Cohabitation Register from Prince Edward County
This Freedmen's Bureau document dated February 27, 1866, is a partial list of the African Americans who registered that day as having cohabitated for some time as husband and wife. By registering with the bureau, the African Americans were formally announcing their legal status as married. That month the General Assembly passed an act recognizing marriage between African Americans, a legal right that enslaved and free people of color did not have previously.
The register includes the names and ages of each husband and wife, the husband's occupation, the names of their former owners when applicable, a list of any children the couple might have, and the date they began cohabitating. The final entry shown here is that of thirty-five-year-old William D. Davis, a painter by trade who was born free, and his thirty-six-year-old wife, Margaret, who was also born free. They register as having begun living together as husband and wife on August 20, 1855, and as having three children: Nancy, aged ten; Robert, aged nine; and William D., aged six.