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Freedman's Bank Records, 1865-1874
On-Site Access Only
Freedman's Bank Records are a great source for genealogists researching their African American heritage. This database is an index to registers of signatures of depositors and includes images of original records. These documents contain invaluable information about individuals prior to the 1870 U.S. Federal Census.
Schomburg Center for Research in Black CultureStephen A. Schwarzman BuildingStavros Niarchos Foundation Library (SNFL)
Genealogy, Area and Cultural Studies, African American Studies
The Freedman's Savings and Trust Company was incorporated in 1865 by an act signed by President Abraham Lincoln. The purpose of the company was to create an institution where former slaves and their dependents could place and save their money. The original bank was first headquartered in New York and later moved to Washington, D.C. Shortly thereafter branch offices opened in other cities, primarily in ones in the south where there was a larger population of African Americans. Eventually there were 37 branch offices in 17 states with approximately 70,000 depositors (over the banks lifetime) and deposits of more than $57 million. In 1874, as a result of mismanagement, fraud, and other events and situations, Freedman's Bank closed. Twenty-nine of the thirty-seven branches of the bank had records that have survived and been digitized. The registers of signatures of depositors collection contains forms required by the bank for each individual making a deposit to fill out. These forms asked questions regarding personal information and identification as well as required a signature. The exact questions asked on each form varied between years and branches. The information contained in many of the registers is as follows: account number, name of depositor, date of entry, place born, place brought up, residence, age, complexion, name of employer or occupation, wife or husband, children, father, mother, brothers and sisters, remarks, and signature. The early books sometimes also contain the name of the former master or mistress and the name of the plantation. In many entries not all the requested data are given.