African American Freedmen's Bureau Records
|African American Genealogy Wiki Topics|
The Bureau's records (Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands), kept from 1865-1872, contain a wide range of data about the African American experience during slavery and freedom. Therefore, they are a valuable source for the black family historian. Refugees include many in the local white population. The Collection is located in the National Archives in Record Group 105, Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1861-1880. National Archives Catalog NAID 434.
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Freedmen's Bureau Records
- 3 Indexing and Transcription Projects
- 4 Accessing the Records
- 5 Library of Congress
- 6 Resources
- 7 Online Resources
- 8 References
Introduction[edit | edit source]
The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (often called the Freedmen’s Bureau) was created by Congress on March 3, 1865 at the end of the American Civil War to aid the newly-freed slaves (freedmen) and refugees. It was created to supervise relief efforts, including education (4,300 schools were established), health care (100 hospitals were established), food and clothing, refugee camps, legalization of marriages, employment, labor contracts, and securing back pay, bounty payments, and pensions for soldiers and sailors. The Bureau also helped reunite families. The Bureau operations were terminated in 1872. For more information see:
- NARA African American Records: Freedmen's Bureau
- NARA Freedmen's Bureau Administrative History Note.
- Links to Freedmen's Bureau Resources
- Citations to Record Group 105, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. Archives Library Information Center (ALIC) NARA
Freedmen's Bureau Records[edit | edit source]
- Freedmen's Bureau Record Types
- Officer's Manuel. Bureau of Refugees,Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. Washington. 1866. Digital Images
Value of Records
Because the Bureau's records 1865-1872 contain a wide range of data about the African American experience during slavery and freedom, they are a valuable source for African American genealogy. See Freedmen's Bureau Record Types for a detailed listing of records created by the Freedmen's Bureau records. Some Bureau records include:
- Registers (listing names, ages, former occupations of freedmen, and names and residences of former owners)
- Marriage registers (listing names, addresses, ages, and complexions of husbands, wives, and their children)
- Census lists
- Applications of rations or relief
- Labor and apprenticeship contracts
- Back pay records
- Registers of complaints
- Personal data about black soldiers (including company and regiment)
- School records
- Registers of patients
- Medical records
- Registers of bounty claimants
- Court records
- Claim records
- Records of murders committed against freedmen
- Records relating to property restoration and homesteads
Here are some examples of records:
Challenges in Using the Records
There are some challenges to using these records:
- Records limited in scope and time period they cover.
- Not all of the records are indexed. Some record collections can only be searched image by image.
- The record type and quality vary with each state and field office.
- Individuals may have changed their names.
- Not all records survived or are available in searchable formats.
Organization[edit | edit source]
The Freedmen’s Bureau created records at the headquarters in Washington, DC, state offices, and field agents. Field office records (local) usually contain more genealogical data.
Commissioner (Oliver O. Howard)
- Offices and Divisions
- Division of Records (Official acts of the Commissioner)- Assistant Adjutant General
- Finance Division- Chief Disbursing Officer:Lt. Col. George W. Bulloch;Major J.M. Brown
- Land Division- Assistant Adjutant General William Fowler
- Medical Division- Chief Medical Officer Caleb W. Honer;L.A. Edwards; Robert Reyburn
- Claims Division- Assistant Adjutant General William Fowler; William P. Drew
- Education Division- Rev. J.W. Alvord
- Chief Quartermaster- Capt. Joseph M. Brown;Brevet Brigadier General Henry Whittlesey
- State and Local
- Assistant Commissioner
- Other Records
- Superintendent of Education
- Other Records
- Offices of Staff Offices
- Subordinate (Local) Field Offices
National Archives Preliminary Inventory[edit | edit source]
The Preliminary Inventory of the Records of the Field Offices of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands: Record Group 105 by Elaine Everly and Willna Pacheli of the National Archives describes the Bureau’s records. The volumes are arranged alphabetically by state. The records of the states are arranged in the following order: "Office of the Assistant Commissioner" then by "Offices of Staff Officers including the "Superintendent of Education" and by "Subordinate Field Offices."
National Archives Catalog
Mapping the Freedmen's Bureau[edit | edit source]
Mapping the Freedman's Bureau is a website helping researchers place their ancestors in the historical landscape.
- Where Freedman's Bureau offices were located
- Branch of the Freedman's Saving Bank
- Freedmen's Bureau Hospitals
- Freedmen's Schools
- Contraband Camps
- Battle sites where men who were in the US colored Troops fought
Indexing and Transcription Projects[edit | edit source]
Discover Freedmen - FamilySearch[edit | edit source]
On Discoverfreedmen.org all of the Freedmen's Bureau collections on FamilySearch can be searched with one click.
