United States Freedmen’s Branch Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)Edit This Page
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Access the records: United States, Freedmen's Branch Records, 1872-1878 .
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 M2029, The records of the Freedmen’s Branch in the Office of the Adjutant General are part of Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands,
The following important information is often found in Bureau records:
- Name of the freedman
- Name of the freedman’s former owner
- Date of the record
- Bride and groom
- Marriage date and place
How to Use the Records
To begin your search it is helpful to know
- The name of your ancestor
- Identifying information such as name of spouse, age birthplace or residence
Search the Collection
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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. The following examples show ways you can use the information:
- Use the estimated age to calculate a birth date.
- Use the names, ages, and residence to search the census records.
Tips to Keep in Mind
- Continue to search the records to identify children, siblings, parents, and 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.
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Unable to Find Your Ancestor?
- Look for variant spellings of the names. You should also look for nicknames and abbreviated names.
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Additional Information About These 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 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 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.
Related FamilySearch Historical Records Collection Articles
- Alabama, Freedmen's Bureau Field Office Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- Arkansas, Field Offices Records of the Freedmen's Bureau (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- District of Columbia, Freedmen's Bureau Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- Georgia, Freedmen's Bureau Field Office Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- Kentucky, Freedmen's Bureau Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- Louisiana, Freedmen's Bureau Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- Mississippi, Freedmen's Bureau Field Office Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- Missouri, Freedmen's Bureau Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- North Carolina, Freedmen Bureau Field Office Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- South Carolina, Freedmen Bureau Field Office Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- Tennessee, Freedmen's Bureau Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- Texas, Freedmen's Bureau Field Office Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- Virginia, Freedmen's Bureau Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- National Archives Resources for Genealogists
- Publications of the Freedmen and Southern Society Project
- The Freedmen's Bureau Online. Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands.
- Publications of the Freedmen and Southern Society Project
- Suffolk University
Related Wiki Articles
- African American Freedmen’s Bureau Records
- Quick Guide to African American Records
- African American Research
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Citations for This Collection
The following citation refers to the original source of the information published in FamilySearch.org Historical Record collections. Sources include the author, custodian, publisher and archive for the original records.
- "United States,Freedmen's Branch Records, 1872-1878." Index and Images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2013. Citing NARA microfilm publication M2029. College Park, Maryland: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.