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United States, Freedmen’s Bureau Marriages, 1861-1872

Toni Carrier
by Toni Carrier
Thomas and Polly Logan in United States, Freedmen's Bureau Marriages, 1861-1872
Thomas and Polly Logan in United States, Freedmen’s Bureau Marriages, 1861-1872, “Virginia, Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1872,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-DC84-41G?cc=1596147&wc=9LMG-3TL%3A1078514907%2C1078514910 : 25 June 2014), Goochland (assistant superintendent, 2nd division, 4th subdistrict) > Roll 89, Register of marriages, 1866 > image 21 of 39; citing NARA microfilm publication M1913 (College Park, Maryland: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

Today’s featured FamilySearch collection is United States, Freedmen’s Bureau Marriages, 1861-1872.

About This Collection

This searchable collection with images contains marriage certificates, marriage licenses, monthly reports of marriages and other proofs of marriages compiled by the Freedmen’s Bureau between 1861 through 1872. The records are part of National Archives Record Group 105, Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands.

You can also browse the 3,564 images in this record collection to select a surname of interest. Individual record sets for each state and county are variable. For an in-depth look this collection and how to use it in your research, see the collection’s Learn More page.

What’s in This Collection

This collection includes records from the following states:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Florida
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Virginia

Be sure to access the descriptive pamphlet for NARA publication M1875 Marriage records of the Office of the Commissioner, Washington Headquarters of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1861-1869 for a complete discussion of, and context for, these records.

Each page of the register records the following information for each couple:

  • Name of husband
  • Age of husband
  • Name of wife
  • Age of wife
  • Occupation
  • Residence
  • Remarks

Virginia Cohabitation Registers

For some counties in Virginia, this record set closely parallels a second register created by the Circuit Court of several Virginia counties. The cohabitation registers created by the Circuit Court in Virginia, digitized online at the Library of Virginia are another iteration of the same information, but they are clearly two different record sets, in two different handwritings. Because both the Freedmen’s Bureau marriage registers and the cohabitation registers are transcriptions, we suggest that in cases where the records overlap, you should look at both registers to see if there is any difference in the transcriptions. See the screen capture below for a side-by-side comparison of the two registers:

Line by Line Comparison, Freedmen's Bureau Marriage Registers and Virginia Cohabitation Registers
Line by Line Comparison, Freedmen’s Bureau Marriage Registers and Virginia Cohabitation Registers

Although the records made by the Freedmen’s Bureau parallel the Virginia cohabitation registers for some Virginia counties, for others each represents a unique record set, so both should be searched to be sure you haven’t missed a record for your ancestor. You can access the Virginia cohabitation registers at the Library of Virginia website here. For some counties, such as Buckingham, the Virginia cohabitation registers contain much more information than the Freedmen’s Bureau marriage registers. In Buckingham, cohabitation registers preserve the names of the final slaveholder for both husband and wife.

Researching From This Collection

If you find an ancestor in this record set, enter the marriage information on your ancestors’ timelines, then use the information in the marriage record to search for other records for your ancestors.

Example: Thomas and Polly Logan, Married 1866

Let’s look at an example for Thomas and Polly Logan, who were married in Goochland, Virginia in 1866 (please click on image to view larger):

Thomas and Polly Logan in United States, Freedmen's Bureau Marriages, 1861-1872
Thomas and Polly Logan in United States, Freedmen’s Bureau Marriages, 1861-1872, “Virginia, Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1872,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-DC84-41G?cc=1596147&wc=9LMG-3TL%3A1078514907%2C1078514910 : 25 June 2014), Goochland (assistant superintendent, 2nd division, 4th subdistrict) > Roll 89, Register of marriages, 1866 > image 21 of 39; citing NARA microfilm publication M1913 (College Park, Maryland: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

Name of Husband: Thomas Logan
Event Type: Marriage
Event Place: Goochland, Virginia, United States
Gender: Male
Age: 40
Occupation: Farmer
Spouse’s Name: Polly Logan
Spouse’s Gender: Female
Spouse’s Age: 25
Certificate Number: 170

“United States, Freedmen’s Bureau Marriages, 1861-1872”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:Q296-S4GY : 8 July 2019), Thomas Logan and Polly Logan.