National Museum of African American History & Culture[edit | edit source]
Accessing the Records[edit | edit source]
Collections on FamilySearch[edit | edit source]
Most of the Freedmen's Bureau records have been digitized and/or indexed on FamilySearch with the exception of some records from the Washington Headquarters.
Index and Image Collections:
- 1865 - 1872 - United States Freedmen's Bureau, Records of Freedmen, 1865-1872
- 1865 - 1872 - United States, Freedmen's Bureau Claim Records,1865-1872
- 1865 - 1872 - United States Freedmen's Bureau Labor Contracts Indenture and Apprenticeship Records 1865-1872
- 1865 - 1872 - United States, Freedmen's Bureau, Records of Freedmen's Complaints, 1865-1872
- 1865 - 1872 - United States, Freedmen's Bureau, Freedmen's Court Records, 1865-1872
- 1865 - 1872 - United States, Freedmen's Bureau, Records of the Superintendent of Education and of the Division of Education, 1865-1872
- 1861 - 1872 - United States, Freedmen's Bureau Marriages, 1861-1872
- 1865 - 1872 - United States, Freedmen's Bureau Hospital and Medical Records, 1865-1872 - index and images
- 1865 - 1872 - United States, Freedmen's Bureau Records of Persons and Articles Hired, 1865-1872
- 1865 - 1872 - United States, Freedmen's Bureau Ration Records,1865-1872 index and images
- 1863 - 1872 - District of Columbia, Freedmen's Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872
- 1865 - 1872 - Virginia, Freedmen's Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1872
- 1862 - 1870 - North Carolina, Freedmen's Bureau Assistant Commissioner Records, 1862-1870
- 1865 - 1874 - United States, Freedman's Bank Records, 1865-1874
Coverage Tables to Indexed Collections:
Image Browse Collections:
Superintendent of Education and Division of Education
- 1865-1872 - United States, Freedmen's Bureau, Records of the Superintendent of Education and of the Division of Education, 1865-1872
- 1865-1872 - Alabama, Freedmen's Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1872
- 1864-1872 - Arkansas, Freedmen's Bureau Field Office Records, 1864-1872
- 1865-1872 - Georgia, Freedmen's Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1872
- 1865-1872 - Kentucky, Freedmen's Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1872
- 1865-1872 - Louisiana, Freedmen's Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1872
- 1865-1872 - Maryland and Delaware, Freedmen's Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1872
- 1863-1866 - Mississippi, Freedmen's Department (Pre-Bureau Records
- 1865-1872 - Mississippi, Freedmen's Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1872
- 1865-1872 - Missouri, Freedmen's Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1872
- 1863-1872 - North Carolina, Freedmen's Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872
- 1865-1872 - South Carolina, Freedmen's Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1872
- 1865-1872 - Tennessee, Freedmen's Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1872
- 1865-1870 - Texas, Freedmen's Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1870
Collection Inventories to Browse Collections:
Field Office Bureau Personnel Coverage Tables:
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
|State||Record Type||Record Group||NARA||FamilySearch Catalog
First Film or Fiche #
|Number of Films /Fiche||Additional Reading|
|National||Preliminary Inventory of Records of the Filed Offices Pt. 1 Alabama-Louisiana, Pt. 2 Maryland-South Carolina, and Pt. 3 Tennessee-Virginia||105||-||FHL fiche 6002638||3 fiche||- Inventory: Pt 1 Alabama-LouisianaPt 2 Maryland-South Carolina,Maryland-South CarolinaPt 3 Tennessee-Virginia|
|Select Series of Records issued by the Commissioner, 1865-1872||105||M742||FHL film 491550||7 rolls||- Descriptive Pamphlet: M742|
|Register and Letters Received by the Commissioner, 1865-1872||105||M752||FHL film 908680||74 rolls||- Descriptive Pamphlet: M752|
|Records of Education Division, 1865-1871||105||M803||FHL film 1695186||35 rolls||- Descriptive Pamphlet: M803|
|U.S. Court of Claims Docket Cards for Congressional Case Files, ca. 1884-1943||123||M2007||unavailable||5 rolls||-|
|Marriage Records of Office of Commissioner, Washington Headquarters, 1861-1869||105||M1875||FHL film 2425252||5 rolls||- Descriptive Pamphlet:M1875|
|Register of Signatures of Depositors in the Branches of the Freedman's Saving & Trust Company, 1865-1874||101||M816||FHL film 928571||27 rolls||-|
