Registers of Signatures of Depositors in Branches of the Freedman's Savings and Trust Company, 1865-1874
Among the most underused bodies of federal records useful for African American genealogical research are the records of the Freedman's Savings and Trust Company. Chartered by Congress in early 1865 for the benefit of ex-slaves, the surviving records relating to the bank and its collapse are a rich source of documentation about the African American family.
In an effort to protect the interests of depositors and their heirs in the event of a depositor's death, the branches of what is generally referred to as the Freedman's Bank collected a substantial amount of detailed information about each depositor and his or her family. The data found in the files provide researchers with a rare opportunity to document the black family for the period immediately following the Civil War.
The surviving records of twenty-nine branches of the Freedman's Bank are reproduced on National Archives Microfilm Publication M816, Registers of Signatures of Depositors in Branches of the Freedman's Savings and Trust Company, 1865-1874. This publication reproduces fifty-five volumes of signatures of and personal identification data about thousands of depositors who maintained accounts with the bank.
While the amount of information collected by each branch varied, the records generally show the name of the depositor; account number; age; complexion; date of application; place of birth; place raised; occupation; spouse; children; names of parents, brothers, and sisters; remarks; and signature. Some of the earlier volumes contain the names of former owners or mistresses and the plantations where depositors resided. Some entries include copies of death certificates. The signatures of depositors are arranged alphabetically by name of the state, thereunder by name of the city in which the branch was located, thereunder by date when the account was established, and thereunder by account number.
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