Learning Curve: Freedmen’s Bureau Records

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A few weeks ago, while cleaning, I decided to listen to a podcast (this makes chores so much more enjoyable and I learn something in the process).  I saw Bernice Bennett’s new episode of Research at the National Archives and Beyond with Sharon Batiste Gillins about Freedmen’s Bureau Records or rather Records from the Bureau for Freedmen, Refugees and Abandoned Lands .

My first thought was “nah”, since I had looked for this record type on ancestry.com and familysearch.org before and found nothing for my state of research: Kentucky. Then I decided I would give it a chance anyway.

For the next hour I heard Mrs Gillins’ and Bernice’s enthusiasm over these records and the detailed information they have found therein. This peaked my interest, especially after it was mentioned that Kentucky records exist and might be available on the Internet Archive (archive.org).  Both the host and guest pointed out that the records are not indexed and that the National Archives guide to the record group should be studied to get a grasp of where to look specifically.

So off to the NARA site I went. Downloaded guides: one for Kentucky record set (M1904) and one for Black Family Research. Skimmed them. A lot of info! 133 reels for Kentucky alone! I then searched for “Freedmen’s Bureau Kentucky” on Internet Archive. Bingo! Three pages of hits!

I was a bit overwhelmed and didn’t know what I was looking at, so I downloaded the first set. I scrolled through and got a feel for the records by reading the description at the beginning of the reel. I wasn’t sure if my locations had offices, but then I saw what I was looking for: Nicholasville, reel 125 & 126.

So I went back to the Internet Archive to look for these two specific reels. The downloadable documents are not in order, so I had to skim through all of the hits to find the reels I was looking for. I found both and downloaded the over 1700 pages of microfilm as PDFs! Now the next step is to go through page by page and hope I find something about my ancestors. Even if I don’t I am sure I will at least find some interesting social history to share!

UPDATE! I actually wrote this before the New Year and have since then started transcribing a letter from November 1866 about incidents at Camp Neslon. More to come!

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