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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

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South Carolina's Freedmen's Bureau Contract Provides Post Civil War Snapshot of Ancestors

FamilySearch recently made South Carolina, Freedmen's Bureau Records, 1865-1872, accessible online.  Because I have researched each of my ancestral lines back prior to 1870, it was not too difficult for me to know where to start researching.  I will share the records of my family as I find them in this collection, and hopefully it will help others researching in the same area.

First, I clicked on the link under "View Images in this Collection."  The images in this collection are not indexed at this time.  My 3rd great grandparents, Henry and Sciller (Druscilla) Sims, were listed on the 1870 Census living next door to James A. Tucker in Union County, South Carolina. 

Because I had documented them living in Union, I knew it was very likely I would find documentation among the records for Union District.
FamilySearch Historical Record Collection: South Carolina, Freedmen's Bureau Records, 1865-1872 
Freedmen's Bureau Office or Subordinate Field Office Location
After selecting Union District, I chose to browse through the images on Roll 106, Labor contracts, series II, S-Y, 1866 since the surname of the last owner would be among records S-Y (Tucker).  There are 62 images in this set, and the labor contract between James A. Tucker and his former servants covers images 21-22.

"South Carolina, Freedmen's Bureau Records, 1865-1872," images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 01 Jan 2014), Union district > Roll 106, Labor contracts, series II, S-Y, 1866 > image 21 of 62.
When you find a record on FamilySearch, you can click on Sources and save the record in your source box, or you can attach it to your ancestor on Family Tree.

My 3rd great grandparent's names were listed on the 1866-1867 contract among the freedmen laborers on the plantation of James A. Tucker.  I expected to find Henry Sims. I am still trying to determine if Sims was the surname of a previous owner.  Tuckers and Sims were among several different families who moved from Virginia to Union before 1810.

It was interesting to see that Sciller (Druscilla) used Tucker for a surname.  One of her children later changed from using Sims to using Tucker later in life.  I plan to trace each of the Tucker freedmen to see if any of them may be related to Henry or Sciller.
"South Carolina, Freedmen's Bureau Records, 1865-1872," images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 01 Jan 2014), Union district > Roll 106, Labor contracts, series II, S-Y, 1866 > image 22 of 62.

This is the first evidence that I have found that Henry and Sciller lived on the Tucker plantation aside from the fact that their daughter Martha (my 2nd great grandmother) and the grandson of James A. Tucker, (George Epps Tucker) had a son after 1880.

The story as told to me by my grandmother, was that Martha was freed when she was a small child.  She grew up in the household of the former slave owner where her mother was a cook.  This put her in close proximity to George who was adopted by his grandfather, James, after the death of his parents.

I added this record to my source box as I mentioned earlier.  I can attach this record as a source for either Henry Sims, Sciller, or James A. Tucker:

  Choose "Attach from Source Box" on person view to attach records that you saved in the Source Box to your ancestor's record.

The contract gives details about
  • daily tasks required
  • consequences for absence from work or damaging equipment
  • how crops would be divided
  • furnishings provided by employer 
Part of the first article of the contract reads:
"They are not to keep fire arms or deadly weapons or ardent spirits, no invite visitors nor leave the premises during working hours without written consent of the proprietor or his agent."
It seems they still had restrictions during this period just after the Civil War.  That makes me question just how free they were really.  They could not have weapons to protect themselves, and they had to have permission to come and go or have visitors.  I am wondering just how they felt about these restrictions and if it really felt like they had more freedom compared to what it was like being enslaved.

I realize how fortunate I am to have this documentation given the scarcity of records for African Americans during this time period.  I am just elated to have found this.  To learn more about this collection see South Carolina, Freedmen Bureau Field Office Records (FamilySearch Historical Records) and South CarolinaFreedmen's Bureau Records, 1865-1872.  I will keep you up to date on my next discoveries.  Please subscribe above so that you do not miss out. 


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