Guide to Federal Records

Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands


(Record Group 105)
1861-79
710 cu. ft.

Overview of Records Locations

Table of Contents

  • 105.1 ADMINISTRATIVE HISTORY
  • 105.2 RECORDS OF THE COMMISSIONER'S OFFICE 1861-72 88 lin. ft.
  • 105.3 RECORDS OF HEADQUARTERS STAFF OFFICES AND DIVISIONS 1865-72 140 lin. ft.
  • 105.3.1 Records of the Office of the Chief Disbursing Officer
  • 105.3.2 Records of the Office of the Chief Medical Officer
  • 105.3.3 Records of the Office of the Chief Quartermaster
  • 105.3.4 Records of the Office of the Assistant Inspector General
  • 105.3.5 Records of the Land Division
  • 105.3.6 Records of the Prosecution Branch, Claims Division
  • 105.3.7 Records of the Certificate Branch, Claims Division
  • 105.3.8 Records of the Complaint Branch, Claims Division
  • 105.3.9 Records of the Education Division
  • 105.3.10 Records of the Archives Division
  • 105.4 HEADQUARTERS RECORDS OF THE FREEDMEN'S BRANCH, ADJUTANT GENERAL'S OFFICE 1867-79 95 lin. ft.
  • 105.4.1 Records of the Office of the Assistant Adjutant General
  • 105.4.2 Records of the Office of the Chief Disbursing Officer
  • 105.5 RECORDS OF FIELD OFFICES 1865-78 (bulk 1865-68) 1,150 lin. ft.

105.1 ADMINISTRATIVE HISTORY

Established: In the War Department by the first Freedmen's Bureau Act (13 Stat. 507), March 3, 1865.

Predecessor Agencies:

  • War Department through military commanders in the field (1861-65)
  • Treasury Department through special field agents (1861-65)
Functions: Supervised all relief and educational activities relating to refugees and freedmen. Assumed custody of abandoned or confiscated lands or property in the former Confederate States, border states, District of Columbia, and Indian Territory.

Abolished: Effective June 30, 1872, by an act of June 10, 1872 (17 Stat. 366).

Successor Agencies: Freedmen's Branch, Adjutant General's Office (AGO, 1872-79).

Finding Aids: Elaine Everly, comp., Preliminary Inventory of the Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, Washington Headquarters, PI 174 (1973). Elaine Everly and Willna Pacheli, comps., "Preliminary Inventory of the Records of the Field Offices of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands," NM 95 (1973-74), consisting of Part 1, Alabama-Louisiana; Part 2, Maryland-South Carolina; and Part 3, Tennessee-Virginia and Records of the Field Offices of the Freedmen's Branch, Office of the Adjutant General, 1872-78.

Related Records: Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1780's-1917, RG 94.
Records of Civil War Special Agencies of the Treasury Department, RG 366.

Records of U.S. Army Continental Commands, 1821-1920, RG 393.

Subject Access Terms: Civil rights; Reconstruction.

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105.2 RECORDS OF THE COMMISSIONER'S OFFICE
1861-72
88 lin. ft.

Textual Records: Letters sent, 1865-72, with indexes. Letters received, 1865-72, with registers. Endorsements, May-September 1865, August-January 1871. Issuances, 1865-70. Annual and monthly reports of the Assistant Commissioners, 1865-69. Monthly personal reports of officers and civilian agents, 1867-71. Station books of officers and civilians on duty, 1866-70. Freedmen's marriage certificates, 1861-69.

Microfilm Publications: M742, M752.

Subject Access Terms: Howard, Gen. Oliver Otis.

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105.3 RECORDS OF HEADQUARTERS STAFF OFFICES AND DIVISIONS
1865-72
140 lin. ft.

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105.3.1 Records of the Office of the Chief Disbursing Officer

Textual Records: Letters sent, 1866-72, with indexes. Letters sent relating to the payment of claims filed by black soldiers and sailors for bounties and pensions, 1867-70, with indexes. Letters received (39 vols.), 1865-70, with gaps, and index. Letters received, 1870-72, with accompanying registers and indexes. Journals and ledgers of accounts, 1865-72. Monthly reports of persons and articles hired, 1865-71. Registers of claimants, 1867-72, with partial index.

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105.3.2 Records of the Office of the Chief Medical Officer

Textual Records: Letters sent, 1865-70, with index. Registers of letters received, 1865-71. Endorsements, 1865-71.

