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Archive for December 2013

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Finds in FamilySearch Freedmen's Bureau Records ~ Reel 21, Georgetown Medical Officer Rations Requests

A Rich Find for Georgetown Research

As you might imagine, we've spent the last two days poring over the films in the new collection South Carolina Freedmen's Bureau Records, 1865-1872 on FamilySearch. This new collection is the digitized version of Records of the Field Offices for the State of South Carolina, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, 1865–1872 (NARA Micropublication M1910).

We've made some pretty rich finds by browsing through the volumes, and the latest find is on Reel 21: a volume of rations requests filed by the Georgetown Medical Officer from November 1865 to March 1866. The 498-frame volume preserves individual rations requests for elderly, infirm and orphaned freed people in Georgetown, SC.

If your research is focused on Georgetown, be sure to read through this 498-frame volume on Reel 21!

Example ~ Rations Request for Children of Sam Mitchell

Below is an example of a rations request that is rich in genealogical information. Here, Acting Assistant Surgeon Henry F. Heriot requests rations for Roselle Mitchell (age 9), Gabriel Mitchell (age 4) and Phyllis Mitchell (infant), children of Sam Mitchell who died while serving in the USCT:1

Rations Request for Children of Sam Mitchell

Above: Rations Request for Children of Sam Mitchell, Georgetown, SC, ca. 1866. Source: South Carolina Freedmen's Bureau Records, 1865-1872, Database Online at FamilySearch.org, https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1942-36669-12463-95?cc=2127881&wc=M9HH-DLT:n1176355678, Accessed 29 Dec 2013.

Service Record ~ Samuel Mitchell

Samuel Mitchell was 23 years old when he enlisted in the United States Colored Troops April 24, 1865 in Beaufort, SC. He was assigned to Company G, 104th USCT. June 13, 1865 he was promoted to Corporal. By June 25 he was sick in the Beaufort, SC camp hospital. In early August he was transferred to the David's Island Hospital in New York, where he remained a patient until October 3, when he was discharged for disability.2

References Cited

[1] South Carolina Freedmen's Bureau Records, 1865-1872, Database Online at FamilySearch.org, https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1942-36669-12463-95?cc=2127881&wc=M9HH-DLT:n1176355678, Accessed 29 Dec 2013.

[2] Compiled Military Service Records of Volunteer Union Soldiers Who Served the United States Colored Troops: 56th-138th USCT Infantry, 1864-1866, Database Online at Fold3.com. Record for Samuel Mitchell, Co. G, 104th USCT. http://www.fold3.com/image/273/302687358/, Accessed 29 Dec 2013.

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Going In Depth ~ A Look at Some of the Richest Record Types in SC Freedmen's Bureau Records

Rations Lists (AKA Register of Destitutes): Lists of Elders By Plantation, Before 1870

Rations lists (sometimes labeled "Register of Destitutes," "Register of Those to Whom Rations Were Issued," etc.) are among the richest records in FamilySearch's newly-digitized collection South Carolina Freedmen's Bureau Records, 1865-1872.

When General Rufus Saxton assumed responsibility for the operation of the Freedmen's Bureau in South Carolina, one of his immediate concerns was providing food, clothing and medical relief to thousands of freedmen and white refugees left destitute by the war. On many plantations, elderly and infirm freedmen and orphaned children were in immediate need of food relief. By mid-summer of 1865, Saxton had distributed more than 300,000 military rations in South Carolina to alleviate widespread hunger. Agents recorded the names and ages of those to whom rations were distributed. 1 As artifacts of the bureau's operations in South Carolina, rations lists are especially valuable as they preserve the names of ancestors who were age 50 and older on many plantations.

Rations Lists and the Information They Contain

The example below is from a rations list recorded in Moncks Corner, Berkeley District, SC. In this list, name, gender, age, race, plantation, city or district, infirmities and remarks were recorded for each person who received rations. 2

Rations List Moncks Corner 1866 NARA1910REEL89cropped

Above: Sample Page from Register of Destitutes for Moncks Corner, SC in 1867. Source: Records of the Field Offices for the State of South Carolina, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1872 (NARA Record Group 105) M869, Reel 89

Rations lists are especially important resources for African American genealogy research for a number of reasons.

Rations Lists Provide Clues to Your Family's Location Before 1870

The information recorded in rations lists varied by Field Office location, but most included the place of residence for those who received rations. Some lists include the Field Office location only, while others list the plantation of residence for rations recipients. If you do not have pre-1870 records for your ancestor or have not located them in the 1870 US Census, rations lists can provide important leads for focusing your research on a specific location.

Rations Lists Sometimes Contain the Names of Ancestors Not Listed in the 1870 Census

Because of their advanced age in 1867, some of the elders in the example above may not have lived until 1870 and thus would not have been listed in the 1870 US Census. Indeed, this record may be the only surviving record that lists some of these ancestors by first and last name.

