Black families who have information about their family prior to 1900 should consider analyzing the records of the following microfilm collection: Registers of Signatures of Depositors in Branches of the Freedmen's Savings and Trust Company, 1865 - 1874. The Freedman's Savings and Trust Company
. . .was incorporated by an act of March 3, 1865 (13 Stat. 510), as a banking institution established in the city of Washington, District of Columbia, for the benefit of freed slaves . . . That the general business and object of the corporation hereby created shall be to receive on deposit such sums of money as may from time to time be offered therefore, by or on behalf of persons hertofore held in slavery in the United States, or their descendants, and investing the same in the stocks, bond, Treasury notes, or other securities of the United States. 9
The set contains twenty-seven rolls of microfilm and is available at the Denver Federal Center. According to Microfilm Publications in the National Archives -- Rocky Mountain Region, this collection consists of:
Signatures and personal identification data for depositors in branches of the Freedman's Savings and Trust Company. The information contained in many of the registers is as follows: account number, name of depositor, date of entry, birthplace, childhood residence present residence, age, complexion, employer or occupation, wife or husband, children, father, mother, brothers and sisters, remarks, and signature. The early books sometimes also contain the name of the former master or mistress and the name of the plantation. In many entries not all the requested data are given. Copies of death certificates have been pinned to some of the entries. In each case the certificate has been filmed immediately after the page that shows the registration of the person's signature. 10
Two records from this microfilm collection provide interesting examples of what these records can yield. The Carmicle record has information about a former master and plantation. Note that this man is 5 feet 2 inches tall and his complexion is recorded as "Yellow." There is no signature for Mr. Carmicle but under the "remarks" entry it states that "I have parted from wife but have three children." His children are listed as Delaney, Preston, and Mariah; possibly important information for someone's genealogical research. Mr. Carmicle is a farmer. This record has basic information while others can be packed with a great deal more information about the applicant's family.
In the record for Perry Brummell Hooper much more information is documented and he signed with an "X" which is listed as his mark. Other records in this collection show that the applicant signed his/her own name. Again, note that complexion information is always recorded. We see that Mr. Hooper is 50 years old and while illegible it can barely be deciphered that his complexion is dark brown. His father's name is Dennard and mother's name is Charlotte. He is married and his wife's name is Melinda. They have one child, Henry who is 27 years old and one child of undetermined gender was born dead. Mr. Hooper served with the 2nd Regiment in Tennessee in Company B so he must have been a member of the U.S. Colored Troops. His place of birth is listed as Eastern Shore, Maryland and he resides on the creek at Clinton St. He is a bricklayer. Further remarks reveal the dates his parents died and again, while hard to decipher it seems Mr. Hooper's siblings are deceased as well. This is an amazing amount of family history in one record.
Others microfilm collections at the National Archives that may interest Black genealogists are under Record Group 105, Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands and include the following:
The collections contain a variety of information in the form registers, letters, orders issued, reports and miscellaneous papers.
Another unmined source of genealogical information can be found in the War of the Rebellion: A Compilation Of The Official Records of the Union And Confederate Armies. Many Blacks fought in the Civil War and perhaps are mentioned in this collection. This 130 volume set is another possible rich source of genealogical information if it is thought that family members may have participated in the Civil War. Printed in four series, this set "contains e.g. formal reports, both Union and Confederate, of the first seizures of United States property in the Southern States, and all military operations in the field. Correspondence, orders, reports, and returns, Union and Confederate relating to prisoners of war are included." (preface) Letters from families to commanding officers inquiring about a family member are also included. Names are indexed. The Government Publications Library at the University of Colorado at Boulder owns this collection as well as the Denver Public Library.
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