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105.3.3 Records of the Office of the Chief Quartermaster

Textual Records: Letters sent, 1866-70, with indexes. Letters received, 1866-69, with registers and indexes. Letters received by endorsement, 1866-71. Records relating to property accounts and transportation, 1866-72.

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105.3.4 Records of the Office of the Assistant Inspector General

Textual Records: Press copies of letters sent, 1867-68. Letters received, 1867-68, with register.

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105.3.5 Records of the Land Division

Textual Records: Letters sent, 1865-70, with index. Letters received, 1865-70, with register. Endorsements, 1865-69. Registers of abandoned and confiscated lands and property, 1865- 68.

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105.3.6 Records of the Prosecution Branch, Claims Division

Textual Records: Letters sent, 1866-72, with indexes. Endorsements, 1866-70. Letters received, 1866-72, with registers and indexes. Case files of claims (including disallowed claims), with registers and indexes, 1866-72.

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105.3.7 Records of the Certificate Branch, Claims Division

Textual Records: Letters sent, 1867-71, with index. Endorsements, 1867-70. Letters received, 1867-71, with registers and index. Registers of certificates for payment of claims, 1867-69.

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105.3.8 Records of the Complaint Branch, Claims Division

Textual Records: Letters sent, 1867-69. Endorsements, 1868-69. Letters received, 1867-69, with registers.

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105.3.9 Records of the Education Division

Textual Records: Letters sent, 1866-68, with index. Letters received, 1866-71, with registers and indexes. Endorsements, 1867-70. School reports, 1865-70.

Microfilm Publications: M803.

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105.3.10 Records of the Archives Division

Textual Records: Letters received, 1869-70, with registers.

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105.4 HEADQUARTERS RECORDS OF THE FREEDMEN'S BRANCH, ADJUTANT
GENERAL'S OFFICE 1867-79
95 lin. ft.

History: Established, effective July 1, 1872, by General Order 55, War Department, June 25, 1872. Discontinued, June 1879. Work relating to the claims of black soldiers continued by Colored Troops Division, Adjutant General's Office.

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105.4.1 Records of the Office of the Assistant Adjutant General

Textual Records: Letters and endorsements sent, 1872-79, with indexes. Letters received, 1872-79, with registers and indexes. Reports of operations, 1872-79. Register of Freedmen's Branch employees, 1872-79.

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105.4.2 Records of the Office of the Chief Disbursing Officer

Textual Records: Case files of black soldiers and sailors issued Treasury Department certificates for the payment of claims relating to bounties, back pay, and pensions, 1867-78. Registers of claimants, 1872-78, with indexes. Lists of claimants sent to Disbursing Officers, 1872-78. Records relating to accounts and returns, 1872-79.

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105.5 RECORDS OF FIELD OFFICES
1865-78 (bulk 1865-68)
1,150 lin. ft.

History: The Commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau, under authority of General Order 91, War Department, May 12, 1865, appointed assistant commissioners at the state level to exercise all bureau functions including education. The assistant commissioners appointed subassistant commissioners at the district level, who in turn created subdistricts under assistant subassistant commissioners or agents. Pursuant to the second Freedmen's Bureau Act (15 Stat. 193), July 25, 1868, the Commissioner, on January 1, 1869, discontinued most district- level Freedmen's Bureau operations, and began withdrawing the assistant commissioners and their subordinate officers from the states. Superintendents of education and claims agents were withdrawn in 1870. The Washington, DC, office of the Freedmen's Bureau then disposed of claims until the agency was abolished in 1872. The successor Freedmen's Branch, AGO, continued limited field activity under disbursing officers until 1878.

Textual Records: Letters and endorsements sent; letters received; issuances; reports relating to operations and administration, freedmen, schools, and land and property; labor contracts; returns of medical officers; hospital records; amnesty oaths and oaths of office; and records relating to riots, murders, and outrages, 1865-78, for AL, AR (including Indian Territory), DE, FL, GA, KY, LA, MD, MS, MO, NC, SC, TN, TX, VA, and DC.

Microfilm Publications: M798, M799, M809, M810, M821, M822, M826, M843, M844, M869, M979, M980, M999, M1000, M1026, M1027, M1048, M1053, M1055, M1056, M1483.


Bibliographic note: Web version based on Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States. Compiled by Robert B. Matchette et al. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1995.
3 volumes, 2428 pages.

Ordering information

This Web version is updated from time to time to include records processed since 1995.


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