The 203 reels of Record Group 105 of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen & Abandoned Lands are now available at Family Search, I will be posting various items that can be found in this records set. Although these are Virginia records there are references to information about people in other states, or people in other states looking for folks in VA.
The following were the instructions to the Superintendents in their Districts. There are other circulars detailing their responsibilties.
Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands
Headquarters Asst Commissioner State of VA
Richmond, VA 15th June 1865
_______________sent to Superintendents
Having been ordered to report to this Bureau for duty, you are hereby appointed Superintendent of Freedmen for _______________ District. In assuming this charge, you will at once divide your district into a suitable number of Sub districts and appoint an Officer as a Assistant Superintendent over each.
You will as soon as possible take a census of all colored people within your District in accordance with the accompanying form marked A.
You duties will be to protect the negroes in their rights as free men – to see that in their present state of helplessness they are not oppressed or injured by their former masters by false charges, unjust punishment or otherwise.
You will give them, by your advice in making contracts for their devices, if such contracts are liable to be injurious to their interests. In other cases, leave them free to make
their own bargains.
You will also let them understand that when their contracts for services are made with the whites, they are under obligation to and must fulfill the same. You will annull all contracts that may have been made with the freedmen, that were injurious and unconscionable.
Cultivate as far as possible, among them, a friendly spirit towards the citizen, and their former masters and explain to them the relations that exist between ?????? and their labor and how each is dependent on the other.
You will not issue rations to any person, for whom employment can be found. Require each Assistant Superintendent to keep a Register of all colored persons able to work, and without employment, in his subdistrict, and to aid such persons in finding places to work.
When employment is found; let the accompanying form of contract, marked B, be made out in triplicate, one copy to be furnished each of the parties, and one copy filed in the Office of the Asst Superintendent.
Look after the vagrants and, if after being admonished, they do not provide themselves with honest labor, turn them over to work under some military guard, without payment until they are ready to work
The peculiar laws that have governed these people being no longer in operation you will consider them under the same common laws, that govern free laborers throughout the North.
Your attention is particularly called to the improvidence of the Freedmen. You will instruct them that, their rights in what they may possess, will now be protected, and that neither law nor proclamations can make them really free, until by frugality and economy, they place themselves in a position where their dependence on Government or charity for support shall cease.
The unsettled condition of these people will be likely to give you trouble. Beyond the changes necessary for uniting families, you will discourage their wandering propensities, except so far as changes may be necessary for labor to find the best market.
All orphan children and helpless and infirm persons, that have no one to care for them, will be removed at once to a comfortable home, now being provided for them. Further instructions, will be forwarded to you soon.
I have the honor to be,
Your obt servant