Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Map of Freedmen's Hospitals Can Provide Useful Genealogical Data.

Several days ago, the new website Mapping the Freedman's Bureau was launched. The purpose is to encourage researchers to research their ancestors during those critical first years after the Civil War. As a result, the site was created to encourage more researchers to use these records as they are becoming digitized by both Family Search, and also the Internet Archive. Some sample documents can be found on the new website and it is hoped that all of the records will be considered essential records as more begin to look at their community history with the aid of these digitized records. Among these records to explore, are hospital records.

In those critical years after some had set themselves free from bondage, and took refuge in contraband camps, one of the many challenges facing the post civil war population was one of health. In many cases disease took lives of the refugees seeking aid. As a result a good number of hospitals arose as the demands for health care suddenly increased.

From every state where there was a new population seeking aid, and in temporary housing, measles, yellow fever, typhoid, and other epidemics arose. In addition, injuries, childhood infirmities and catarrh were also common, all of  which had to be addressed. What resulted were records of patients, being treated in those hospitals and also of those employed in those "Freedmen" hospitals.

Roster of Patients in Mobile Alabama Freedmen's Hospital
Source: Internet Archive, Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, M1900 Roll 23

The new mapping site should be used for those who are seeking knowledge about the ancestral community. The site, allows the researcher to zoom in, and to focus on the local community from various perspectives. If there was a  Field office, then there may have been a school, a hospital, and possibly a contraband camp nearby. Everyone is urged to use the tools provided on the maps to learn more about the ancestral community

The Freedmen's hospitals are unique because they also provide data about the nature of public health in the early post Civil War days. One can study the kinds of diseases that affected a population that had possibly been transplanted into a new community after the war.

Another advantage is that in many cases genealogists who use the 1900 census note that a female listed the number of live births, but sometimes only a portion of the family can be found. Where were the other children not in the 1900 census? Were they separated by slavery and its system of separating mothers from babies? Or could the child have been ill and died during those years of transition to freedom?

All answers will not be found, but hopefully the mapping site will become a useful tool for one to have reason to explore the records of the Freedmen's Bureau with enthusiasm and vigor.

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