United States Freedmen’s Bureau Marriages (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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FamilySearch Record Search This article describes a collection of historical records available at FamilySearch.org.
Access the records: Freedmen's Bureau Marriages, 1815-1869 .

Collection Time Period

The records were created from 1861 through 1872, however some of the marriages took place as early as 1815.

Record Description

The records consist of bound volumes and unbound bundles of loose papers. They are indexed and are also browsable by state.

Record Content

United States Freedmen's Bureau Marriages Example 2 DGS 4420239 26.jpg
This database combines two record groups created by the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, as shown below:
United States Freedmen's Bureau Marriages Example 1 DGS 4420238 33.jpg
  • “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 genealogical information:

  • Name of bride and groom
  • Date marriage was registered
  • Residence of couple
  • Information about previous marriages
  • Names and ages (or birthdates) of children

How to Use the Records

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.

Record History

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.

Why This Collection Was Created?

The Freedmen'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.

Record Reliability

Names and residences found in Freedmen's Bureau records are usually reliable, though ages and birthdates 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.

Related Web Sites

The Freedmen’s Bureau Online

NARA record information pamphlets:

Related Wiki Articles

African American Freedmen's Bureau Records

Contributions to This Article

We welcome user additions to FamilySearch Historical Records wiki articles. We are looking for additional information that will help readers understand the topic and better use the available records. We also need translations for collection titles and images in articles about records written in languages other than English. For specific needs, please visit WikiProject FamilySearch Records.

Please follow these guidelines as you make changes. Thank you for any contributions you may provide.

Sources of Information for This Collection:

"Marriage Records of the Office of the Commissioner, Washington Headquarters of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1861-1869,” database, FamilySearch http://familysearch.org; from United States Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. FHL microfilm, 5 rolls. Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.

"Virginia Freedmen's Bureau Marriages, 1865-1872," database, FamilySearch; 2010, from field offices for the state of Virginia. "Records of the field offices for the state of Virginia, 1865-1872." Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. National Archives, Washington, D.C. FHL microfilm. Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.

A full bibliographic record is available in the Family History Library Catalog.

Citing FamilySearch Historical Collections

When you copy information from a record, you should also 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.

A suggested format for keeping track of records that you have searched is found in the Wiki Article: How to Cite FamilySearch Collections

Examples of Source Citations for a Record

  • United States. Bureau of the Census. 12th census, 1900, digital images, From FamilySearch Internet (www.familysearch.org): September 29, 2006), Arizona Territory, Maricopa, Township 1, East Gila, Salt River Base and Meridian; sheet 9B, line 71
  • Mexico, Distrito Federal, Catholic Church Records, 1886-1933, digital images, from FamilySearch Internet (www.familysearch.org): April 22, 2010), Baptism of Adolfo Fernandez Jimenez, 1 Feb. 1910, San Pedro Apóstol, Cuahimalpa, Distrito Federal, Mexico, film number 0227023