Civil War-Era Marriage and Southern Claims Commission Documents Now Available

Posted by on February 6, 2008 in Company News

In honor of Black History Month, we’ve expanded our collection of African-American family history records with two new collections: Freedman’s Marriage Records and Southern Claims Commission Records.

Freedman’s Marriage Records

From 1865 to 1868, plantation marriages of thousands of former slaves from 17 Southern states were legalized. has digitized and made available online a collection of marriage certificates, marriage licenses, and other proofs of the marriage “legalizations.”

Southern Claims Commission Records

Following the end of the Civil War, Southerners filed more than 23,000 claims against the U.S. government for property seized by the Union Army. Claimants furnished answers to to some 80 questions about seized property and supplied witnesses, often former slaves, to testify on their behalf. In addition to their name, age and current residence, African-American claimants stated:

  • Whether they were free or enslaved at the beginning of the war
  • When they became free
  • Occupation and residence
  • Name of their former masters
  • Whether they purchased land from their former masters

African-American witnesses were asked:

  • If the claimant was their former master
  • Whether they currently worked for him
  • Whether they currently lived on his land
  • To give testimony of any property seizure they witnessed

In one April 1867 example, former slaves Gabe and Aleck Banks of Baldwin, Georgia, offer eyewitness accounts of the Union Army seizing their former master’s horses and mules. “The Cavalry Came Riding up to the Gate…,” said Gabe Banks, “and made me get the Bridles and catch the horses and mules for them.” The local commissioner hand recorded each man’s testimony in the claim document.

Gabe Banks

View full document

These two new databases are the latest additions to our ever-growing collection of African-American family history documents. Visit our African-American Historical Records Collection to explore these records and learn more about African-American family history.


1 Linda CalhounFebruary 10, 2008 at 8:05 pm

Im looking for a relative who is living in Texas and is researching the same family as I am, since last talking to her, I lost my computer. Im looking for a Donna Wright who use to have a tree on here if anyone knows how to contact her or get her to contact me its really important I believe I have found the information she was looking for.

2 Robert J. SmithFebruary 29, 2008 at 1:50 pm

Lydia Hadley (Smith, Cousineau, Hadley) was my aunt and her husband Marshall was her step-brother.


3 Relationship ArticlesApril 14, 2008 at 7:37 pm

Expanded your collection of African-American family history records with two new collections: Freedman’s Marriage Records and Southern Claims Commission Records is really a good news! Are these services free?


4 RaniaJanuary 29, 2009 at 6:18 am

great information indeed

About the blog

Here you will find informational, and sometimes fun, posts from the folks behind the scenes here at We hope you’ll notice just how passionate we are about family history and about the products we’re building to help connect families over distance and time.


Receive updates from the blog Learn more