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United States  > African American Research  > 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.

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 (i.e. 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.

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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].

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”


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
National Filed Offices  105 6002638 3 fiche
Select Series 105 M742 491550   7 rolls
Letters received 105 M752 908680 74 rolls
Education Division 105 M803 1695186 35 rolls
US court of Claims 123 M2007 unavailable  5 rolls
Marriage Records 105 M1875 2425252  5 rolls
Savings and Turst 101 M816 928571 27 rolls
101 M817 unavailable 2 rolls
Alabama Assistant Comm. 105 M979 1498698 52 rolls
Sup. of Education 105 M810 1695841  8 rolls
Field Office 105 M1900 2424719 34 rolls
Arkansas Assistant Comm. 105 M979 1498698 52 rolls
Sup. of Education 105 M980 1695811 5 rolls
Field Office 105 M1901 2424753 23 rolls
Delaware Field Office 105 M1906 2424887 42 rolls
D. of C. Assistant Comm. 105 M1055 1605536 21 rolls
Sup. of Education 105 M1056 1617650 24 rolls
Field Office 105 M1902 2424776 21 rolls
Florida Assistant Comm. 105 M1869 2425908 15 rolls
Georgia Assistant Comm. 105 M798 1498626 36 rolls
Sup. of Education 195 M799 1685269 28 rolls
Field Office 105 M1903 1574209 90 rolls
Kentucky Field Office 105 M1904 2425923 133 rolls
Louisiana Sup. of Education 105 M1026 1695273 12 rolls

Assistant

Comm.

105

M1027



1498662 36 rolls
Field Office 105 M1905 2426056 111 rolls
New Orleans, LA. Field Office 105 M1483 1604921 10 rolls
Maryland Field Office 105 M1906 2424887 42 rolls
Mississippi

Assitant Comm.

105 M826 1616440 50 rolls
Field Office 105 M1907 2428148 65 rolls

Assistant Comm. (Pre Bureau Records)

105 M1914 2424701 5 rolls
Missouri Field Office 105 M1908 2426982 24 rolls
North Carolina Assistant Comm. 105 M843 1616841 38 rolls
Sup. Education 105 M844 1695567 16 rolls
Field Office 105 M1909 2427006 78 rolls

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


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