United States, Freedmen’s Bureau Records Bibliography (National Institute)

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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2013. It is an excerpt from their course Research: African American Ancestors  by Michael Hait, CG. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).


Freedmen’s Bureau field office records are held by the National Archives and Records Administration, and have experienced a great surge in their accessibility due to both microfilming and digitizing efforts. However, these records still suffer from a lack of any general index. The following references help to partially address this situation:

  • Lawson, Jacqueline E. A., An Index of African Americans Identified in Selected Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (Bowie, Maryland: Heritage Books, 1995).
  • Rathbun, Fred C., Names from Georgia, 1865-1866: Freedmens Bureau, Letters, Roll 13 (Littleton, Colorado: F. C. Rathbun, 1986).
  • Smith, Gloria L., Civil War Brides and Grooms, Meridian, Mississippi from the Freedmens’ Bureau Records of Register of Marriages of Freedmen, Volume 3 (45) 1865, Roll 42-Target 4: Index and Records (Tucson, Ariz.?: G. L. Smith, 1988).
  • Smith, Gloria L., Index, Civil War Brides and Grooms, Natchez, Mississippi, from the Freedmens’ Bureau Records of Register of Marriages of Freedmen, Volume 2 (44), 1864-65, Roll 42, Target 3 (Tucson, Arizona: Trailstones Industries, 1988).
  • Smith, Gloria L., Civil War Brides and Grooms at Davis Bend, Mississippi: Copies of Records from the Freedmens’ Bureau Records (Tucson, Arizona?: G. L. Smith, 1991).
  • Smith, Gloria L., Civil War Brides and Grooms at Vicksburg, Mississippi: Copies of Records from the Freedmens’ Bureau Records (Tucson, Arizona: G. L. Smith, 1990).
  • Smith, Gloria L., Solemn Ceremonies: Index of Civil War Marriages-Virginia: Marriage Records of African-American Families of Gloucester County, Virginia Area, from Record Group 105, Received at Camp Hamilton, Virginia (Tucson, Arizona: G. L. Smith, 1990).

Freedmen’s Bureau Online

“United States, Freedmen’s Bureau Marriages, 1815-1869,” FamilySearch: “These records consist of unbound marriage certificates, marriage licenses, monthly reports of marriages and other proofs of marriages. The records are part of the records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, part of National Archives and Records Administration Record Group 105 and were compiled from 1861 through 1872. Includes records from the following states: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.”

University of Maryland, Freedmen and Southern Society Project, “Documents from Freedom: A Documentary History of Emancipation, 1861-1867”: “The following are sample documents from the volumes of Freedom: A Documentary History of Emancipation. Like all the documents in Freedom, they are transcriptions (or, in a few cases, images) of originals housed in the National Archives of the United States.” Many of these documents come from the records of the Freedmen’s Bureau.

Mississippi Department of Archives and History, “Freedmen’s Bureau Index”: “After the Civil War, former slaves were given the opportunity to enter into work contracts with planters to ensure equitable payment for their labor. The Freedmen’s Bureau (officially the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands) was established by Congress to supervise all affairs relating to refugees and freedmen, including the writing of labor contracts of planters/farmers with freedmen. The Mississippi labor contracts that are indexed cover the period 1865-67 and are taken from the National Archives microfilm FHL film rolls (43-50). One additional roll for Tennessee, M999 (roll 25), includes a small number of Mississippi contracts; only the Mississippi contracts were indexed.”

Tennessee, Memphis Public Library, “Freedmen’s Bureau Marriage Index (1864-1865)”: “This is an index to the marriage records of African Americans kept by the Memphis Field Office of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands. It includes the groom’s surname, given name, age, military unit, the bride’s surname, given name, age, date, volume and page.”

Virginia Center for Digital History (University of Virginia), “Freedmen’s Bureau,”The Valley of the Shadow: Two Communities in the American Civil War: Includes letters, register of complaints, cohabitation records for Augusta County, Virginia.

