United States Freedmen’s Branch Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)Edit This Page
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|This article describes a collection of historical records available at FamilySearch.org.|
Access the records: Virginia, Freedmen's Bureau Letters, 1865-1872 .
This collection includes field office reports, letters received and sent, contracts, certificates, registers, censuses, affidavits, and other documents that preserve, directly and vividly, the experiences and circumstances of the individuals involved, such as freedpeople, Bureau officers, landowners and employers, and others. They contain desperate pleas for food, clothing, and medical care from rural communities; freedpeoples' testimonies about delinquent employers, continued use of forced labor and apprenticeship, violence, restrictions due to the new state-legislated and repressive "black codes"; petitions for new schools, legal aid in courts, and protection from violence; applications for land; and marriage certificates.
Marriage records from this NARA publication have been published in a separate collection: Freedmen's Bureau Virginia Marriages, ca. 1815-1866.
The Freedmen’s Bank Records are the most commonly known records created by the Freedmen’s Bureau and have also been described separately.
The original records are preserved at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland. Copies of the original records are available at the National Archives Building in Washington D.C. and the regional archives located in Alaska, California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington State. The records were microfilmed in 2001; the microfilms are available at the Family History Library.
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 dates covered by this collection are 1862 through 1872.
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.
Citations for This Collection
The following citations refer to the original source of the data and images published on FamilySearch.org Historical Records. They may include the author, custodian, publisher, and archive for the original records.
- Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. "Virginia, Freedmen's Bureau Letters." NARA microfilm publication M752. National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland : n.d.
The following important genealogical information is often found in Bureau records:
- Name of the freedman
- Name of the freedman’s former owner
- Date of the record
- 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. They are also a good source to quickly identify a family group and residence. 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.
- The Freedmen's Bureau Online. Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands.
- Publications of the Freedmen and Southern Society Project
Related Wiki Articles
- Virginia African Americans
- African American Freedmen’s Bureau Records
- Quick Guide to African American Records
- African American Research
Contributions to This Article
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Citing FamilySearch Historical Collections
Citation Example for a Record Found in This Collection
"Virginia, Freedmen's Bureau Letters or Correspondence, 1865-1872," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/FPGC-YP5 : accessed 10 May 2012), Henry Dillen; citing Bureau Letters, National Archives and Records Administration, National Archives, Washington, D.C.