District of Columbia, Freedmen's Bureau Field Office Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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District of Columbia, Freedmen's Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872 .
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This article describes a collection of records at FamilySearch.org.
District of Columbia, United States
United States flag.png
Flag of the United States of America
NARA seal300.jpg
Seal of the National Archives
Record Description
Record Type Freedmen and Refugee Records
Record Group RG 105: Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen,and Abandoned Lands
Collection years 1865-1872
Microfilm Publication M1902. Records of the Field Offices for the District of Columbia, Bureau of Refugees,Freedmen and Abandoned Lands. 21 rolls.
National Archives Identifier 434
FamilySearch Resources
Related Websites
Archive
National Archives and Records Administration


What is in the Collection?

This collection consists of scanned images of records from National Archives microfilm publication M1902,Records of the Field Offices for the District of Columbia, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands which is part of Record Group 105 Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands.

The images are generally arranged in the order the records were microfilmed with the records of the Assistant Commissioner who oversaw Bureau operations in the state and state level staff officers; Commissary of Subsistence, Inspector General and Disbursing Officer, Quartermaster and Disbursing Officer, and Surgeon first then the local field office records are arranged alphabetically by location and by NARA roll number.

You can browse through images in this collection by visiting the browse page for District of Columbia, Freedmen's Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872.

Collection Content

Sample Images

Records with Freedmen and Refugee Names

  • Freedmen's Village: Roll 21, Register of people arriving at Freedmen's Village, Jan 1, 1867-June 27, 1868
  • Washington and Georgetown: Roll 19, Register of freedmen departing Mason's Island, VA, May 18, 1864-Jul 18, 1865
  • Superintendent of Marriages: Roll 12, Register of Marriages,Nov 1866-Jul 1867
  • Washington and Georgetown: Roll 18, Employment registers, Wisewell and East Capital Street Barracks, 1866-1868

For details about the contents of these records, their history, and help using them, see the wiki article: United States Freedmen’s Bureau Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)

What Can this Collection Tell Me?

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.

How Do I Search the Collection?

The Freedmen’s Bureau records are a major source of genealogical information about post Civil War African Americans. The records are also a good source to quickly identify a family group and residence. To begin your search it is helpful to know the name and some other identifying information such as age, residence or former owner.

Search by Name by visiting the Collection Page:
Fill in requested information on the initial search page. This search will return a list of possible matches. Compare the information about those in the list to what you already know about your own ancestors to determine if this is the correct family or person. You may need to compare the information about more than one person to find your ancestor.

View images in this collection by visiting the Browse Page:
To search the collection you will need to follow this series of links:
⇒Select "Browse through images" on the initial collection page
⇒Select the appropriate "Freedmen's Bureau Office or Subordinate Field Office Location"
⇒Select the appropriate "NARA Roll Number-Contents" which takes you to the images.

What Do I Do Next?

Look at each image comparing the information with what you already know about your ancestors to determine if the image relates to them. You may need to look at several images and compare the information about the individuals listed in those images to your ancestors to make this determination.

I Found Who I was Looking for, What Now?

When you have located your ancestor’s record, carefully evaluate each piece of information given. Save a copy of the image or transcribe the information. These pieces of information may give you new biographical details such as a title, an occupation, or land ownership. Add this new information to your records of each family. You should also look for leads to other records about your ancestors. For example 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.

I Can't Find Who I'm Looking for, What Now?

  • There may be more than one person in the records with the same name.
  • Look for variant spellings of the names. You should also look for nicknames and abbreviated names.
  • Look for another index. Local genealogical and historical societies often have indexes to local records.
  • Search the indexes and records of nearby counties.
  • Try alternative search methods such as only filling in the surname search box (or the given name search box) on the landing page leaving the other box empty and then click on search. This should return a list of everyone with that particular name. You could then browse the list for individuals that may be your ancestor.
  • Former slaves may have had used multiple names or changed their names until they decided upon one particular name. Search all possible names along with variations or spellings of their known names.

General Information About Freedmen's Bureau 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, 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 Wiki Articles

Citing this Collection

Citing your sources makes it easy for others to find and evaluate the records you used. When you copy information from a record, list where you found that information. Here you can find citations already created for the entire collection and for each individual record or image.

Collection Citation:

“District of Columbia, Freedmen's Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872.” Images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2016. Citing NARA microfilm publication M1902. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.

Record Citation

The citation for a record is available with each record in this collection, at the bottom of the record screen. You can search records in this collection by visiting the search page for District of Columbia, Freedmen's Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872.

Image Citation

The image citation is available by clicking on the Information tab at the bottom left of the screen. You can browse through images in this collection by visiting the browse page for District of Columbia, Freedmen's Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872.

How Can I Contribute to the FamilySearch Wiki?

We welcome user additions to FamilySearch Historical Records wiki articles. We are looking for additional information that will help readers understand the topic and better use the available records. We also need translations for collection titles and images in articles about records written in languages other than English. For specific needs, please visit WikiProject FamilySearch Records.

Please follow these guidelines as you make changes. Thank you for any contributions you may provide.