The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (Freedmen’s Bureau) was established by an act of Congress after the end of the Civil War. The purpose of the Freedmen’s Bureau was to assist refugees and formerly enslaved people, as well as address matters regarding land abandoned or seized during the Civil War.
The National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, DC, contains 203 rolls of microfilm of the Virginia Freedmen’s Bureau records from 1865-1872. The entire contents of these microfilm rolls are described in microfilm publication M1913. Microfilm rolls 58 & 59 contain the records of the Bowling Green, Caroline County Field Office. The microfilm can be view on-site at the National Archives or purchased from their website.
Shortly after the end of slavery, the Freedmen’s Bureau in Caroline County, VA, surveyed formerly enslaved people in the County and issued marriage licenses to couples who were cohabitating as husband and wife on February 27, 1866. The Bureau also surveyed children of couples who no longer cohabitated as husband and wife, but the father recognized the child as his. The information from these surveys is documented in:
- Register of Colored Persons of Caroline County, State of Virginia, cohabitating together and husband and wife on 27th February, 1866.
- Register of Children of Colored Persons in Caroline County, State of Virginia, whose Parents had ceased to cohabit on 27th February 1866, which the Father recognizes to be his.
These registers are an excellent source for locating information regarding formerly enslaved people in Spotsylvania County, VA, and Caroline County, VA, including the last enslaver’s name. The original documents are housed at the Central Rappahannock Heritage Center in Fredericksburg, VA. They were transcribed by Gary Stanton and are available on the University of Mary Washington website.
After the end of slavery, planters had abundant land but no longer could use free labor for farming the land. Formerly enslaved people needed to make a living. The sharecropping system was designed to meet the needs of both the planters and freedmen. Another duty the Freedmen’s Bureau performed was supervising labor contracts between planters and freedmen. These documents are another excellent source for locating information regarding formerly enslaved people in Caroline County, Virginia.
I created a document that summarizes the information in the labor contracts. The original records are in the Virginia, Freedmen’s Bureau Letters, 1865-1872 collection, and can be viewed in FamilySearch.org.