Thomas and Polly Logan, Goochland Virginia – Record Search

Let’s use the information for Thomas and Polly Logan of Goochland, Virginia to search for more records for this family. We viewed the Virginia cohabitation registers online at the Library of Virginia to see if this marriage was also recorded there, and it was:

Detail from Virginia Cohabitation Registers, Thomas and Polly Logan
Detail from Virginia Cohabitation Registers, Thomas and Polly Logan, Virginia Cohabitation Records, Digital Collection Online at Library of Virginia, Goochland County Circuit Court, Cohabitation Registers, Goochland County, Pages 45-46, Entry for Thomas and Polly Logan, http://digitool1.lva.lib.va.us:8881/R/KD4P16JVH6ET4N6XGEXUI5XCHMHS6CJTEYD3B1B3CAP4UHIQNE-00623?func=results-jump-full&set_entry=000013&set_number=198304&base=GEN01-LVA01, accessed 24 Jan 2020.

In this instance, the information in the two registers was identical. On to our record search. Let’s see if we can locate Thomas and Polly Logan in the census.

Thomas and Polly Logan, 1870 U.S. Census

Our search revealed a record for Thomas and Polly in the 1870 U.S. Census. Members of their household were:

HouseholdRoleSexAgeBirthplace
Thomas LoganM35Virginia
Mary LoganF34Virginia
Sarah A LoganF20Virginia
Burton LoganM17Virginia
Henry LoganM14Virginia
Gerdinia LoganF12Virginia
Victoria LoganF10Virginia
Spencer LoganM3Virginia
Thomas LoganM1Virginia

Name: Thomas Logan
Event Type: Census
Event Date: 1870
Event Place: Licking Hole Magisterial District, Goochland, Virginia, United States
Event Place (Original): Lickenhole, Goochland, Virginia, United States
Gender: Male
Age: 35
Race: Black
Birth Year (Estimated): 1835
Birthplace: Virginia
Page Number: 48

Household ID: 375
Line Number: 12
Affiliate Name: The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
Affiliate Publication Number: M593
GS Film Number: 000553148
Digital Folder Number: 004268502
Image Number: 00228

“United States Census, 1870”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MFGM-1M2 : 11 June 2019), Thomas Logan in entry for Thomas Logan, 1870.

Although Polly’s name is given as Mary in the 1870 U.S. Census, she is listed as Polly in the 1860 U.S. Census record below, with the same children. Polly was a common nickname for Mary in the nineteenth century, so this may explain the discrepancy.

Thomas and Polly Logan, 1860 U.S. Census

We also found Thomas and Polly Logan in the 1860 U.S. Census. Behold, they were free before the war.

Name: Thomas Logan
Event Type: Census
Event Date: 1860
Event Place: Goochland, Virginia, United States
Gender: Male
Age: 37
Race: Black
Race (Original): Black
Birth Year (Estimated): 1823
Birthplace: Virginia
Page: 42

HouseholdRoleSexAgeBirthplace
Thomas LoganM37Virginia
Polly LoganF30Virginia
Betsy LoganF25Virginia
Sallie LoganF10Virginia
Burton LoganM8Virginia
Henry LoganM6Virginia
Indinia LoganF2Virginia

Household ID: 315
Affiliate Name: The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
Affiliate Publication Number: M653
Affiliate Film Number: 1347
GS Film Number: 805347
Digital Folder Number: 005171716
Image Number: 00548

“United States Census, 1860”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M41N-B75 : 12 December 2017), Indinia Logan in entry for Thomas Logan, 1860.

Thomas Logan, 1867 Election Poll Book, Goochland, Virginia

We found a record for Thomas Logan in the 1867 Poll Book of Third Magisterial District Goochland County, Virginia, at Election held Oct 22nd 1867 For and Against a Convention and Delegates to Convention (Colored) digitized at the Library of Virginia:

Thomas Logan in Poll Book of Third Magisterial District Goochland County, Virginia, at Election held Oct 22nd 1867 For and Against a Convention and Delegates to Convention (Colored), 1867, Virginia Untold: The African American Narrative Digital Collection, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va., http://digitool1.lva.lib.va.us:8881/R/IXBI8QLXIP3UJ331K6572M27VX4UI45VJANTML9MSXG6KP4KLR-05295?func=results-jump-full&set_entry=000007&set_number=198312&base=GEN01-LVA01, accessed 26 Jan 2020.
Cover Page, Poll Book of Third Magisterial District Goochland County, Virginia, at Election held Oct 22nd 1867 For and Against a Convention and Delegates to Convention (Colored), 1867, Virginia Untold: The African American Narrative Digital Collection, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va., http://digitool1.lva.lib.va.us:8881/R/IXBI8QLXIP3UJ331K6572M27VX4UI45VJANTML9MSXG6KP4KLR-05295?func=results-jump-full&set_entry=000007&set_number=198312&base=GEN01-LVA01, accessed 26 Jan 2020.
Thomas Logan in 1867 Voter Poll Book, Library of Virginia
Thomas Logan in Poll Book of Third Magisterial District Goochland County, Virginia, at Election held Oct 22nd 1867 For and Against a Convention and Delegates to Convention (Colored), 1867, Virginia Untold: The African American Narrative Digital Collection, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va., http://digitool1.lva.lib.va.us:8881/R/IXBI8QLXIP3UJ331K6572M27VX4UI45VJANTML9MSXG6KP4KLR-05295?func=results-jump-full&set_entry=000007&set_number=198312&base=GEN01-LVA01, accessed 26 Jan 2020.

This record contains a list of voters who participated in elections. The election held Oct 22 1867 was held while Virginia was under military rule. This was the first election in Virginia in which African Americans were allowed to vote.

Goochland County Tax Registers

We searched for, but did not find Thomas Logan in Free Negro Tax Records for Goochland County, Virginia available at the Library of Virginia.

We then searched the FamilySearch catalog to see if tax records for Goochland County have been digitized by FamilySearch. We found the collection Personal property tax lists of Goochland County, 1782-1850. The microfilms within this collection have been digitized, but must be viewed at a Family History Center. If Thomas and Polly are your ancestors, you can follow up to view these early tax records at a Family History Center.

Polly Logan, Death Record

By searching for Thomas and Polly with their estimated birth dates, we located a death record for Polly Logan:

Polly Logan

 in the Virginia, Death Records, 1912-2014

Name: Polly Logan
Gender: Female
Race: Black
Death Age: 90
Birth Date: abt 1826
Death Date: 18 Jan 1916
Death Place: Goochland, Virginia, USA
Registration Date: 1 Mar 1916

Virginia Department of Health; Richmond, Virginia; Virginia Deaths, 1912-2014 Ancestry.com. Virginia, Death Records, 1912-2014 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015. Original data: Virginia, Deaths, 1912–2014. Virginia Department of Health, Richmond, Virginia.

Related Resources

This collection is part of the records created by the Freedmen’s Bureau. You can search all indexed Freedmen’s Bureau records at discoverfreedmen.org.

Records of the Freedmen’s Bureau are arranged by location. The website Mapping the Freedmen’s Bureau is an interactive online finding aid that will help you locate the Freedmen’s Bureau field offices closest to the areas where your ancestors lived. From there you can follow a link to begin reading Freedmen’s Bureau records for your area of research interest. Here you can also learn the locations of Freedmen’s Bureau contraband camps, hospitals and schools, and learn the location of battle sites for United States Colored Troops.

In this post, we used an example from Virginia. The Wiki page Virginia, Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, Inventory provides links to every digitized Freedmen’s Bureau microfilm on FamilySearch for the state of Virginia. The Wiki page Category: Freedmen’s Bureau provides an exhaustive list for each state where the Freedmen’s Bureau operated.

The Wiki page African American Resources for Virginia provides an overview of resources for African American genealogy research in Virginia.

To learn more about researching in Freedmen’s Bureau records, you can view BlackProGen LIVE: Ep 52: Deconstructing the Freedmens Bureau.

Thomas and Polly Logan were free African Americans. For more information on researching ancestors who were free before the Civil War, please see our page Records for Free People of Color in the United States.

More FamilySearch Wiki Resources for African American Genealogy

Researching African American Genealogy provides step-by-step guidance for beginning your ancestor search, as well as links to online resources.

Quick Guide to African American Records contains information on beginning research tips, links to suggested guides for beginning your search for African American ancestors, overviews of major record sets, tips for finding the slaveholder, links to tutorials for African American genealogy in the FamilySearch Learning Center, and links to other online and offline resources.

Southern States Slavery and Bondage Collections will help you locate digitized searchable collections as well as digitized microfilms in the FamilySearch catalog related to slavery and bondage. The page is arranged by state. 

African American Genealogy provides links to Wiki pages for researching African Americans in each U.S. state.

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