United States Freedmen’s Bureau, Records of Freedmen - FamilySearch Historical Records

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United States Freedmen’s Bureau, Records of Freedmen, 1865-1872
This article describes a collection of records at FamilySearch.org.

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Record Description
Record Type Freedmen’s Bureau Records
Record Group RG 105: Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1872
Collection years 1865-1872
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 an index and images of records relating to census lists, arrival and departure registers, transportation records, some birth,death and burial records. Field Office records from the following states are represented: Alabama (M1900), District of Columbia (M1902), Georgia (M1903), Louisiana (M1905), Maryland and Delaware (M1906),Mississippi (M1907), North Carolina (M1909), South Carolina (M1910), Texas (M1912), Virginia (M1913 The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (often called the Freedmen’s Bureau) was created in 1865 at the end of the American Civil War 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. The collection covers the years 1865 to 1872.

To locate additional information on the indexed collections in this publication see the digital folder number list section and related digital folder number list link located in this article under the heading Collection Content. The links in the state column will direct you to the browse collection landing page.

Census Lists

  • Alabama, Huntsville and Athens, Roll 19, Census of black citizens and register of bounty claims received and forwarded, 1865, Jun-Jul 1868
  • Mississippi, Yazoo City ,Roll 65, Register of plantation census in Yazoo County, ca 1865-1866
  • Virginia, Wytheville, Roll 198, Census returns of the black population of Pulaski, Wythe, and Carroll Counties (Images 130-213)
  • Virginia, Wytheville, Roll 198, Census returns of the black population of Montgomery, Grayson, Smyth, Giles, Roanoke, Craig, and Floyd Counties, 1865 (Images 214-412)
  • Virginia, Yorktown, Roll 203, Census returns of the black population of York County, Mar 1865
  • Virginia, Wytheville, Roll 199, Registers of indentures and contracts and census returns of the black population of Floyd County, 1865-1867
  • Virginia, Princess Anne, Roll 161, Census returns of black population of Princess Anne County
  • Virginia, Fort Monroe, Roll 115, Census of people helped by the government at Fort Monroe
  • Virginia, Drummondtown, Roll 74, Census of white and colored poplulation of Accomack County, vol 1-2, 1864
  • Virginia, Christianburg, Roll 68, Census returns of blacks in Montgomery County
  • Virginia, Boydton, Roll 61, Census lists, 1866


  • District of Columbia, Roll 21, Register of people arriving at Freedmen's Village, Jan 1, 1867-Jun 27, 1868 (No 84) (Images 474-549)
  • District of Columbia, Roll 19, Register of freedmen departing Mason's Island, VA, May 18, 1864-Jul 18, 1865 (Images 569-619)
  • Louisiana, Roll 83, Register of arrivals and departures, 1864-1865 (Images 932-1017)
  • Louisiana, Roll 79, Register for contrabands, Jul 1862-Dec 1863 (Image 119-176)
  • Louisiana, Roll 27, Registers of black persons, undated, vols. 1-2, A-D, (Images 405-618)
  • Louisiana, Roll 28, Registers of black persons, undated, vols. 3-7, E-N, (Images 119-471)
  • Louisiana, Roll 29, Registers of black persons, undated, vols. 8-11,O-Z, (Images 119-319)
  • Mississippi, Roll 16, Register of freedmen at the home colony, undated
  • Mississippi, Roll 35, Register of freedmen in Franklin County, undated


  • District of Columbia, Roll 12, Transportation orders received from headquarters, Jun 18, 1867-Mar 20, 1869 (Images 34-1192)
  • Georgia, Roll 25, Special orders received relating to the issuance of transportation, May 1867-Dec 1868 (Images 1057-1248)
  • Maryland and Delaware, Roll 6, Assistant Commissioner's reports of transportation ordered, June 1867-July 1868 (Images 372-400)
  • South Carolina, Roll 84, Register of transportation furnished, Nov 1866-Mar 1867
  • Texas, Roll 11, Orders for transportation, Feb 1867-Dec 1868
  • Virginia, Roll 130, Registers of freedmen sent to New England states, 1866-1867

Vital and Other Records

  • Louisiana, Roll 98, Records of births and deaths, Feb-Nov undated year
  • South Carolina, Roll 63, Lists of prisoners confined and released from Charleston Jail, with charges, Mar-Oct 1865
  • Virginia, Roll 69, List of freedmen buried at City Point, Sep 1865-Jan 1866

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 refugees, 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.

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.

What Can These Records Tell Me?[edit | edit source]

The following information may be found in these records:

  • Full name
  • Event date
  • Age (years)
  • Residence
  • Date of death
  • Date of birth
  • Date of marriage
  • Other name
  • Military unit
  • Names of other family members
  • Relationships
  • Race
  • Occupation

Collection Content[edit | edit source]

Sample Images[edit | edit source]

Record Types

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

Digital Folder Number List[edit | edit source]

This collection was published as a DGS browse collection. The list does not contain any description of the DGS folder's content. A table listing each DGS number and its contents can be found at United States Freedmen’s Bureau, Records of Freedmen Digital Folder Number List.

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

The Freedmen’s Bureau records are a major source of genealogical information about post Civil War African Americans. To begin your search it is helpful to know the name and some other identifying information such as:

  • Age
  • Residence or
  • Former owner
  • 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.
  • 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. 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]

Search by name on the Collection Details Page.
  1. Fill in the search boxes in the Search Collection section with the information you know
  2. Click Search to show possible matches

View the Images[edit | edit source]

To view images in this collection:
  1. Look at the Digital Folder Number List article to determine the folder/film number for the images you want to see
  2. Go to the Browse Page
  3. Select the Film number 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]

  • Save a copy of the image or transcribe the information
  • Use the place of residence, age, and other information for each person to search for the individuals in census records and other types of records

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

  • There may be more than one person in the records with the same name
  • Look for variant spellings of the names. You should also look for nicknames and abbreviated names
  • Look for another index. Local genealogical and historical societies often have indexes to local records
  • Search the indexes and records of nearby counties
  • Try alternative search methods such as only filling in the surname search box (or the given name search box) on the landing page leaving the other box empty and then click on search. This should return a list of everyone with that particular name. You could then browse the list for individuals that may be your ancestor
  • Former slaves may have had used multiple names or changed their names until they decided upon one particular name. Search all possible names along with variations or spellings of their known names

Research Helps[edit | edit source]

The following articles will help you research your family in the United States.

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.
Record Citation:
When looking at a record, the citation can be viewed by clicking the drop-down arrow next to Document Information.
Image Citation:
When looking at an image, the citation is found on the Information tab at the bottom left of the screen.