Alabama, Freedmen's Bureau Field Office Records - FamilySearch Historical Records

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Alabama, Freedmen's Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1872
This article describes a collection of records at
United States
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Record Description
Record Type Freedmen and Refugee
Record Group RG 105: Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands
Collection years 1865-1872
Microfilm Publication M1900. Records of the Field Offices for the State of Alabama, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands. 34 rolls.
National Archives Identifier 434
FamilySearch Resources
Related Websites
National Archives and Records Administration

What is in This Collection?[edit | edit source]

This collection consists of scanned images of records from National Archives microfilm publication M1900,Records of the Field Offices for the State of Alabama, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands which is part of Record Group 105 Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands. The images are generally arranged in the order the records were microfilmed with the records of the Assistant Commissioner who oversaw Bureau operations in the state and state level staff officers; Commissary of Subsistence, Inspector General and Disbursing Officer, Quartermaster and Disbursing Officer, and Surgeon first then the local field office records are arranged alphabetically by location and by NARA roll number.

Home Colonies: Butler County, Demopolis, Garland, Huntsville, Mobile, Montgomery, Selma, and Talladega. Freedmen's Hospitals: Demopolis, Garland, Huntsville, Mobile, Montgomery, Selma and Talladega.

Records with Freedmen and Refugee Names

  • Claims: Huntsville, Rolls 18-19; Mobile, Roll 23; Montgomery, Roll 26
  • Complaints: Demopolis, Roll 10; Greenville, Roll 13; Opelika, Roll 28; Selma, Roll 30-31; Tuscaloosa, Roll 34
  • Labor Contracts: Ashland, Roll 9; Cahaba, Roll 9; Montgomery, Roll 25; Tuscumbia, Roll 34;
  • Patient, Prescription, Sick & Wounded Registers: Demopolis, Roll 11; Garland, Roll 11; Huntsville, Roll 20; Mobile, Roll 23: Montgomery, Roll 27; Selma, Roll 31; Talladega, Roll 33; Tuskegee, Roll 34
  • Rations, Selma, Roll 31
  • Commissary of Subsistence: Roll 3, Lists of Heads of Families Who Have Received Relief (Certificates of Applicants) Applications for Relief
  • Quartermaster and Disbursing Officer: Roll 7, Monthly Reports of Person and Articles Hired
  • Cahaba: Roll 9, Contracts, Register of Contracts, and Registers of Transportation and Rations Issued
  • Huntsville: Roll 15, Register of Rations Shipped to Agents and Issued in the Colonies; Fair Copies of Contracts; Rosters of Officers and Employees
  • Huntsville and Athens (Claims Agent): Roll 19, Census of Black Citizens and Register of Bounty Claims Received and Forwarded; Registers of Claims Allowed; Registers of Claims Forwarded; Registers of Disbursements; Registers of Claimants
  • Livingston: Roll 20, Register of Complaints, Court Records, Lists of Contracts
  • Mobile: Roll 22, Registers of Contracts and Complaints; Transcripts of Mayor’s Dockets
  • Selma: Roll 31, Register of Rations Issued to Freedmen and Destitute Whites; Complaints

The following field office personnel coverage table shows where the field offices in Alabama were located, the names of the employees, what office they held, and the dates they served. To review the table clink on the following link. To see the coverage table, click on the following link. Freedmen's Bureau Alabama Field Office Personnel Coverage Table

The state Sub-Districts, as of November 5, 1868

  • District of Talladega: Baine, Blount, Calhoun, Cleburne, Clay, Cherokee, St. Clair, Shelby, Talladega, Winston, Walker and Jefferson
  • District of Mobile: Baldwin, Clark, Mobile, Monroe, Washington
  • District of Opelika: Chambers, Lee, Macon, Randolph and Russell
  • District of Wedowee: Randolph
  • District of Girard: Russell
  • District of Montgomery: Autauga, Coosa, Elmoer, Lowndes, Montgomery and Tallapooosa.
  • District of: Hayneville: Lowndes
  • District of Huntsville: Colbert, DeKahb, Franklin, Jackson, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Limestone, Madison, Morgan, Marshall and Marion.
  • District of Athens: Limestone
  • District of Greenville: Butler, Crenshaw, Covington, and Conecuh.
  • District of Demopolis: Choctaw, Greene, Hale, Marengo, and Sumter.
  • District of Livingston: Sumter
  • District of Selma: Bibb, Dallas, Perry and Wilcox.
  • District of Tuscaloosa: Fayette, Jones, Pickens and Tuscaloosa.
  • District of Eufaula: Barbour, Bullock, Dale, Henry, Pike and Coffee.

On March 2, 1867 Congress created five military districts in the Southern States. Some of the records of these military districts found in Record Group 393 may relate to records of the Freedmen's Bureau. The link below to the National Archives Catalog will provide history to the third district and links to record descriptions.

