There are records of slaves dated as early as the settlement of the Americas, but rarely can we trace these ancestors since last names are usually not given. Slaves did not always take their last owners names, and they often changed their names during Reconstruction Era as was permitted by law. Read also Ex-Slave Alias. So where else can you search for hints of your ex-slave ancestor? The answer is early Marriage Records.
Did They Legalize Their Marriages?
Marriage records of recently freed ex-slaves are often tucked under the more commonly researched books. After emancipation, African Americans were to legalize their marriages, slave marriages, commonly jumping over a broom, or by a roaming preacher, was not recognized after the Civil War. (Of course it bought them few rights before the Civil War, sometimes a master allowed them them joint residency).
But after the Civil War, when the right was granted, many African Americans rushed to get their marriages legalized, but not all. Those who did not legalize their marriage often regretted it. Without the formal civil marriage documents widows attempting to obtain Civil War Pensions of their slave-union were most often denied, even with children in tow and depositions of the slave marriage confirmed.
Freedmen's Bureau of Marriage Records
Of course there are Freedmen's Bureau of Marriage Records but in Rural America marriages were rarely recorded with the Bureau but at local courthouses. At a3Genealogy we are attempting to capture and index these smaller hidden collections. For more information on the Freedmen's Burea of marriage records visit Sealing the Sacred Bonds of Holy Matrimony Freedmen's Bureau Marriage Records.
What to Expect
In the Saline County Colored Marriages Book, 1865-1870 not only were the marriages and parties named, but also name of children born under the slave marriage. The bride's surname may be a "hint" to a slave master, but of course more research is needed.
|Slave Marriage Book Project|
Current Funded Projects
The Slave Marriage Book Project was launched 13 Feb 2013 on Kickstarter to scan, index and e-publish the names listed in the Colored Marriages of Saline County, MO. 1865-1870.
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