13 February 2017

Cohabitation Records – Invaluable to Documenting Marriages of Those Formerly Enslaved #BlackHistoryMonth

Cohabitation Records – Invaluable to Documenting Marriages of Those Formerly Enslaved

As we celebrate Black History Month, we are reminded what rich records cohabitation records can be via a brand new YouTube video from the State Library of North Carolina, Using North Carolina Cohabitation Records to research your African American ancestors.

As a refresher, cohabitation records reflect those “unions’ that occurred before the end of the civil war and were typically recorded 1866-1868.

The mentioned video shares a bit about researching these records in NC. Learn more via First Wednesdays – Cohabitation Certificates (North Carolina Civil War 150 blog). Some of the NC cohabitation bonds can also be found in the State Archives of North Carolina catalog, MARS.  For example, if you search on call number CR.010.606, this brings up the cohabitation records indexed for Bertie County, or on C.003.928 for those for Alexander County, or C.018.63001 for Camden County and so on.  Not all counties for which cohabitation bonds survive are found in the catalog and it’s always worth a check.

Do know that for other southern states, cohabitation records were created, though, not always by the state.  The Freedmen’s Bureau also registered slave unions in the immediate post-Civil War era. There is a great article in Prologue (from NARA) that talks about Freedmen’s Bureau Marriage Records and the situation in each of the southern states.  A must read!

Additionally, Virginia, via its “Register of Colored Persons, xxx County, State of Virginia, Cohabitating Together as Husband and Wife,” as records created by the Freedmen’s Bureau and are accessible through this link.

If you are seeking evidence of a slave-era union/marriage, do check out these records.  Though, recognize that “both parties” had to be alive for such a union/marriage to be found via post-Civil War marriage records!  If one party was already deceased, no record.  And, some couples opted not to register their union/marriage.

Were you successful in finding your ancestor’s cohabitation records?

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