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Finding the Freedmen's Bureau & Freedman's Bank Records online...
Where to locate the Freedmen's Bureau and the Freedman's Bank Records
Prior to researching records, access your state Descriptive Pamphlet!!!
Mapping the Freedmen’s Bureau
This site is devoted to pointing out the many places that affected the newly freed survivors of slavery. The sites where Freedman’s Bureau offices were located are marked for you. In addition other institutions that served former slaves, are marked – the branches of the Freedman’s Savings Bank, Freedmen Schools, contraband camps, and even the location of battle sites where men who were in the US Colored Troops fought.
Co-Founders: Angela Walton-Raji and Toni Carrier
The Freedman's Bank Records
Although completely separate from the Freedmen’s Bureau, the Freedman’s Bank records can provide basic information about individuals as well. Created by Congress on March 3, 1865, the bank was based in Washington, D.C., and intended for freedmen. It failed in 1874.
Surviving registers provide biographical information on account holders, including place of birth; residences; age; names of employer, spouse, parents, and children; and military service. Early records may also include the name of a former enslaver.
The Freedmen's Bureau Records
On March 3, 1865, the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (also known as the Freedmen’s Bureau) was created by Congress, initially for one year. It was based in the federal War Department and staffed by both the military and civilians, including representatives from northern relief agencies. Assistant commissioners oversaw the bureau’s work in individual states.
The Freedmen’s Bureau began its work in Virginia in June 1865. Activities in Virginia included establishing hospitals and schools, providing rations, supervising the creation of labor contracts between freedmen and planters, and ensuring justice.
Many African Americans wrote to the Freedmen’s Bureau seeking help with
Freedmen's Bureau Act: Mar 3, 1865.
Field Office Records
State Records of Assistant Commissioner
These records contain copies of letters and annual reports sent to the Commissioner in Washington, DC; narrative summaries of problems and developments in the state; letters received from subordinates in field offices; telegrams and issuances (general orders, circulars, and special orders) from Washington; narrative reports on such topics as condition of the destitute, misuse of public stores, status of Bureau property, abandoned and confiscated lands, murders and outrages, and other areas of concern; form reports on schools; labor and personnel records; returns of medical officers; and correspondence.
While most of these records are summaries and reports, many, such as collected labor contracts and letters received, can provide detailed information on individuals.
The State Records of Assistant Commissioner Microfilm has been organized by states. Select your state and begin your research. The following records cover: Claim Records, Court Records, Hospital and Medical Records, Labor Contracts, Indenture and Apprenticeship, Land and Property, Person and Articles Hired, Ration Records, and Records of Freedmen's Complaints.
Records of many state Assistant Commissioners and superintendents of education were filmed in previous years and should be researched for more information on activities at the local level. In addition to administrative letters, monthly summaries, and annual reports sent to Washington, DC, these records also include reports, registers, and letters from subordinates that provide important details about circumstances and individuals in the localities.
They are available in the following M-numbered publications:
- Alabama ( M809 ) 23 Rolls Claim Records
- Arkansas ( M979 ) 52 Rolls Labor Contracts, Indenture and Apprenticeship
- District of Columbia ( M1055 ) 21 Rolls Records of the Assistant Commissioner
- Georgia ( M798 ) 36 Rolls Records of the Assistant Commissioner
- Louisiana ( M1027 ) 37 Rolls Assistant Commissioner
- Mississippi(M82) 50 Rolls Records of the Assistant Commissioner
- New OrleansField Offices (
) 10 Rolls
- North Carolina ( M826 ) 50 Rolls Superintendent of Education and Division of Education
- South Carolina ( M844 ) 16 Rolls Records of the Assistant Commissioner
- Tennessee ( M999 ) 34 Rolls Records of the Assistant Commissioner
- Texas ( M821 ) 32 Rolls Assistant Commissioner
- Virginia ( M1048 ) 67 Rolls Records of the Assistant Commissioner
These previously filmed series include most records of the Bureau’s headquarters in Washington, DC. The telegrams, letters, and orders sent, and the annual reports, summaries, and schedules received by the Commissioner’s office document the overall administration of the Bureau. They contain only limited information about particular individuals at the local level.
Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865–1872 (M742) 7 Rolls
Registers and Letters Received by the Commissioner of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865–1872 (M752) 74 Rolls
Records of the Education Division of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865–1871 (M803) 35 Rolls
Records of Superintendents of Education
Examples of Records