African American Freedmen's Bureau RecordsEdit This Page

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United States go to African American Research  go to Freedmen's Bureau

Contents

Definition

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; aid involved: education (4,300 schools were established), health care (100 hospitals were established), issued food and clothing,operated refugee camps, helped legalize marriages, employment, supervised labor contracts, worked with African American soldiers and sailors and their heirs to secure back pay, bounty payments and pensions, for newly freed African Americans (four million), and to supervise confiscated Southern properties.

Value

Because the Bureau's records 1865-1872 contain a wide range of data about the African American experience during slavery and freedom, they are a valuable source for the black family historian. Among the records are registers that give the names, ages, and former occupations of freedmen and names and residences of former owners. In addition, there are marriage registers that provide the names, addresses, ages, and complexions of husbands and wives and their children. For some states there are census lists, details of labor and apprenticeship agreements, back pay records, complaint registers, personal data about black soldiers (including company and regiment), school records, hospital registers, census records, and records of murders committed against freedmen.

Challenges in Using the Records:

The records are not indexed in the original records.

The record type and quality vary with each state, field office to field office.

Name changes

Not all records survived or are available in searchable formats.

Jurisdictions

This bureau operated in all the states of: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolin, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia West Virginia, and Indian Territory (that is Oklahoma) and has records from 1861 to the 1870s. The Freedmen’s Bureau created records at headquarters in Washington, DC, state records and field agents.

There are three sets of records:

1 Commissioner’s records,

2 Superintendent of Education

3 Field office records (local)—normally the most useful. However, the commissioner’s records contain lists and reports such as two linear feet of marriage papers. Records from the field offices vary from state to state. Since most freedmen contacted the bureau at the local level, you will find the most genealogical data and clues in field office records

Arrangement

The Preliminary Inventory of the Records of the Field Offices of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands: Record Group 105 by Elaine Everly and Willna Pacheli of the National Archives [FHL book 973 F23ea; fiche 6002638-40] describes the bureau’s records. They are organized alphabetically by state, thereunder by offices, and thereunder by county or town. Part One is about Alabama, Arkansas (including the Oklahoma Indian Territory), the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, and Louisiana. Part Two is about Maryland and Delaware, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Part Three is about Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and the Freedmen's branch at of the Adjutant General's Office.

Availability

Most of the subordinate field office records, with the exception of selected records for New Orleans and Tennessee have not been microfilmed and are only available at the National Archives in Washington, DC. For a list of Freedmen’s Bureau records that are microfilmed see the Black Studies: A Select Catalog of National Archives Microfilm Publications [FHL book 973 A3bs; fiche 6002413; and on the Internet]. www.archives.gov/research/african-americans

The Family History Library has many of the Freedmen’s Bureau microfilmed records. The microfilm numbers for most of these records can be found in the Family History Library Catalog Keyword Search using the search phrase “Bureau of Refugees” www.FamilySearch.org

FamilySearch.org also has a searchable collection of marriage records for about 7,900 individuals from Freedmen's Bureau Marriages, 1815-1869. The collection includes images of the original records.

Records of Bureau of Refugees, Freedman and Abandoned Lands and Freedman's Saving and Trust Company Available at the Family History Library
State Record Type Record Group NARA FHLC

First Film or Fiche #

Number of Films /Fiche Additional Reading
National Preliminary Inventory of Records of the Filed Offices Pt. 1 Alabama-Louisiana, Pt. 2 Maryland-South Carolina, and Pt. 3 Tennessee-Virginia 105 - 6002638 3 fiche -
Select Series of Records issued by the Commissioner, 1865-1872 105 M742 491550 7 rolls - Descriptive Phamphlet: FHL Book: 973 J53m # 742
Register and Letters Received by the Commissioner, 1865-1872 105 M752 908680 74 rolls - Descriptive Phamphlet: FHL Book: 973 J53m #752
Records of Education Division, 1865-1871 105 M803 1695186 35 rolls -
U.S. Court of Claims Docket Cards for Congressional Case Files, ca. 1884-1943 123 M2007 unavailable 5 rolls -
Marriage Records of Office of Commissioner, Washington Headquarters, 1861-1869 105 M1875 2425252 5 rolls -
Alabama Records of Assistant Commissioner, 1850-1870 105 M809 1612338 23 rolls

- Descriptive Phamphlet: FHL Book: 973 J53m #809

Records of Superintendant of Education, 1865-1870

105 M810 1695841 8 rolls - Descriptive Phamphlet: FHL Book: 973 J53m #810
Records of Field Office, 1865-1872 105 M1900 2424719 34 rolls -
-
Arkansas Records of Assistant Commissioner, 1865-1869 105 M979 1498698 52 rolls - Descriptive Phamphlet: FHL Book: 973 J53m #979
Records of Superintendant of Education, 1865-1871 105 M980 1695811 5 rolls - Descriptive Phamphlet: FHL Book: 973 J53m #980
Records of Field Office,1865-1872 105 M1901 FHL Film: 1193948 23 rolls -
-
Delaware Records of Field Office, 1865-1872 105 M1906 2424887 42 rolls -
-
District of Columbia Records of Assistant Commissioner, 1865-1869 105 M1055 1605536 21 rolls - Descriptive Phamphlet: FHL Book: 973 J53m # 1055
Records of Superintendant of Education, 1865-1872 105 M1056 1617650 24 rolls - Descriptive Phamphlet: FHL Book: 973 J53m # 1056
Records of Field Office,1865-1870 105 M1902 2424776 21 rolls -
-
Florida Records of Assistant Commissioner, 1865-1872 105 M1869 2425908 15 rolls -
-
Georgia Records of Assistant Commissioner, 1865-1869 105 M798 1498626 36 rolls - Descriptive Phamphlet: FHL Book: 973 J53m # 798
Records of Supintendant of Education, 1865-1870 195 M799 1685269 28 rolls - Descriptive Phamphlet: FHL Book: 973 J53m # 799
Records of Field Office, 1865-1872 105 M1903 1574209 90 rolls -
-
Kentucky Records of Field Office. 1865-1872 105 M1904 2425923 133 rolls -
-
Louisiana Records of Supintendant of Education, 1865-1869 105 M1026 1695273 12 rolls - Descriptive Phamphlet: FHL Book: 973 J53m # 1026

