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 .
Collection Time Period
The dates covered by this collection are 1862 through 1872.
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: 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, and 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, and the microfilms are available at the Family History Library.
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. Freedmen's Bureau records are a good source to quickly identify a family group and residence. Use the place of residence and other information for each person along with his or her age to search for the individuals in census records and other types of records.
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, more than 25% of the population of former African American slaves in America.
Why This Record Was Created
The records identify those who sought help from the Bureau at the end of the Civil War. Most supplicants were freed slaves; some of them were military veterans. In addition, a few veterans sought help from the Bureau who were not African Americans.
Freedmen’s Bureau records are usually reliable, because the records were supplied through first-person correspondence or the recording of a marriage.
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Sources of Information for This Collection:
"Virginia, Freedmen's Bureau Letters, 1865-1872," database, FamilySearch Historical Records, 2010; from National Archives and Records Administration. National Archives, Washington, D.C. NARA M1913. FHL microfilm, 203 reels. Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.
"North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Letters, 1862-1870," database, FamilySearch Historical Records, 2010; from National Archives and Records Administration. National Archives, Washington, D.C. NARA M843. FHL microfilm, 38 reels. Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.
"Alabama Freedmen’s Bureau Letters, 1865-1872," database, FamilySearch Historical Records, 2010; from National Archives and Records Administration. National Archives, Washington, D.C. NARA M1900. FHL microfilm, 34 reels. Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.
"Texas Freedmen’s Bureau Letters, 1865-1872," database, FamilySearch Historical Records, 2010; from National Archives and Records Administration. National Archives, Washington, D.C. NARA M1912. FHL microfilm, 28 reels. Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.
"Kentucky Freedmen’s Bureau Letters, 1865-1872," database, FamilySearch Historical Records, 2010; from National Archives and Records Administration. National Archives, Washington, D.C. NARA M1904. FHL microfilm, 133 reels. Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.
Citing FamilySearch Historical Collections
When you copy information from a record, you should also list where you found the information. This will help you or others to find the record again. It is also good to keep track of records where you did not find information, including the names of the people you looked for in the records.
A suggested format for keeping track of records that you have searched is found in the Wiki Article: How to Cite FamilySearch Collections
Examples of Source Citations for a Record in This Collection
"Virginia, Freedmen's Bureau Letters, 1865-1872." images, FamilySearch (): accessed April 8, 2011. entry for Henry Dillen; citing Bureau Letters, FHL microfilm 2414677; National Archives and Records Administration, National Archives, Washington, D.C.