.
  • You may not be sure of your own ancestor’s name.
  • Your ancestor may have used different names or variations of their name throughout their life.

For tips about searching on-line collections see the on-line article FamilySearch Search Tips and Tricks.

Using the Information

When you have located your ancestor’s record, carefully evaluate each piece of information given. Download a copy of the record, or extract the genealogical information needed. These pieces of information may give you new biographical details. Add this new information to your records of each family. The information may also lead you to other records about your ancestors.

Tips to Keep in Mind

  • Continue to search the index to identify other relatives.
  • When looking for a person who had a common name, look at all the entries for the name before deciding which is correct.
  • You may need to compare the information of more than one family or person to make this determination.
  • Be aware that, as with any index, transcription errors may occur.

Unable to Find Your Ancestor?

  • Look for variant spellings of the names. You should also look for alias names, nicknames and abbreviated names.
  • Try alternative search methods such as only filling in the surname search box (or the given name search box) on the landing page leaving the other box empty and then click on search. This should return a list of everyone with that particular name. You could then browse the list for individuals that may be your ancestor.

Related Websites

Related Wiki Articles

How You Can Contribute

We welcome user additions to FamilySearch Historical Records wiki articles. We are looking for additional information that will help readers understand the topic and better use the available records. We also need translations for collection titles and images in articles about records written in languages other than English. For specific needs, please visit WikiProject FamilySearch Records.

Please follow these guidelines as you make changes. Thank you for any contributions you may provide.

Citations for This Collection

Citing your sources makes it easy for others to find and evaluate the records you used. When you copy information from a record, list where you found that information. Here you can find citations already created for the entire collection and for each individual record or image.

Collection Citation:

"United States, Freedmen's Bank Records, 1865-1874." Database with Images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2015. Citing Freedman's Savings and Trust Company. National Archives and Records Service, Washington, D.C.

Record Citation (or citation for the index entry):

The citation for a record is available with each record in this collection, at the bottom of the record screen. You can search records in this collection by visiting the search page for United States, Freedmen's Bank Records, 1865-1874.

Image Citation:

The citation for an image is available on each image in this collection by clicking Show Citation at the bottom left of the image screen. You can browse through images in this collection by visiting the browse page for United States, Freedmen's Bank Records, 1865-1874.


Need wiki, indexing, or website help? Contact our product teams.

Did you find this article helpful?

You're invited to explain your rating on the discussion page (you must be signed in).

  • This page was last modified on 16 October 2015, at 18:07.
  • This page has been accessed 13,311 times.