The Friends of Freedmen's Cemetery


Alexandria City and County African American Census of 1865 (partial)
Transcribed and edited by Timothy J. Dennee, 2007, all rights reserved.

Freedpeople
Freedpeople at Richmond, 1865. Library of Congress.

Near the end of 1865, all Freedmen's Bureau district offices were ordered to take a census of the African American population in their jurisdictions. Most of these censuses have been lost, although the raw numbers generally remain. Until recently, it was thought that the Alexandria County, Virginia census was also lost. But a fragment-containing surnames starting with the letters Q through Y, plus some "B"s-turned up at the Library of Virginia. In fact, it appears, unidentified, at the end of a reel of microfilm containing a ledger of courts-martial for the Military District of Alexandria, 1864-1865 (Arlington County records, reel #2014). I would like to thank Sarah Nerney and Callie Freed of the Library of Virginia for going back to the original document and locating the entries for the "Q" surnames, which were not originally microfilmed.

While this census does not contain exact ages or addresses, it is something of a Holy Grail for local research of African Americans in the Civil War/Reconstruction era. It provides a snapshot of a greatly expanded and fluid population and, if complete, would comprise the most thorough documentation of African American inhabitants of the period. Even as found, it is one of the most important pre-1870 records of Alexandria's freedpeople, as it contains information about women and children, people often anonymous in tax records and city directories.

As transcribed, the document has been altered in minor ways, but the overall format, name order and spellings have been retained. The "B" names are labeled in the original record as "Miscellaneous Names" and appeared at the very end. The headings have been changed somewhat, e.g., "Occupation" to "Job" for space reasons. "Status" has been more fully explained as "Pre-War or Pre-1863 Status" relating to residence in the county before the war and whether each individual had recently been a slave. "Free" people were presumably legally free before the January 1, 1863 Emancipation Proclamation. N.B.: Until that time most of Alexandria's freedpeople were still legally slaves, i.e., property seized as "contraband of war." Therefore, children born after the war broke out but before emancipation could still technically be slaves, even if they had never seen by their masters, but it is not clear whether all respondents would have characterized them as such. This may partly explain the high proportion of "free," as would the large representation of long-time Alexandria residents; the city of Alexandria had had a substantial free-black population by the early nineteenth century.

Groupings of surnames commonly signify family relationships. Many of the spellings are clearly mistaken and often phonetic. The census was taken by soldiers detailed from the 195th Ohio Infantry regiment, and the returns from each district were copied into the single final count. The misspellings are indicative of the level of literacy of both the enumerators and the enumerated, plus copying errors by a clerk. In fact, even the first letters of some surnames have probably been set down incorrectly (e.g., "Right" clearly should be "Wright," "Umphrey" and "Umphreys" should be Humphrey and Humphreys, and "Semis" might be Lewis). Finding names may require some patience; the researcher may use the "find" function on his or her browser but should be prepared to scroll through the data with all possible spelling variants in mind. To assist, a list of possible variants to some of the surnames contained in each table follows at the end of each table, so that the browser might "pick up" those names.

To go directly to names, go to the letter links at the bottom of this page.

The names are grouped into narrow enumeration districts, each of which is bounded by streets or other landmarks. Most of the districts were located in the town of Alexandria and numbered consecutively from north to south, with the Potomac River on the east and Hooff's Run and the town's formal western boundary as the western limits. This narrows the geographical location of each person enumerated, but less than one might hope, since such divisions are arbitrary and take in and cut across diverse neighborhoods. The key to or description of the enumeration sub-districts boundaries is as follows:

District 1

Center line of Montgomery Street to town's northern boundary

District 2

Center line of Montgomery Street to center line of Wythe Street

District 3

Center line of Wythe Street to center line of Oronoco Street

District 4

Center line of Oronoco Street to center line of Queen Street

District 5

Center line of Queen Street to center line of King Street

District 6

Center line of King Street to center line of Wolfe Street

District 7

Center line of Wolfe Street to center line of Gibbon Street

District 8

South of center line of Gibbon Street to Fairfax County line

"District 9"

All of Alexandria County outside of town limits except Freedmen's Village

This geographic information will be most useful when cross-referenced with property and capitation tax records (and other sources) from 1865-1866 (see elsewhere on the website).

The population of Freedmen's Village in Alexandria (Arlington) County was enumerated at 980 individuals, but their details were not included in the census. The total counts, certified on January 1, 1866 by Superintendent of Refugees and Freedmen Henry E. Alvord, were as follow:

Color

Sex

Age

Pre-1863
Status

 

Occupation

Literacy

District number

Total

Black

Mulatto

Quadroon

Octoroon

Male

Female

14 Years and Under

Under 20 Years,
Over 14

Under 50 Years,
Over 20

Under 70 Years,
Over 50

Over 70 Years

Slaves

Free

Resident Pre-1863

Laborer

Mechanic

Able to Read

Unable to Read

Unable to Support
Themselves

Estimated
Property Value

                                           

1

156

122

29

3

2

70

86

56

27

61

6

 

98

58

58

85

6

26

130

1

2485

2

110

101

9

 

 