General Information about Freedmen's Bureau Records[edit | edit source]

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 Articles

  • Sharon Batiste Gillins.A Window into the lives of black and white ancestors: Freedmen's Bureau field office records. NGS Magazine 39 #1 (January-March 2013): 34-38.
  • Sharon Batiste Gillins. Navigating Freedmen's Bureau Records for Research Success NGS Magazine 47 #2 (April-June 2021): 27-35

National Museum of African American History & Culture[edit | edit source]

The museum is working with the Smithsonian Transcription Center and volunteers to transcribe the records of the Bureau.

Image Visibility[edit | edit source]

Whenever possible FamilySearch makes images and indexes available for all users. However, rights to view these data are limited by contract and subject to change. Because of this there may be limitations on where and how images and indexes are available or who can see them. Please be aware some collections consist only of partial information indexed from the records and do not contain any images. For additional information about image restrictions see Restrictions for Viewing Images in FamilySearch Historical Record Collections.

To Browse This Collection[edit | edit source]

You can browse through images in this collection using the waypoints on the Collection Browse Page for Alabama, Freedmen's Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1872.

Collection Content[edit | edit source]

Sample Images[edit | edit source]

Record Types[edit | edit source]

The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (often called the Freedmen’s Bureau) created many different record types necessary 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.

  • The following link will provide a description of the record types found in this and other Freedmen's Bureau collections. Freedmen's Bureau Record Types

Officer's Manual

The War Department published an Officer's Manual to assist bureau personnel in the records that were required to be keep in bureau offices.

The following Wiki articles are transcriptions of portions of the manual

Inventory[edit | edit source]

Collection descriptions for the browse images may be located in either the published National Archives preliminary inventory with the "Entry No." or the National Archives Catalog Online Public Access Catalog "OPA." with the National Archives Identifier "NAID" number. To review the inventory see the following link. Inventory

How Do I Search This Collection?[edit | edit source]

Before searching this collection, it is helpful to know:

  • The name of the individual
  • The date of the event or the name of a parent or spouse
  • Locate your ancestor in the 1870 Census. Most local Bureau activities ended (except from claims and education) in December 1868
  • Check the records of the local field office in the area(s) where you believe your ancestor lived between June 1865 and December 1868.
  • Determine, if possible, the name of the former owner. The 1860 Slave Schedule may be helpful. Also consider searching the 1860 and 1870 Agricultural Schedules. This would be helpful when searching for labor contracts.
  • The Bureau created many different types of records. Review the record types in the Collection Content section in this article.
  • While searching Bureau records remember to search other records of the local government, including marriage and court records and especially the 1867 or later voter registrations.
  • Consider ancestors who may have been employed as a civilian agent or served as local agent while still in the military. Look for statewide rosters of bureau personnel in the records of Assistant Commissioners and the Field Office Personal Coverage for this state. Others may have worked with aid associations or taught school supported by aid associations in the north.
  • Freedmen would have determined what their name would be and may have changed it multiple times.

Search the Index[edit | edit source]

This collection does not have a searchable index. Only images are available. See View the Images to access them.

View the Images[edit | edit source]

View images in this collection by visiting the Collection Browse Page:
  1. Select Freedmen's Bureau Office or Subordinate Field Office Location
  2. Select NARA Roll Number-Contents to view the images

How Do I Analyze the Results?[edit | edit source]

Compare each result from your search with what you know to determine if there is a match. This may require viewing multiple records or images. Keep track of your research in a research log.

What Do I Do Next?[edit | edit source]

I Found the Person I Was Looking For, What Now?[edit | edit source]

  • Add any new information to your records
  • Use the age to calculate a birth date and to find other records such as birth, christening, census, and death records
  • Use the information to find additional family members
  • Search land and probate records
  • Search the 1866 State Census
  • Search the 1867 Voter Registrations- See related Websites
  • Search the 1870 Census

I Can’t Find the Person I’m Looking For, What Now?[edit | edit source]

  • Remember that there may be more than one person in the records with the same name
  • Collect entries for every person who has the same surname. This list can help you identify possible relations that can be verified by records
  • If you cannot locate your ancestor in the locality in which you believe they lived, then try searching records of a nearby locality
  • Standard spelling of names typically did not exist. Former slaves may have had used multiple names or changed their names until they decided upon one particular name
  • Remember that sometimes individuals went by nicknames or alternated between using first and middle names
  • Search the 1866 State Census
  • Search the 1867 Voter Registrations - See Related Websites
  • Search the 1870 Census

Research Helps[edit | edit source]

The following articles will help you in your research for your family in the state of Alabama.

Other FamilySearch Collections[edit | edit source]

These collections may have additional materials to help you with your research.

FamilySearch Catalog[edit | edit source]

FamilySearch Historical Records[edit | edit source]

FamilySearch Digital Library[edit | edit source]

Citing This Collection[edit | edit source]

Citations help you keep track of places you have searched and sources you have found. Identifying your sources helps others find the records you used.

Collection Citation:
The citation for this collection can be found on the Collection Details Page in the section Citing this Collection.
Image Citation:
When looking at an image, the citation is found on the Information tab at the bottom left of the screen.