United at Last


While many slave couples formed lasting bonds during their enslavement, slave marriages had no legal foundation or protection. The abolishment of slavery not only meant citizenship but the ability to have legally recognized marriages without fear of the loss of a spouse through sale. The Bureau helped facilitate and record marriages. The Freedmen's Bureau superintendent for Wilson County, Tennessee authorized the marriage of Isaac and Catherine Kelly on May 12, 1866. The form takes note of their child and mentions that "These parties have been separated by sale once and have again assumed the marriage relation since the war."

National Archives, Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands


Additional Resources