57

53

41

9

55

6

2

90

20

32

66

2

27

83

14

1055

3

1273

825

379

55

14

641

632

435

145

449

92

11

1072

201

564

508

20

271

831

36

10604

4

1102

657

406

19

20

535

567

362

152

497

66

25

452

650

646

554

24

270

757

409

11179

5

1388

958

335

74

21

689

699

469

188

625

92

9

902

486

379

373

40

253

1135

44

18160

6

1236

177

966

79

14

562

674

440

229

415

124

28

831

405

781

210

30

261

975

48

2421

7

894

435

361

81

17

475

419

298

152

353

70

21

586

308

363

58

16

229

665

25

11326

8

1234

353

636

194

51

559

675

463

182

486

83

20

756

478

423

385

23

336

892

57

37935

9

370

304

56

7

3

178

192

131

59

145

27

8

263

107

174

215

11

61

309

7

4639

                                           

 

7763

3932

3177

512

142

3766

3997

2732

1180

3123

603

125

5050

2713

3420

2554

172

1734

5777

641

99804

Most of these aggregate numbers appear at the end of the manuscript, but there is a slightly more detailed, yet clearly incomplete, report on the totals included among the correspondence received by the Richmond headquarters of the Freedmen's Bureau, National Archives and Records Administration Record Group 105, Entry 494. This document includes the property-value information above as well as the above and below occupational information:

District

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

Total

Employed by the government

15

9

68

40

98

44

58

83

9

424

Employed by former owner

 

 

14

17

 

4

 

 

10

45

Not employed

79

38

214

319

869

9

96

740

158

2522

Helped by the government

 

 

11

32

 

3

8

1

 

55

In addition to the names lost with the greater part of the manuscript census, a significant number were never reported by the soldiers, as perhaps is the case with all censuses, although an estimate of the totals was recorded. According to the census report,

These persons live in the upper part of Alexandria County nearly all within four miles of the Freedmans Village. The detail engaged in taking the census were relieved before quite completing it, but made an estimate as accurately as possible and reported 250 names not taken. They have been classified by me in proportion [to] the summary of the census and added as above. These Returns embrace all of Alexandria Co, Va, Freedmens Village excepted. (sig) Henry E. Alvord, Superintendent.

Color

Sex

Age

Status

Job

Literacy

Black

Mulatto

Quadroon

Octoroon

Male

Female

14 and Under

Under 20, Over 14

Under 50, Over 20

Under 70, Over 50

Over 70

Slave [before war]

Free [born or manumitted]

Resident Before 1863

Laborer

Mechanic

Able to Read

Unable to Read

190

50

7

3

120

130

90

45

100

10

5

175

75

150

125

10

40

210

The sum of all the Alexandria City and Alexandria County population, including the 980 residents of Freedmen's Village, was 8,743 persons in December 1865. It appears that the freed population had finally peaked and stabilized (although not representing the true "turnover" of migration) at that time, a good thing given what the data indicates about the high unemployment level and the remarkably small number receiving direct government assistance (likely rations and possibly free or subsidized housing). A year later, the population of city and county-presumably exclusive of Freedmen's Village-was put at 7,677, with 3,432 males, 4,245 females, or a total of 7,677 people, with 4,680 individuals over fourteen years of age and 2,997 fourteen and under. The county portion consisted of 2,399 total, with 1,390 individuals over the age of fourteen, and 1,140 total males, 1259 females. (Record Group 105, Entry 3878, Miscellaneous Records, letter from Captain S.P. Lee to Brevet Lieutenant Colonel W.W. Rogers, December 4, 1866 and letter from Lieutenant P.R. Hambrich to S.P. Lee, November 28, 1866).

The 1865 census name lists by initial letter of surname can be accessed by the respective links below. Again, the "B" and "R" name lists are fragmentary, although most of the Rs are present. The "B" list is a collection of "miscellaneous" names from the seventh and eighth districts.

B

Q

R

S

T

U

V

W

Y

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Freedmen's Cemetery Historical Site Marker - E 109 Freedmen's Cemetery - Federal authorities established a cemetery here for newly freed African Americans during the Civil War. In January 1864, the military governor of Alexandria confiscated for use as a burying ground an abandoned pasture from a family with Confederate sympathies. About 1,700 freed people, including infants and black Union soldiers, were interred here before the last recorded burial in January 1869. Most of the deceased had resided in what is known as Old Town and in nearby rurual settlements. Despite mid-twentieth-century construction projects, many burials remain undisturbed. A list of those interred here has also survived.

Friends of Freedmenís Cemetery
638 North Alfred Street
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
E-mail: freedmen@juno.com

Freedmen's Cemetery Logo - This logo was designed by Alexandria Archaeology Assistant City Archaeologist, Dr. Steven Shephard, in 2006. The beautifully executed final drawing was made by Alexandria Archaeology volunteer, Mr. Andrew Flora, who made a few modifications. At the center of the logo is a headboard of the design seen in historic photographs of the Alexandria National Cemetery, established at the north end of Wilkes Street in 1862. These grave markers were supplied by the U.S. Army Quartermaster Department in Alexandria and records state that this department also supplied the headboards and coffins for Freedmens Cemetery. The pine boards were whitewashed and the plot number, and presumably, the name of the deceased, and possibly the date of death, were painted in black on the headboard. The number 1864 in the logo represents the year that the cemetery was established. The black silhouette of the African American woman in the center of the board is meant to represent the people, the Freedmen, who were buried at the cemetery. Civilian men, women and many children were buried here, along with African American soldiers of the United States Colored Troops. The rays radiating from the top of the headboard are meant to represent the light of freedom, as well as the souls of the Freedmen ascending into heaven and their final reward. The F and C are for Freedmen's Cemetery. The surrounding broken chain wreath symbolizes the severed bonds of slavery which resulted from the American Civil War which transformed Alexandria and the nation.

January 29th, 2008