Records of Assistant Commissioner, 1865-1869

105

M1027

1498662 36 rolls - Descriptive Phamphlet: FHL Book: 973J53m #1027
Records of Field Office, 1863-1873 105 M1905 2426056 111 rolls -
New Orleans, Louisiana Records of Field Office, 1865-1869 105 M1483 1604921 10 rolls - Descriptive Phamphlet: FHL Book: 973 J53m #1483
-
Maryland Records of Field Office, 1865-1872 105 M1906 2424887 42 rolls -
--
Mississippi

Records of Assitant Commissioner, 1863-1869

105 M826 1616440 50 rolls - Descriptive Phamphlet: FHL Book: 973 J53m #826
Records of Field Office, 1865-1872 105 M1907 2428148 65 rolls -

Records of Assistant Commissioner, 1863-1865      ("Pre Bureau Records")

105 M1914 2424701 5 rolls -
-
Missouri Records of Field Office, 1865-1872 105 M1908 2426982 24 rolls -
-
North Carolina Records of Assistant Commissioner, 1862-1879 105 M843 1616841 38 rolls - Descriptive Phamphlet: FHL Book: 973 J53m # 843
Records of Supintendant of Education, 1864-1869 105 M844 1695567 16 rolls - Descriptive Phamphlet: FHL Book: 973 J53m #844
Records of Field Office, 1865-1872 105 M1909 2427006 78 rolls -
-
South Carolina Records of Assistant Commissioner, 1865-1870 105 M869 FHL Film: 1579188 44 rolls

Martin Abbott, The Freedman's Bureau in South Carolina, 1865-72. (Chapel Hill: university of North Carolina Press, 1967)

- Descriptive Phamphlet: FHL Book: 973 J53m #869

Records of Assistant Commissioner, 1865-1869 105 T 999 1616490 34 rolls -
Records of Field Office, 1865-1872 105 M1910 2427084 106 rolls -
-
Tennessee Records of Superintendant of Education, 1865-1870 105 M1000 1685219 9 rolls - Descriptive Phamphlet: FHL Book: 973 J53m # 1000
Records of Field Office,1865-1872 105 M1911 2427190 89 rolls -
Selected Records of Field Office, 1865-1872 105 T142 1616879 73 rolls -

Records of Assistant Commissioner, 1865-1869 

105 M999 1616490 34 rolls - Descriptive Phamphlet: FHL Book: 973 J53m #999
-
Texas Records of Assistant Commissioner, 1865-1869 105 M821 1503542 32 rolls

Barry A. Crouch, Hidden Sources of Black History: The Texas Freedmen's Bureau Records as a Case Study. Southwestern Historical Quarterly 83 (1980): 211-26.

-Descriptive Phamphlet: FHL Book: 973 J53m # 821

Records Superintendant of Education, 1865-1870 105 M822 1695168 18 rolls - Descriptive Phamphlet: FHL Book: 973 J53m #822
Records of Field Office, 1865-1872 105 M1912 2427279 28 rolls -
-
Virginia Records of Assistant Commissioner, 1865-1869 105 M1048 1601562 67 rolls - Descriptive Phamphlet: FHL Book: 973 J53m #1048
Records of Sup. of Education, 1865-1870 105 M1053 1549578 20 rolls - Descriptive Phamphlet: FHL Book: 973 J53m #1053
Records of Field Office, 1865-1872 105 M1913 2413534 203 rolls -

Reference

Washington, Reginald. Black Family Research; Records of Post-Civil War Federal Agencies at the National Archives Reference Information Paper 108. National Archives and Records Administration Washington, D.C. Revised 2006. FHL Book: 973 F27w

Davis, Robert Scott Jr.,Freedmen's Bureau and Other Reconstruction Sources for Research in Africn-American Families, 1865-1874. Journal of the Afro-American Historical And Genealogical Society. Volume 9 No. 4.  pg 171-176.

Freedmen's Bureau Online

The Freedmen’s Bureau Online Internet site includes numerous online database indexes. Select among the variety of databases mostly based on locality or by topic such as marriages, labor contracts, or murders. However, this online site does not include all the available records from the Freedmen's Bureau.

Content

  • Records Relating to Murders
  • Records Relating to Freedmen's Labor
  • Marriage Records: Most of these records are divided up by the state, then by the area, and then by the marriage date, month, or year of marriage. (These records can be found on the homepage under the contents heading at the left of the screen.)
  • To find state-specific collections, go to the homepage and there is a list of states under the contents heading at the middle left of the screen. (Examples of some of these collections are: Alabama: Petition of Colored Citizens from Mobile, Alabama; Mississippi: Registers of Indentures of Colored Orphans, Aug. 1865 - May 1866; Tennessee: Index to Freedman's Labor Contracts between Tennessee Freedmen and employers in Kentucky.)

Using this site

Type a surname or name or term in question in the search site box. (Examples: Jones, Smith, etc. for surname searches OR land, marriages, etc. for keyword searches)

  1. Documents which seem a “best” match appears.
  2. Click on desired match.

Tips

  • This site lists many other search sites for African American histories and genealogy websites.
  • Their on-line bookstore carries many useful books of interest.

Other Web Sites


Wiki articles describing online collections are found at:


 

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