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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       

Freedmen's Map ​​​​           

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.

Freedman's Bank Records

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 

locating lost family members. In addition to freedmen and -women, the Freedmen’s Bureau helped poor white individuals and dealt with seized or abandoned land. It ceased most of its operations in Virginia on January 1, 1869, and on June 10, 1872, it was abolished by law. The records of the field offices that document interactions between the Freedmen’s Bureau and individuals are the most helpful for genealogical research.

Freedmen's Bureau Act: Mar 3, 1865.                  

Freedmen's Bureau Act

Field Office Records

These records, organized by state, contain field office reports, letters received and sent, contracts, certificates, registers, censuses, affidavits, and other documents. The field (or local) offices of the Bureau provided direct assistance too and contact with the formerly enslaved who were seeking relief. In addition to letters and accounts directly from freed people, these records also contain documents from employers, landowners, and others that were involved in the mission of helping the formerly enslaved become self-sufficient. The records are rich with names and personal information of individuals whose correspondence includes marriage certificates, schooling information, labor contracts, hospital records, complaints, relief rolls, land applications, requests for legal aid and protection, and trial summaries. 

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.

Film M1900-M2029

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 ( M1483 ) 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 

Headquarters Records

​ 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.

Selected Series of Records Issued by the Commissioner of the Bureau of Refugees   

  •  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

  • Georgia ​(​ M799 ) 28 Rolls 
  • Louisiana (​ M1026  ) 12 Rolls
  • North Carolina (​ M844 ) 16 Rolls

Additional Tools 

Examples of Records

Claim Records

Example​​ ​

Court Records


Hospital and Medical Records


Persons and Articles Hired


Ration Records


Record of Freedmen's Complains


Labor Contracts, Indenture and Apprenticeship Records