Mississippi Department of Archives and History - Archives and Records Services Division Catalog

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Mississippi Dept. of Archives & History

     After the Civil War, former slaves were given the opportunity to enter into work contracts with planters to ensure equitable payment for their labor. The Freedmen's Bureau (officially the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands) was established by Congress to supervise all affairs relating to refugees and freedmen, including the writing of labor contracts of planters/farmers with freedmen. The Mississippi labor contracts that are indexed cover the period 1865-67 and are taken from the National Archives microfilm M826 rolls (43-50). One additional roll for Tennessee, M999 (roll 25), includes a small number of Mississippi contracts; only the Mississippi contracts were indexed.

     In 1860 Mississippi had 436,631 slaves; these contracts contain the names of some 36,000+ of those former slaves.

     There are no contracts for six (6) counties: Amite, Claiborne, Greene, Jefferson, Lafayette, and Perry. For searches of a county created after the Civil War (Alcorn, Benton, Forrest, George, Humphreys, Jefferson Davis, Lamar, Leflore, Montgomery, Pearl River, Prentiss, Quitman, Sharkey, Stone, Tate, Union, and Webster), the parent county must be queried.

     The contracts must include the former slaves' names (many times only given a name), where they were working (usually a county but sometimes also a plantation), age (not always given), family relationships (given infrequently), their employers (planter), terms of their pay (whether in money or crops or both), and in some instances, comments on their health. The terms of the pay are not included in the database.

     Searches can be made four ways. The search may also be qualified by specifying a county.

  1. Freedman - This is the individual who is agreeing to work for a set wage. Where a full name was recorded, it is entered, last name first. When given named included adjectives such as "Big," "Yellow," or "Old," the adjectives are entered as part of the given name: "Big Sara," "Old George," etc. Illegible names are noted as such. Variants in spelled are retained as found.
  2. Planter - The employer (or his agent) of the freedman, last name entered first
  3. Plantation - If a plantation had a name other than that of the planter family, this field was used. (Example: Chesterfield; example: Hawkins Place, the planter's name was not Hawkins). When the name of the plantation and the planter surname were the same, the plantation field was not used. If the freedman worked for the railroad or a company, that information would appear here also.
  4. County - The location of the plantation or the home county of the planter.
Search Results

  1. Age - The age of the freedman if given on the contract. If no age was recorded, a zero is entered. A child's age is given in months or months and years is converted to the next highest year. For example 3 months = 1 year.
  2. Remarks - The contract may have recorded remarks and/or symbols to indicate freedmen relationships. These remarks are entered using "see" references. Example: The names John and Mary are bracketed on the contract, indicating a couple. On the index, when John is in the freedman field, the remarks read, "See Mary."
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