Access The Searchable Hanover County Freedmen's Marriage Register
The web accessible version of the Freedmen’s Marriage Register enables easy-to-execute searches for information about the marriages of formerly enslaved and free African Americans that were legally recognized by an act of the Virginia General Assembly in February 1866.
To access the register Click on Hanover County, VA Freedmen’s Marriage Register
- The register will open in PDF (Portable Document format) that allows for any single field (ex. first name, last name, year of marriage, occupation) to be searched.
- In order to view the register in PDF format, you must have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your computer. To obtain a free copy of this software, follow this link: Get Adobe Reader
- If you have any questions about the use of the online version of the register, please send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org at the Hanover County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office.
About The Freedmen's Marriage Register
The Hanover County, Virginia, marriage register of freedmen, officially titled, “Marriage Register of Freedman living in Hanover Co Va, Who were Married by the Act passed by the Legislature of Virginia, February 27th 1866” is a list of 550 African American couples whose marriages were validated by action of the Virginia legislature. Preparation of the list was likely handled by the local branch of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (Freedmen’s Bureau). After the register was completed, it was filed in the Hanover Circuit Court Clerk’s Office, where it remains today.
The register documents many long-standing marriages, the earliest being in 1816. Several marriages involving free African Americans were also recorded.
In 2002, the Hanover County Freedmen’s Marriage Register was conserved under a grant funded by The Library of Virginia. At that time, the register was microfilmed and a copy of the film was sent to The Library of Virginia in Richmond, Virginia for permanent storage.
The information collected in freedmen’s marriage registers varies across the state of Virginia. Hanover County’s register contains information normally found in marriage licenses: (a) the full names of the parties, (b) their ages when married, (c) the date and place of marriage, (d) their places of birth, (e) status at time of marriage (single or widowed, free or slave), (f) the names of the couple’s parents, and (f) the husband’s occupation.
Following are links to information about Freedmen’s Marriage Registers.
Everly, Elaine C., “Marriage Registers of Freedmen.” Prologue Magazine, Fall 1973
Washington, Reginald, “Black Family Research: Using the Records of Post-Civil War Federal Agencies in the National Archives.” Reference Information Paper 108, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC, 2001
Marriage Records of the Office of the Commissioner, Washington Headquarters of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1861-1869
Search the Cohabitation Records for Augusta County (The Valley of the Shadow Project)
Freedmen’s Bureau Online (link to Gloucester County, Virginia, Freedmen’s Marriage Register)
Register of Colored Persons of Caroline County, State of Virginia, cohabitating together as husband and wife on 27th February 1866
About The Transfer Of Information From The Original Register To The Searchable Format
The Clerk’s Office staff and volunteers observed the following rules when transcribing information from the register:
- Where there were blank fields in the original, a blank field was left in the transcription. For example, if the last name of a registrant was not included in the original registry, the last name field in the searchable document is left blank.
- With the exception of some locality names that were corrected to the currently accepted spelling, information was transcribed without change from the original (ex. the occupation “gardener” is transcribed as “gardner” as it is found in the original register).
- The Clerk’s Office assigned a number to each record (ex. 10095).
- A reference number to the original register was also assigned (ex. 01 a-b).
- With few exceptions, the names contained in the searchable register are in the same random order as the original.
The transcription has been proofread twice. It is likely, however, that further revisions will be made as some of the handwriting in the original register is difficult to read and will be reinterpreted.
Here is a partial list of records containing names that were difficult to decipher.