United States Freedmen’s Branch Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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United States, Freedmen’s Branch Records, 1872-1878 .
This article describes a collection of records at FamilySearch.org.
United States
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Record Description
Record Type War Department Records
Record Group RG 105: Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands
Collection years 1872-1878
Microfilm Publication M2029. Records of the Field Offices for the Freedmen’s Branch, Office of the Adjutant General, 1872-1878. 58 rolls.
National Archives Identifier 434
FamilySearch Resources
Related Websites
National Archives and Records Administration

What is in the Collection?

The Freedmen's Branch assisted black veterans with claims for bounty, pensions,and arrears of pay. The records in this collection will consist of correspondence and claim records of the local field office locations. This collection will be helpful when searching for service records in the United States Colored Troopsand pension records. Records of the Freedmen’s Branch in the Office of the Adjutant General are part of RG 105 Records of the Bureau of Refugees,Freedmen,and Abandoned Lands from NARA microfilm publication M2029. National Archives Pamphlet M2029

Branch field office locations

  • Charleston,South Carolina
  • Fort Johnson,North Carolina
  • Louisville,Kentucky;
  • Fort Macon,Georgia
  • Fort Leavenworth,Kansas
  • Fort Monroe,Virginia
  • Memphis,Tennessee
  • Nashville,Tennessee
  • Natchez.Mississippi
  • New Orleans,Louisiana
  • St.Louis,Missouri
  • Savannah,Georgia
  • Vicksburg,Mississippi.

Claim Records in this Collection Include:

  • Registers of Claimants: Charleston, SC, Roll 1; Fort Johnston, NC, Roll 2; Louisville, KY, Roll 8; Fort Macon, NC, Roll 18; Fort Leavenworth, KS, Roll 18; Fort Monroe, VA, Roll 22; Memphis, TN, Roll 27; Nashville, TN, Roll 32; Natchez, MS, Roll 37; New Orleans, LA, Roll 47; St. Louis, MO, Roll 50; Savannah, GA, Roll 52; Vicksburg, MS, Roll 56
  • Lists of Claimants: Charleston, SC, Roll 1; Louisville, KY, Roll 9; Fort Macon, NC, Roll 18; Fort Leavenworth, KS, Roll 18; Memphis, TN, Roll 27; Nashville, TN, Roll 32; Natchez, MS, Roll 37; St. Louis, MO, Roll 51; Savannah, GA, Roll 52; Vicksburg, MS, Roll 56
  • Confidential Lists: Charleston, SC, Roll 1; New Orleans, LA, Roll 47
  • Memorandums of Examination of Claimants: Louisville, KY, Roll 9; Natchez, MS, Roll 38; New Orleans, LA, Roll 47; Vicksburg, MS, Roll 56
  • Confidential Lists for the Identification of Claimants: Louisville, KY, Roll 17; Fort Macon, NC, Roll 18; Fort Leavenworth, KS, Roll 19; Memphis, TN, Roll 28; Nashville, TN, Roll 33; Natchez, MS, Roll 40; St. Louis, MO, Roll 51; Savannah, GA, Roll 53 ;Vicksburg, MS, Roll 57
  • Receipts for Payments of Claims: Memphis, TN, Roll 28;St. Louis, MO, Roll 51
  • Lists of Claimants Paid…: Nashville, TN, Roll 33
  • Registers of Claims Investigated: Natchez, MS, Roll 37
  • Names and Addresses of Claimants: Natchez, MS, Roll 37; New Orleans, LA, Roll 47; Vicksburg, MS, Roll 56
  • Register of Payments Made to Claimants: St. Louis, MO, Roll 50
  • Confidential Lists Concerning Deceased Soldiers: St. Louis, MO, Roll 51
  • Affidavits of Identify: Vicksburg, MS, Roll 58

You can browse through images in this collection by visiting the browse page for United States, Freedmen's Branch Records, 1872-1878.

Collection Content

The information varies between records. You may find any of the following:

  • Name(s) of the primary individual(s)
  • Name of the freedman’s former owner
  • Names of family members
  • Residence
  • Age
  • Date of the record
  • Birth, marriage or death dates and places

How Do I Search the Collection?

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

To browse by image:
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.

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. Keep in mind:

  • There may be more than one person in the records with the same name.
  • You may not be sure of your own ancestor’s name.
  • Your ancestor may have used different names or variations of their name throughout their life.

What Do I Do Next?

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 after 1965, land records and church 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.
  • You may need to compare the information of more than one family or person to make this determination.
  • Be aware that your ancestor may have used more than one name during their lifetime.
  • Remember that there may be more than one person in the records with the same name as your ancestor and that your ancestor may have used nicknames or different names at different times.

What if I Can't Find Who I'm Looking For?

  • Look for variant spellings of the names. You should also look for nicknames and abbreviated names.
  • 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 with the same family number.

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

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Citations for 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:

"United States,Freedmen's Branch Records, 1872-1878." Images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2016. Citing NARA microfilm publication M2029. College Park, Maryland: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.

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 United States, Freedmen's Branch Records, 1872-1878.