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. Ancestry.com 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.
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.