Virginia, “Alexandria City and County African American Census of 1865 (partial),” The Friends of Freedmen’s Cemetery: “Near the end of 1865, all Freedmen’s Bureau district offices were ordered to take a census of the African American population in their jurisdictions. Most of these censuses have been lost, although the raw numbers generally remain. Until recently, it was thought that the Alexandria County, Virginia census was also lost. But a fragment—containing surnames starting with the letters Q through Y, plus some Bs—turned up at the Library of Virginia.”

Virginia, “Miscellaneous Personal Data on Alexandria African Americans, 1862-1868,” The Friends of Freedmen’s Cemetery: “The information in the following large table is drawn from many sources, chief among which are the records of the Alexandria office of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands.”

“Virginia, Freedmen’s Bureau Letters or Correspondence, 1865-1872,” FamilySearch: “Index of names from documents, mainly letters, addressing various situations dealing with African American workers on farms and plantations in Virginia in the years immediately following the Civil War.”

Despite the lack of a comprehensive index, many unindexed record images have also been placed online on various websites:

  • Ancestry.com - Freedmen’s Bureau Marriage Records, 1815-1866,
  • Ancesty.com - U.S., Freedmen Bureau Records of Field Offices, 1865-1878

The most valuable records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands are often contained among the records of the local Field Offices. The records of Field Offices for each state are held on individual NARA microfilm publications, as follows:

  • Records of the New Orleans Field Offices, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1869; NARA microfilm publication M1483, FHL film 10 rolls;
  • Records of the Assistant Commissioner and Subordinate Field Offices for the State of Florida, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1872; NARA microfilm publication M1869, FHL Film 15 rolls;
  • Records of the Field Offices for the State of Alabama, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1872; NARA microfilm publication M1900, FHL Film 34 rolls;
  • Records of the Field Offices for the State of Arkansas, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1872; NARA microfilm publication M1901, FHL Film 23 rolls;
  • Records of the Field Offices for the District of Columbia, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1870, NARA microfilm publication M1902, FHL Film 21 rolls;
  • Records of the Field Offices for the State of Georgia, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1872; NARA microfilm publication M1903, FHL Film 90 rolls;
  • Records of the Field Offices for the State of Kentucky, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1872; NARA microfilm publication M1904, FHL Film 133 rolls;
  • Records of the Field Offices for the State of Louisiana, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1863-1872; NARA microfilm publication M1905, FHL Film 111 rolls;
  • Records of the Field Offices for the States of Maryland and Delaware, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1872; NARA microfilm publication M1906, FHL Film 42 rolls;
  • Records of the Field Offices for the State of Mississippi, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1872; NARA microfilm publication M1907, FHL Film 65 rolls;
  • Records of the Field Offices for the State of Missouri, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1872; NARA microfilm publication M1908, FHL Film 24 rolls;
  • Records of the Field Offices for the State of North Carolina, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1872; NARA microfilm publication M1909, FHL Film 78 rolls;
  • Records of the Field Offices for the State of South Carolina, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1872; NARA microfilm publication M1910,FHL Film 106 rolls;
  • Records of the Field Offices for the State of Tennessee, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1872; NARA microfilm publication M1911,FHL Film 89 rolls;
  • Records of the Field Offices for the State of Texas, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1870; NARA microfilm publication M1912,FHL Film 28 rolls;
  • Records of the Field Offices for the State of Virginia, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1872; NARA microfilm publication M1913,FHL Film 203 rolls.

To effectively access these records, for which no comprehensive indexes exist, you should carefully consult the descriptive pamphlets (DPs) for each of the above microfilm publications. You can access these DPs from the National Archives and Records Administration, at the hyperlink titled “Microfilm”.

The DP for each publication provides a detailed history of the Bureau, and of the particular field office. It also provides a detailed list of the contents of each microfilm reel. This will help you to narrow down which reels you will want to search for information on your ancestors.


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Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course Research: African American Ancestors offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at wiki@genealogicalstudies.com

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