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

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United States, Freedmen’s Branch Records, 1872-1878 .
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This article describes a collection of records at FamilySearch.org.
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 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
Archive
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.
You can browse through images in this collection by visiting the browse page for United States, Freedmen's Branch Records, 1872-1878.

Collection Content

Sample Images

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

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

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. To begin your search it is helpful to know the name and some other identifying information such as age, residence or former owner.

View images in this collection by visiting the Browse Page:
To search the collection you will need to follow this series of links:
⇒Select the "Browse" link in the initial search page
⇒Select the "Freedmen's Bureau Office or Subordinate Field Office Location"
⇒Select the "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. Keep in mind:

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 FamilySearch Historical Records Collection Articles

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.

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