The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (BRFAL) was established near the end of the Civil War to review cases and distribute government aid for the immediate physical needs of refugees and recently freed slaves. The BRFAL also provided assistance toward the establishing of a new way of life for the refugees and freed slaves in the form of labor placement assistance, resolution of complaints of injustice, reunification of family members, and distribution of property for the establishment of hospitals, schools, homes and farms. In compiling this index the author has answered a long-recognized need in the field of genealogical research. During the few years of its existence from 1865 to 1872 the BRFAL received an enormous number of letters related to claims. Although the National Archives possesses all of the BRFAL correspondence registers and the surviving letters on microfilm, the thousands of names of African Americans who either wrote the letters or are identified in them had never been indexed until now. This index is really three indexes in one. First there is a list of African American identified in letters that contained fewer than 24 names. These records identify the person’s full name, date the correspondence was received, location from which the letter originated as well as any other places mentioned in the text, a brief description of the contents of the letter and clear, detailed information, crucial to the researcher, for finding the name in the original BRFAL records. An appendix added to the book includes, whenever they appear in the letters, the names and locations of the former owners of the freedmen and women. Second, there is an index of people who appeared in lists of 24 or more names such as reports, petitions, meetings, or affidavits, which are included in many of the letters. As in the first index, all the information needed to find the names in the original records is easily accessible. The third index lists nearly 1,200 names of African Americans sent out from the District of Columbia to work under contracts approved by the BRFAL. This index includes the age of the person, the wage paid and the city and state to which the person was sent. A devoted genealogical researcher herself, Ms. Lawson has provided a valuable resource for anyone with an interest in the BRFAL era. She even explains how one can obtain copies of original material from the National Archives. Another appendix provides the addresses of the National Archives branch offices.
Jacqueline A. Lawson
(1995), 2007, 5½x8½, paper, 102 pp.