|Records of the Commissioner of Claims (Southern Claims Commission) 1871-1880||56||M87||FHL film 1463975-1463976||14 rolls||-|
|Alabama||Records of Assistant Commissioner, 1850-1870||105||M809||FHL film 1612338||23 rolls||
- Descriptive Pamphlet: M809
Records of Superintendent of Education, 1865-1870
|105||M810||FHL film 1695841||8 rolls||- Descriptive Pamphlet: FHL book: 973 J53m no. 810|
|Records of Field Office, 1865-1872||105||M1900||FHL film 2424719||34 rolls||- Descriptive Pamphlet: M1900|
|Arkansas||Records of Assistant Commissioner, 1865-1869||105||M979||FHL film 1498698||52 rolls||- Descriptive Pamphlet: M979|
|Records of Superintendent of Education, 1865-1871||105||M980||FHL film 1695811||5 rolls||- Descriptive Pamphlet: M980|
|Records of Field Office,1865-1872||105||M1901||23 rolls||- Descriptive Pamphlet: M1901|
|Delaware||Records of Field Office, 1865-1872||105||M1906||FHL film 2424887||42 rolls||- Descriptive Pamphlet: M1906|
|District of Columbia||Records of Assistant Commissioner, 1865-1869||105||M1055||FHL film 1605536||21 rolls||- Descriptive Pamphlet: M1055|
|Records of Superintendent of Education, 1865-1872||105||M1056||FHL film 1617650||24 rolls||- Descriptive Pamphlet:M1056|
|Records of Field Office,1863-1872||105||M1902||FHL film 2424776||21 rolls||- Descriptive Pamphlet: M1902|
|Florida||Records of Assistant Commissioner, 1865-1872||105||M1869||FHL film 2425908||15 rolls||- Descriptive Pamphlet: M1869|
|Georgia||Records of Assistant Commissioner, 1865-1869||105||M798||FHL film 1498626||36 rolls||- Descriptive Pamphlet: M798|
|Records of Superintendent of Education, 1865-1870||195||M799||FHL film 1685269||28 rolls||- Descriptive Pamphlet:M799|
|Records of Field Office, 1865-1872||105||M1903||FHL film 1574209||90 rolls||-|
|Kentucky||Records of Field Office. 1865-1872||105||M1904||FHL film 2425923||133 rolls||- Descriptive Pamphlet:M1904|
|Louisiana||Records of Superintendent of Education, 1865-1869||105||M1026||FHL film 1695273||12 rolls||- Descriptive Pamphlet: M1026|
|FHL film 1498662||36 rolls||- Descriptive Pamphlet: M1027|
|Records of Field Office, 1863-1873||105||M1905||FHL film 2426056||111 rolls||- Descriptive Pamphlet: M1905|
|New Orleans, Louisiana||Records of Field Office, 1865-1869||105||M1483||FHL film 1604921||10 rolls||- Descriptive Pamphlet: M1483|
|Maryland||Records of Field Office, 1865-1872||105||M1906||FHL film 2424887||42 rolls||- Descriptive Pamphlet: M1906|
|Mississippi||105||M826||FHL film 1616440||50 rolls||- Descriptive Pamphlet: M826|
|Records of Field Office, 1865-1872||105||M1907||FHL film 2428148||65 rolls||- Descriptive Pamphlet: M1907|
Records of Assistant Commissioner, 1863-1865("Pre Bureau Records")
|105||M1914||FHL film 2424701||5 rolls||-|
|Missouri||Records of Field Office, 1865-1872||105||M1908||FHL film 2426982||24 rolls||- Descriptive Pamphlet: M1908|
|North Carolina||Records of Assistant Commissioner, 1862-1879||105||M843||FHL film 1616841||38 rolls||- Descriptive Pamphlet: M843|
|Records of Superintendent of Education, 1864-1869||105||M844||FHL film 1695567||16 rolls||- Descriptive Pamphlet: M844|
|Records of Field Office, 1865-1872||105||M1909||FHL film 2427006||78 rolls||- Descriptive Pamphlet: M1909|
|South Carolina||Records of Assistant Commissioner, 1865-1870||105||M869||FHL film 1579188||44 rolls||
Martin Abbott, The Freedman's Bureau in South Carolina, 1865-72. (Chapel Hill: university of North Carolina Press, 1967)
- Descriptive Pamphlet:M869
|Records of Assistant Commissioner, 1865-1869||105||T999||FHL film 1616490||34 rolls||-|
|Records of Field Office, 1865-1872||105||M1910||FHL 2427084||106 rolls||- Descriptive Pamphlet:M1910|
|Tennessee||Records of Superintendent of Education, 1865-1870||105||M1000||FHL film 1685219||9 rolls||- Descriptive Pamphlet: M1000|
|Records of Field Office,1865-1872||105||M1911||FHL film 2427190||89 rolls||- Descriptive Pamphlet:M1911|
|Selected Records of Field Office, 1865-1872||105||T142||FHL film 1616879||73 rolls||- Descriptive Pamphlet:|
Records of Assistant Commissioner, 1865-1869
|105||M999||FHL film 1616490||34 rolls||- Descriptive Pamphlet: M999|
|Texas||Records of Assistant Commissioner, 1865-1869||105||M821||FHL film 1503542||32 rolls||
Barry A. Crouch, Hidden Sources of Black History: The Texas Freedmen's Bureau Records as a Case Study. Southwestern Historical Quarterly 83 (1980): 211-26.