Rations Lists Can Help You Add Another Generation to Your Family Tree

If you find an elder in a rations list with the same surname and on the same plantation as one of your known ancestors, it is certainly worth investigating to determine if that elder belongs in your family tree. A good place to start investigating is in wills and estate inventories for the slaveholding family that owned the plantation, as family relationships were sometimes noted in probate documents.

Rations Lists Can Provide Clues to the Final Slaveholder and Plantation

If you find a known ancestor listed in a rations list where the plantation is noted, this may be a clue to help you discover that ancestor's final slaveholder. To investigate the possibility, you will need to learn the name of the owner of the plantation, then examine 1850 and 1860 US Census Slave Schedules to determine if the plantation owner is listed as a slaveholder. If the plantation owner is listed in the 1850 or 1860 US Census Slave Schedules, examine the schedule to see if an enslaved person of the appropriate age and gender for your ancestor is listed.

If there is an enslaved person of the appropriate age and gender listed, that family should definitely be on your research radar as a possible final slaveholder for your ancestor. You can dig deeper by examining wills, estate inventories and bills of sale for the slaveholding family to see if your ancestor's first name is listed in any of those documents.

More Records Await!

Rations lists are just one example of the rich records that await in FamilySearch's newly-digitized collection South Carolina Freedmen's Bureau Records, 1865-1872. The rations list in this example lists the names and locations of hundreds of elders who were age 50 and above in 1867, on 112 plantations in the Moncks Corner, SC sub-district. Thanks to FamilySearch we now have free Internet access to rations lists from every sub-district in SC!

For advice on locating rations lists in the newly-digitized records, please see Accessing and Navigating the New FamilySearch Collection South Carolina, Freedmen's Bureau Records, 1865-1872.

References Cited

[1] United States Congress and National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC. 2005 Descriptive Pamphlet for Records of the Field Offices for the State of South Carolina, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1872, NARA Record Group 105, Micropublication M1910.

[2] Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. 1867 "Register of Destitutes, Moncks Corner, South Carolina."Records of the Field Offices for the State of South Carolina, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1872, NARA Record Group 105, Micropublication M869, Reel 89.

Related Reading

You can view the entire Moncks Corner rations list by following the link below:

Freedmen's Bureau Register of Destitutes (Rations Lists) by Plantation, Moncks Corner Sub-district, SC, 1867

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Accessing and Navigating the New FamilySearch Collection "South Carolina, Freedmen's Bureau Records, 1865-1872"

FamilySearch Has Digitized Freedmen's Bureau Records for South Carolina

Social networks are abuzz today with the happy news that FamilySearch has digitized all 106 rolls of the microfilm series Records of the Field Offices for the State of South Carolina, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, 1865–1872 (NARA Micropublication M1910). This new collection of 118,737 images, which spans the years 1865-1872, is one of the most significant for tracing formerly enslaved ancestors in South Carolina, and its digitization is perhaps the most significant event for South Carolina researchers this year.

Accessing and Navigating the Records

Below are steps for identifying the records within the new collection that are of interest for your research.

Step 1 ~ Determine Which Office or Subordinate Field Office Was Nearest to the Location(s) You Are Researching

Bvt. Maj. Gen. Rufus Saxton, who directed the “Port Royal Experiment,” was appointed Assistant Commissioner for South Carolina in 1865. By 1867, several sub-districts had been created with Sub-Assistant Commissioners responsible for operations in their assigned locations. Sub-districts contained one or more Field Offices. The records within M1910 are arranged by Field Office, so it's important to know which Field Offices were closest to your area of interest. Field Office locations in South Carolina were:
 
  • Abbeville courthouse (agent)
  • Aiken (subassistant commissioner–bureau district of Anderson)
  • Aiken (subassistant commissioner–Edgefield district)
  • Anderson courthouse (acting subassistant commissioner–Anderson district)
  • Barnwell (subassistant commissioner–Barnwell district)
  • Beaufort (contraband department)
  • Beaufort (hospital)
  • Beaufort (subassistant commissioner)
  • Berkley district
  • Camden (subassistant commissioner)
  • Charleston (health department superintendent)
  • Charleston (hospitals)
  • Charleston (subassistant commissioner–6th subdistrict)
  • Cheraw (agent)
  • Chester (subassistant commissioner)
  • Columbia (acting assistant commissioner–District of Columbia)
  • Columbia (hospital)
  • Combahee Ferry (agent)
  • Darlington (acting assistant commissioner)
  • Darlington (acting assistant surgeon)
  • Darlington (subassistant commissioner)
  • Fairfield district
  • General collecting agent (Columbia, SC)
  • Georgetown (hospital)
  • Georgetown (subassistant commissioner)
  • Grahamville (agent)
  • Greenville (subassistant commissioner)
  • Hilton Head
  • Horry district (erroneously catalogued as Honey district)
  • Hopkins Turnout (acting assistant surgeon)
  • Johns Island (acting assistant surgeon)
  • Kingstree (subassistant commissioner)
  • Lancaster
  • Laurensville (subassistant commissioner)
  • Legareville (acting assistant surgeon)
  • Lexington
  • Manning (agent)
  • Marion (subassistant commissioner)
  • McClellanville
  • Moncks Corner (subassistant commissioner)
  • Mount Pleasant (acting subassistant commissioner)
  • Newberry (agent)
  • Orangeburg (acting subassistant commissioner)
  • Orangeburg (hospital)
  • Rice Hope Plantation
  • Richland district
  • Ridgeville
  • Rockville
  • Spartanburg
  • St Paul's Parish
  • Summerville (hospital)
  • Summerville (subassistant commissioner)
  • Sumpter (acting subassistant commissioner)
  • Union district
  • Unionville (subassistant commissioner)
  • Walhalla
  • Williamsburg
  • York district
 

