United States Freedmen’s Bureau Marriages (FamilySearch Historical Records)
|This article describes a collection of historical records available at FamilySearch.org.|
Access the records: United States, Freedmen's Bureau Commissioner Marriage Records,1861-1869 .
The records consist of bound volumes and unbound bundles of loose papers. They are indexed and are also brows-able by state.
The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, generally known as the Freedmen's Bureau, was established March 3, 1865, in the War Department. The Bureau was responsible for the supervision and management of all matters relating to the refugees, freedmen, lands and property abandoned or seized in the former Confederate States, border states, District of Columbia, and Indian Territory. The aim of the Bureau was to help freedmen become self-sufficient. Bureau officials accomplished this by issuing rations, overseeing labor contracts, establishing schools and hospitals, and representing former slaves in legal and other disputes. They also helped freedmen in legalizing marriages entered into during slavery, and provided transportation to refugees and freedmen who were attempting to reunite with their family or relocate to other parts of the country. Letters sent and received by bureau officials often contain information from and about African Americans. The Bureau was abolished in 1872, but the bulk of its work was conducted from June 1865 to December 1868. About 4 million slaves were freed during the Civil War. The names of thousands of these former slaves are included in the records.
The records were created from 1861 through 1872, however some of the marriages took place as early as 1815.
The Freedman's Bureau was created to supervise labor contracts, settle disputes, administer justice, issue rations and clothing to destitute freedmen and refugees, establish schools, lease land, operate hospitals and refugee camps, legalize marriages and provide transportation to refugees and freedmen returning to their homes or relocating to other parts of the country for employment or other reasons.
Names and residences found in Freedman's Bureau records are usually reliable, though ages and birth dates may not be. For some counties the date given is the original marriage date, while for other counties the date is the legalized marriage date. Some entries give the names of children born to the couple.
For a list of records by localities currently published in this collection, select the Browse.
- “Marriage Records of the Office of the Commissioner, Washington Headquarters of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1861-1869,” which contains marriage certificates for Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee and some for Alabama (one marriage license), Delaware, Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina, and the District of Columbia as well as monthly reports of marriages for Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. (National Archives and Records Administration publication number M1875)
- “Records of the field offices for the state of Virginia, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands” which includes marriage records from the counties of Augusta, Goochland, Louisa, Nelson and Rockbridge in Virginia. (Only the marriage records from this collection were added to the database.) (National Archives and Records Administration publication number M1913)
Each marriage record contains some or all of the following information:
- Date marriage was registered
- Name and residence of groom
- Groom's age and color
- Color of groom's parents
- How many years lived with another woman
- Cause of the separation
- Number of children by former companion
- Name and residence of bride
- Bride's age and color
- Color of bride's parents
- How many years lived with another man
- Cause of the separation
- Number of children by former companion
- Number of children with present companion
- Name of officiating minister
- Sometimes, names and ages of children
How to Use the Records
To begin your search, it is helpful to know the name and some other identifying information such as the birth place or birth date.
Search the Collection
To search the collection by name fill in your ancestor’s name in the initial search page. This search will return a list of possible matches. Compare the information about those in the list to what you already know about your own ancestors to determine if this is the correct family or person.
To search the collection image by image
⇒Select the "Browse" link in the initial search page
⇒Select the "Marriage Place - State"
⇒Select the "Surname"
⇒Select the "Given Name" which takes you to the images
Search the collection by image. Again you will need to compare the information with what you already know about your ancestors to determine which one is your ancestor.
Be aware that with either search you may need to compare the information about more than one person to make this determination.
For tips about searching on-line collections see the on-line video at FamilySearch Search Tips.
Using the Information
When you have located your ancestor’s record, carefully evaluate each piece of information given. Save a copy of the image or transcribe the information. These pieces of information may give you new biographical details such as a title, an occupation, or land ownership. Add this new information to your records of each family. You should also look for leads to other records about your ancestors.
Use Freedmen's Bureau records to learn your ancestor's marriage year, and possibly birth year and place. The records often provide names and ages of family members, and may contain information not found in any other available source.
Tips to Keep in Mind
- If your ancestor used an alias or a nickname, be sure to check for those alternate names.
- Even though these indexes are very accurate they may still contain inaccuracies, such as altered spellings, misinterpretations, and optical character recognition errors if the information was scanned.
- Freedmen's Bureau Marriages, 1815-1869
- NARA record information pamphlets
- Marriage Records of the Office of the Commissioner
- Records of the Field Offices for the State of Virginia
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Contributions to This Article
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Citing FamilySearch Historical Collections
Citations for individual image records are available for this collection. Browse through images in this collection and click on the "Show Citation" box: United States Freedmen's Bureau Marriages, 1815-1869
When you copy information from a record, you should list where you found the information. This will help you or others to find the record again. It is also good to keep track of records where you did not find information, including the names of the people you looked for in the records.
Citations for This Collection
- "United States, Freedmen's Bureau Commissioner Marriage Records,1861-1869." Index and Images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2013. Citing Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. National Archives, College Park, Maryland.