United States Freedmen’s Bureau Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)Edit This Page

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FamilySearch Record Search This article describes a collection of historical records available at FamilySearch.org.
 

Contents

Collection Time Period

The dates covered by this collection are 1862 through 1872.

Record Description

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.

Record Content

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
  • Birthplace
  • Residence
  • Age
  • Bride
  • Groom
  • 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.

Record History

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.

Why the 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 which were military veterans. In addition, a few veterans who were not African Americans also sought help from the Bureau.

Record Reliability

Freedmen’s Bureau records are usually reliable, because the records were supplied through first-person correspondence or the recording of a marriage.

Related Websites

Publications of the Freedmen and Southern Society Project

Related Wiki Articles

Contributions to This Article

We welcome user additions to FamilySearch Historical Records wiki articles. Guidelines are available to help you make changes. Thank you for any contributions you may provide. If you would like to get more involved join the WikiProject FamilySearch Records.

Citing FamilySearch Historical Collections

When you copy information from a record, you should 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 Help:How to Cite FamilySearch Collections

Example of a Source Citation for a Record Found in This Collection

"Virginia, Freedmen's Bureau Letters, 1865-1872." index and images, FamilySearch (FamilySearch.org): accessed 8 April 2011. entry for Henry Dillen; citing Bureau Letters, FHL microfilm 2,414,677; National Archives and Records Administration, National Archives, Washington, D.C.

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.

"Virginia, Freedmen's Bureau Letters, 1865-1872,"index and images, 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.

Information about creating source citations for FamilySearch Historical Collections is listed in the wiki article Help:How to Create Source Citations For FamilySearch Historical Records Collections.


 

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