Collection Services Section Manager Debbi Blake wrote this month’s “First Wednesday” post for the North Carolina Civil War 150 blog. The post discusses cohabitation certificates and how they can be useful for researchers looking for records of African American marriages.
In addition to the blog post, there are other resources related to these records, including:
- The MARS online catalog, which includes an index for many of the cohabitation materials.
- The three-volume reference work Somebody Knows My Name: Marriages of Freed People in North Carolina County by County by Barnetta McGhee White, PhD.
- Family Search page on the North Carolina cohabitation records.
- North Carolina cohabitation records are available through Ancestry.com’s North Carolina, Marriage Records, 1741-2011 page.
[This blog post was written by Debbi Blake, Collection Services Section Manager for the State Archives of North Carolina.]
With the abolition of slavery came many questions about the rights of freedmen, one of which was how to validate marriages. This was answered by the North Carolina General Assembly in 1866 with an act allowing formerly enslaved couples to register their marriages in the county of their residence. This act provided proof that such unions had existed, often for decades. In North Carolina, such certificates were called cohabitation records, most of which are housed in the State Archives of North Carolina. Couples were to appear before 1 September 1866, although it was later amended in order to extend the period until 1 January 1868. The overwhelming majority of couples came before the clerk of court or justice of the peace during the first targeted period of March to September. This stampede resulted in the thousands of certificates in the Archives. [Read more…]