Step 2 ~ Use the Reel Guide (Descriptive Pamphlet) to Select Records You Wish to View

Once you have identified the Field Offices of interest to your research, you are ready to view the reel guide (descriptive pamphlet) to select the microfilm reels you wish to view.

The reel guide (descriptive pamphlet) for NARA M1910 provides an in-depth look at what each of the 106 microfilms contains.

The descriptive pamphlet is the first microfilm in the collection on FamilySearch. If you would like to keep the descriptive pamphlet open in another window, download it for offline use or search the guide, you can access it in pdf format here in our research library.

Below is an example of a page within the reel guide (please click on the image to view larger). At the top of the page is the information for reels 62 and 63, Berkeley District. The guide describes the contents of each reel and how the records are arranged, then follows detailed information about specific record types.

Reel Guide Screen Shot

The order the records are listed in is the order in which they appear on the microfilm.

Hint: Reading the reel guide thoroughly can enhance your research in a number of ways. The guide presents a detailed history of the operations and organization of the Freedmen's Bureau in various regions of South Carolina. Knowing the history of operations in your research area can help you pinpoint records of interest you might otherwise overlook.

A close reading of the reel guide can also alert you to records you may want to view that may not be apparent from perusing the record titles alone. By reading the reel guide closely, we stumbled upon a treasure - Reel 9 of the collection contains a 90-page ledger of Freedmen and planters who received rations in every sub-district in South Carolina. As the volume is within records titled "Medical Officer," we would not have discovered this volume by perusing record titles.

Step 3 ~ Accessing the Digitized Collection

After you have identified the reels of interest to you, you are ready to access the records and dive into your research! You can access the collection here on FamilySearch (link opens in a new window so you can keep this page open as well).

The collection is not yet indexed, but you can read each reel frame-by-frame anytime, right from home. We hope this quick guide will help you identify records of interest and navigate the new collection! Next, we will look specifically at different record types within this collection, and the information they contain. Happy ancestor hunting from the crew at Lowcountry Africana!

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FamilySearch Digitizes Freedmen's Bureau Records for SC

3 Generations of Doctor Family in Letter to Freedmen's Bureau M1910 Reel 89 Taget 1

FamilySearch this week digitized all 106 rolls of the microfilm series Records of the Field Offices for the State of South Carolina, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, 1865–1872 (NARA Micropublication M1910). This new collection of 118,737 images is one of the most significant for tracing formerly enslaved ancestors in South Carolina. The 106 rolls of microfilm span the date range of 1865 to 1872.

Freedmen's Bureau records are an invaluable resource for learning where your ancestors were prior to 1870 and can often provide clues for discovering an ancestor's final slaveholder. Among these records are labor contracts, rations lists, land warrants, military bounty claims, letters received and sent, applications for restoration of property to former slaveholders, transportation requests, hospital records and more.

When used in conjunction with the 1869 South Carolina state census, 1868 voter registrations and 1869 militia enrollments, these records can help you learn a lot about where ancestors were, and what they were doing, prior to 1870.

You can access this free collection here. We will be developing a series of blog posts about this new collection. Topics will include navigating the records, types of records and the information each contains, and how to use these records to corroborate family oral history and break through the 1870 brick wall.

The records are also a valuable source of primary documents for educators to use in the classroom.

We're very excited about this collection being digitized. It is not yet indexed but you can access all 106 rolls of microfilm from home. We look forward to exploring these records with you! If you find a treasure, please share it here in the comments. We would love to hear how your research in these records is going.

You can view the reel guide for this collection here in our research library. The guides provide an in-depth look at what each microfilm contains, to help you select which films you would like to view.

Happy Ancestor Hunting from the Crew at Lowcountry Africana!

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