Search the Freedmen’s Bureau

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The Freedmen’s Bureau Search Portal provides unprecedented opportunities for family historians and genealogists to search for their ancestors and for scholars to research a variety of topics related to slavery and Reconstruction in the Freedmen’s Bureau records.

The United States Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, commonly known as the Freedmen's Bureau, was created by Congress in 1865 to assist in the political and social reconstruction of post-war Southern states and to help formerly enslaved African Americans transition from slavery to freedom and citizenship. In the process, the Bureau created millions of records that contain the names and information of hundreds of thousands of people across the United States including formerly enslaved African Americans, and those who were free before the Civil War, white southerners, northern educators, elected officials, and more.  

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National Museum of African American History and Culture

The portal makes possible for the first time the ability to research multiple sets of Freedmen’s Bureau data in one place, allowing users to search indexed data for specific names, places, and dates and transcribed data for topics, subjects, institutions, and any other words or phrases. Matches to search criteria will be highlighted in the results. 

The Freedmen's Bureau Initiative

Explore the initiative behind this search portal.

Data Source 

The original Freedmen’s Bureau records are held by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Not all Bureau records at NARA have been microfilmed or digitized. The two data sets used in this search portal—indexed data created by FamilySearch volunteers (name, date, location) and transcribed data created by Smithsonian volunteers (text search)—were created through crowdsourced initiatives.  

The information in both sets of data may be subject to inaccuracies including but not limited to typos, misspellings, and inaccurate dates. Additionally, not all of the names, dates, and locations on a single document were indexed and due to the legibility of some records, some words will never be transcribed. 

Transcription is ongoing via the Smithsonian Transcription Center and is added to this search portal as transcriptions are updated or completed. 

Rights Statement 

Freedmen's Bureau Digital Collection, 1865-1872, is a product of and owned by the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Smithsonian Institution. Copyright for digital images is retained by the donor, Family Search International; permission for commercial use of the digital images may be requested from Family Search International, Intellectual Property Office, at:   

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