Guide to African American History

Federal Records on Microfilm

Department of the Army: Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands

The Missouri State Archives maintain a small collection of microfilm regarding the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, commonly referred to as the Freedmen's Bureau.

The Records of the Education Division of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands contain monthly and other school reports for Missouri from 1867 through 1870. The records primarily consist of incoming and outgoing correspondence of Reverend John W. Alvord, Inspector of Finances and Schools. Included as well are narrative reports from Alvord to the Commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau. A scope and contents note offers information about the Bureau and the records contained in this series.

The Registers & Letters Received by the Commissioner of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands contains letters received between 1865 and 1866. Included are registers, into which the following information was entered: name/office of correspondent, date of letter, place from which sent, date of receipt, and abstract of contents. Indexes to the register, both general name and general subject, are available, as well as many of the letters. Occasionally, enclosures such as reports, newspaper clippings, and publications are included.

Department of the Army: War Department Collection of Confederate Records, Union Provost Marshal's File

This series of records on microfilm contains records for individual civilians, arranged alphabetically on 400+ reels. The Provost Marshal's office was established in the War Department in March 1863. Its functions included arresting deserters, enlisting volunteers, enrolling men for the draft, and compiling statistics regarding recruits and casualties. The office was abolished in August 1866.

Department of Commerce: Bureau of the Census, Federal Census Schedules

Federal census schedules for Missouri are available for census years 1830 through 1920, enumerating persons in the state and their property. The records can be problematic, with misspellings and inaccurate information, but can also be a source of specific information about a person, a family, or a neighborhood. Each census schedule has a slightly different format. Listed below is the information each schedule contains on African Americans in Missouri.

1830 - 1840

The schedules for these years list number of slaves owned within the owner's enumeration. No other details regarding slaves exist, such as name, age, nativity, etc. Free blacks are listed in the regular enumeration.

1850 - 1860

Slaves were enumerated separately in "Slave Schedules" during the 1850 and 1860 censuses. Age, sex, and color are indicated in most schedules; some include individual names. In addition, the name of the owner is recorded. When used in conjunction with probate inventories or bills of sale, the slave schedules can help to answer problematic questions about slave ancestry. Identifying a specific individual or distinguishing between owners with the same name, or locating places of birth for slaves over the age of one hundred are all issues that can be resolved with slave schedules. Free blacks living in the state are listed as part of the regular enumeration, including information about age, nativity, occupation, etc.

1870 - 1920

For census years after the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, African Americans are listed as part of regular enumeration. Schedules can be used to identify neighborhoods, towns, or regions that were predominantly black.