|Records Superintendent of Education, 1865-1870||105||M822||FHL film 169516||18 rolls||- Descriptive Pamphlet:M822|
|Records of Field Office, 1865-1872||105||M1912||FHL film 2427279||28 rolls||- Descriptive Pamphlet:M1912|
|Virginia||Records of Assistant Commissioner, 1865-1869||105||M1048||FHL film 1601562||67 rolls||- Descriptive Pamphlet:M1048|
|Records of Sup. of Education, 1865-1870||105||M1053||FHL film 1549578||20 rolls||- Descriptive Pamphlet: M1053|
|Records of Field Office, 1865-1872||105||M1913||FHL film 2413534||203 rolls||- Descriptive Pamphlet M1913|
Freedmen's Bureau Online[edit | edit source]
The Freedmen’s Bureau Online website includes numerous online database indexes. Select among the variety of databases mostly based on locality or by topic such as marriages, labor contracts, or murders. However, this online site does not include all the available records from the Freedmen's Bureau.
Content[edit | edit source]
- Records Relating to Murders
- Records Relating to Freedmen's Labor
- Marriage Records: Most of these records are divided up by the state, then by the area, and then by the marriage date, month, or year of marriage. (These records can be found on the homepage under the contents heading at the left of the screen.)
- To find state-specific collections, go to the homepage and there is a list of states under the contents heading at the middle left of the screen. (Examples of some of these collections are: Alabama: Petition of Colored Citizens from Mobile, Alabama; Mississippi: Registers of Indentures of Colored Orphans, Aug. 1865 - May 1866; Tennessee: Index to Freedman's Labor Contracts between Tennessee Freedmen and employers in Kentucky.)
- This site lists many other search sites for African American histories and genealogy websites.
- Their on-line bookstore carries many useful books of interest.
Using the site[edit | edit source]
Type a surname or name or term in question in the search site box. (Examples: Jones, Smith, etc. for surname searches OR land, marriages, etc. for keyword searches)
- Documents which seem a “best” match appears.
- Click on desired match.
Library of Congress[edit | edit source]
Resources[edit | edit source]
Wiki articles on African American research are found at:
- African American Genealogy
- Quick Guide to African American Records
- Researching African American Genealogy
- African American Migration
- African American Slavery and Bondage
- Southern States Slavery and Bondage Collections Family History Library
- African Americans in the 1867 Voter Registration Lists (National Institute)
For more information:
- Washington, Reginald. Black Family Research; Records of Post-Civil War Federal Agencies at the National Archives Reference Information Paper 108. National Archives and Records Administration Washington, D.C. Revised 2010.
- Davis, Robert Scott Jr.,Freedmen's Bureau and Other Reconstruction Sources for Research in African-American Families, 1865-1874. Journal of the Afro-American Historical And Genealogical Societyy. Volume 9 No. 4.pg 171-176.
- Bentley, George R. A History of the Freedmen's Bureau. Philadelphia: Octagon Books, 1970.WorldCat
- Paul Skeels Pierce. The Freedmen's Bureau: A Chapter in the History of Reconstruction.
- NARA Citations to Record Group 105, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands
Government Reports of Bureau Operations
- Rev Horace James. Annual Report of the Superintendent of Negro Affairs in North Carolina. 1864. with an Appendix. Containing the History and Management of the Freedmen in this Department up to June 1st, 1865. Boston: W.F. Brown & Co., Printers, 1865.
- Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands. Annual Report of the Assistant Commissioner. For the District of Columbia and West Virginia. For the Year Ending October 22, 1867. (Washington, 1867)
- John Watson Alvord. 1807-1880; United States. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands Fifth semi-annual report on schools for freedmen: January 1, 1868. Washington: Government Printing Office,1868.
