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Primary Sources: Freedmen's Bureau Records (Freedman's Bank): Online

Access

Three separate collections of Freedmen's Bureau Records are available online through two genealogy databases.

Directions below.

Three Online Collections

HeritageQuest Online

U.S., Freedman's Bank Records, 1865-1871

This database is an index to Freedman's Savings and Trust Company's registers of signatures of depositors. Some information that may be found in this index includes:

  • Name of depositor
  • Date of application/deposit
  • Name of employer
  • Name of plantation
  • Age
  • Height
  • Complexion
  • Name of father and/or mother
  • Whether married
  • Place of birth
  • Residence
  • Occupation
  • Names of children
  • Names of brothers and sisters

Note: not all entries will contain all of this information.

Freedman's Bank Records is a great source for genealogists researching their African American heritage because of the amount of personal information recorded for each individual in it. Be sure to view the corresponding image of the original document associated with your ancestor in order to obtain all possible information available for them.

About Freedman's Savings and Trust Company

The Freedman's Savings and Trust Company was incorporated in 1865 by an act signed by President Abraham Lincoln. The purpose of the company was to create an institution where former slaves and their dependents could place and save their money. The original bank was first headquartered in New York and later moved to Washington, D.C. Shortly thereafter branch offices opened in other cities, primarily in ones in the south where there was a larger population of African Americans. Eventually there were 37 branch offices in 17 states with approximately 70,000 depositors (over the banks lifetime) and deposits of more than $57 million. In 1874, as a result of mismanagement, fraud, and other events and situations, Freedman's Bank closed.

About the Registers of Signatures of Depositors

Twenty-nine of the thirty-seven branches of the bank had records that have survived and been microfilmed. The registers of signatures of depositors collection contains forms required by the bank for each individual making a deposit to fill out. These forms asked questions regarding personal information and identification as well as required a signature. The exact questions asked on each form varied between years and branches.

Some of the above information taken from The Freedman's Savings and Trust Company and African American Genealogical Research by Reginald Washington.

 

To get into the database, scroll down to the bottom of the HeritageQuest Online home page:

 

 

Ancestry

U.S., Freedmen's Bureau Records of Field Offices, 1863-1878

The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, also known as the Freedman’s Bureau, was established in the War Department by an act of Congress on March 3, 1865. The Bureau was responsible for the supervision and management of all matters relating to refugees and freedmen, and of lands abandoned or seized during the Civil War.

While a major part of the Bureau’s early activities involved the supervision of abandoned and confiscated property, its mission was to provide relief and help freedmen become self-sufficient. Bureau officials issued rations and clothing, operated hospitals and refugee camps, and supervised labor contracts. In addition, the Bureau managed apprenticeship disputes and complaints, assisted benevolent societies in the establishment of schools, helped freedmen in legalizing marriages entered into during slavery, and provided transportation to refugees and freedmen who were attempting to reunite with their family or relocate to other parts of the country. The Bureau also helped black soldiers, sailors, and their heirs collect bounty claims, pensions, and back pay. (Taken from: Publication Details of M1902: Records of the Field Offices for the District of Columbia, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1870. Washington, D.C.: United States Congress and National Archives and Records Administration, 2002.

This database contains records relating to the Bureau from the following field offices:

  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Tennessee
  • New Orleans, Lousiana
  • North Carolina
  • Virginia
  • Washington, D.C.

The database also contains records relating to the Bureau for the following states from the Adjutant General's office in Washington, D.C.:

  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • South Carolina

Types of records found in this database include:

  • Labor Contracts
  • Letters*
  • Applications for Rations
  • Monthly Reports of Abandoned Land
  • Monthly Reports of Clothing and Medicine Issued
  • Statistical School Reports
  • Court Trial Records
  • Hospital Records
  • Lists of Workers
  • Complaints Registered
  • Census Returns
  • Other

*Most of the letters were being sent to or from Washington, D.C. Therefore, letters from individuals outside of the D.C. field office are included with this locality.

Information available in this database includes:

  • Name
  • Record type
  • Year
  • Field office location

Additional information is likely available on the original record. Be sure to view the corresponding images that pertain to the record. Keep in mind that the original record may be comprised of several pages or images.

 

U.S., Freedmen’s Bureau Marriage Records, 1815-1866

The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, also known as the Freedman’s Bureau, was established in the War Department by an act of Congress on March 3, 1865. The Bureau was responsible for the supervision and management of all matters relating to refugees and freedmen, and of lands abandoned or seized during the Civil War.

While the Bureau’s mission was to provide relief and help freedmen become self-sufficient, it also solemnized marriages that freedmen had entered into during slavery where the state or other local agencies made no provisions for such an act for persons of color.

This database contains Freedmen Bureau marriage records from 1861-1869. Record types include: marriage certificates, marriage licenses, monthly reports of marriages, and other proofs of marriage. Information available on these records may vary from state to state and between record types. However, the following is a list of the type of information that may be found among these records:

  • Names of the bride and groom
  • Ages of the bride and groom
  • Date of marriage
  • Where married
  • By whom married
  • Number of male and female children
  • Color of bride and groom
  • Complexion of parents

States represented in this collection are Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

How to Search this Database:

This database is not searchable by name. However, images of the records may be browsed by using the browse table below. Records are arranged alphabetically by state in which the marriage was performed, followed by record type and/or alphabetical by surname of groom.

For Further Information:

Much of the above information was taken from: Publication Details of M1875: Marriage Records of the Office of the Commissioner, Washington Headquarters of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1861-1869. Washington, D.C.: United States Congress and National Archives and Records Administration, 2002.

 

To access these Ancestry two digital collections:

1. On the home page of Ancestry, click on "Search" in the upper left and hover

2. Choose "Card Catalog" in the pull down menu

3. Search on "freedmen" as a keyword

4. Click on the link for the pertinent collection