- John Watson Alvord 1807-1880. United States. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands Ninth semi-annual report on schools for freedmen: January 1, 1870.Washington: Government Printing Office, 1870.
- J. W. Alvord. Letters from the South, Relating to the Condition of Freedmen Addressed to Major General O.O. Howard. Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1870.
- Thomas W. Conway. The Freedmen of Louisiana. Final Report of the Bureau of Free Labor, Department of the Gulf. Major General E.R.S. Canby, Commanding. Printed at the New Orleans, Times Book and Job Office, 1865.
- John Eaton, United States Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. Dept. of the Tennessee and State of Arkansas Report of the General Superintendent of Freedmen, Department of the Tennessee and State of ... Memphis, Tenn.: 1865
- L. Pierce. The Freedmen of Port Royal, South Carolina. Official Reports of Edward L. Pierce. New York: Rebellion Record, 1863.
Records of Civil War Special Agents of the Treasury Department, 1861-1866 Record Group 366
Freedmen Relief Associations
- Freedmen aid societies were civilian benevolent associations that provided support and assistance to the Freedmen's Bureau.
- The American Freedmen's Aid Commission, New York City
- Report by the Committee of the Contraband's Relief Commission of Cincinnati, Ohio
- Inventory of the Friends Freedmen's Association Records, 1863-1982. Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College.
- New England Freedmen's Aid Society Records, 1862-1878. Guide to the Collection. Massachusetts Historical Society
- Extracts from letters of teachers and superintendents of the New-England Educational Commission for Freedmen.
- Pennsylvania Freedmen's Relief Association
- Report of the Pittsburgh Relief Committee : having in charge the collection and distribution of funds, provisions, and other supplies for the sufferers by yellow fever in the South-Western States, in the summer and fall of 1878.
- First Annual Report of the Port Royal Relief Committee...
- Guide to the Southern Famine Relief Commission Records, 1867-1868. MS 2430. New York Historical Society Museum Library
- Southern Famine Relief Commission records, 1867. ArchiveGrid. New York Historical Society
- United States Sanitary Commission Records, 1861-1878. MssCol 3101. New York Public Library.
- A report on the condition of the freedmen of the Mississippi:presented to the Western Sanitary Commission, December 17th, 1863.
Online Resources[edit | edit source]
- Discover Freedmen
- U.S., Freedmen's Bureau Records of Field Offices, 1863-1878 ($)
- U.S., Freedmen’s Bureau Marriage Records, 1846-1867 ($)
- U.S., Freedman's Bank Records, 1865-1871 ($)
- NARA Links to Freedmen's Bureau Resources
References[edit | edit source]
- Black Family Research Records of Post -Civil War Federal Agencies at the National Archives Reference Information Paper No. 108
- Rebecca K. Sharp, "Their... Bedding is wet Their floors are damp" "Pre-Bureau Records and Civil War African American Genealogy " article, Prologue Magazine Summer 2007, Vol. 39, No. 2.
- Citations to Record Group 105, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. National Archives. Archives Library Information Center. (ALIC)
- Elaine C. Everly, Freedmen’s Bureau Records: An Overview,” article, National Archives, Prologue Magazine Summer 1997, Vol. 29, No., 2.
- Elaine C. Everly, "Marriage Registers of Freedmen " article, National Archives, Prologue Magazine' Fall 1973, Vol. 5, No. 3.
- Reginald Washington, "Sealing the Sacred Bonds of Holy Matrimony Freedmen's Bureau Marriage Records," article Prologue Magazine Spring 2005, Vol. 37, No. 1.
- Robert Scott Davis, Jr. Freedmen's Bureau and Other Reconstruction Sources. The Journal of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society. 9 #4 (Winter, 1988):171-176. FHL 973 D25j v.8-9
- Joseph P. Reidy, "Slave Emancipation Through the Prism of Archives Records" article, Prologue Magazine Summer 1997, Vol. 29, No. 2.
- Michael F. Knight ,"The Rost Home Colony,St. Charles Louisiana " article, Prologue Magazine Fall, 2001, Vol. 33, No. 3.
- Noralee Frankel. From Slave Women to Free Women: The National Archives and Black Women's History in the Civil War Era, " article "Prologue Magazine" Summer 1997, VOl. 29, No. 2.
- Sharon Batiste Gillins. A Window into the Lives of Black & White Ancestors:Freedmen's Bureau Field Office Records. NGS Magazine 39 (January-March 2013): 34-38.