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CURRITUCK COUNTY MARRIAGES OF FREED PEOPLE
Excerpts from Somebody Knows My Name
by
Barnetta McGhee White, Ph.D.
1995

    There were always slave ministers of the gospel who performed marriage ceremonies in the slave community.  None of these were considered legal contracts by the slaveholding population, but they were certainly considered moral and spiritual contracts by the participants.  Because there was no statutory law recognizing marriage between slaves, one must look to the common law.  At common law, it is the declared assent of the mind to the act of marriage which makes it legal.
    By the end of the Civil War, former slaves were in destitute conditions and the South was in shambles.  Many Southern states had to rewrite their state constitutions to make them comply with the Constitution of the United States, and all of them had to pass new laws, acts, and codes to reflect the new status of over 4 million men, women and children who had been enslaved for generations, but were now free.  One area needing immediate attention was the recognition and legalization of those marriage which had been contracted during slavery according to the customs of the slave community.  Although the couples may have considered themselves morally married, as they were under common law, the states sought ways to ratify these alliances.  In North Carolina, as well as in other confederate states, slave marriages performed by regular civil or religious authorities had been absolutely forbidden by law.
    In North Carolina, the General Assembly in 1866 passed An Act Concerning Negroes and Persons of Color or of Mixed Blood.  This Act contained 19 sections.  Section 1 defined "persons of color".  Section 5 decreed that those persons whose cohabitation was to be ratified into a state of marriage were required to appear before the local Clerk of County Court or Justice of the Peace to acknowledge that fact.  Section 6 described the penalty for failure to do so before Sept. 1, 1866.  Those acknowledgements were to be recorded and regarded as proof that a marriage had existed.  Section 6 resulted in the vast majority of the couples reporting their marriages between March and September, 1866.
    Only 71 records of cohabitation have survived in Currituck County.  The justices gave very few surnames for the wives.

HUSBAND

WIFE

YRS. COHABITED

Ashbee, Sam Nancy 12
Barnard, Johnson Nancy 20
Barnard, Mustipher Patience 25
Barnard, Ned Courtney 15
Barnard, Thomas Ann 2
Bell, Caleb Eliza 14
Bell, Mark Eda 9
Bell, Miles Tilda 3
Bell, Willis Lucy 50
Bray, Briston Emily 10
Bray, Peter Nancy 24
Bunnell, Smart Phillis 20
Burton, Dennis Chloe 1
Burton, Miles Hannah 4
Cherry, Mark Honor 20
Cormick, Charles Fanny Wilson 2
Cowell, George Chloe 20
Cowell, Isaac Rutha Morse 15
Cowell, Jack Rachael 28
Cowell, John Emiline 14
Cowell, Miles Eliza 15
Cowell, Sam Penny 30
Cowell, Samuel Eliza 16
Dey, Spence Syntha 24
Dozier, Andrew Susan 4
Dozier, George Belinda 6
Dozier, Wilson Adeline 15
Dunstan, Henry Emily 1
Dunton, Spence Carolina 12
Etheridge, Anson Eliza 30
Ferebee, Ben Pleasant 6
Ferebee, Thomas Gemima 25
Gilliam, Hardy Winna 4
Gordon, Joseph Polly Barnard less than 1
Gray, Henry Barbary 13
Gray, Peter Sarah 10
Jones, Franklin Martha 15
Lamb, Thomas Jenny Williams 50
Lamb, Thomas Lethy 30
Long, John Harriet 13
Mercer, Edmund Amy Jarvis 14
Mercer, Harry Rhoda Dozier 14
Miller, Deadon Caroline 20
Moorhouse?, Jack Biddy 25
Neal, Mites? Elizabeth 3
Neal, York Sarah 26
Nichols, March Chany 30
Nichols, Pompey Rose 50
Owens, Pompey Jane 5
Owls?, Spence Elizabeth 5
Sanderlin, Jordan Nancy 16
Sanders, Charles Sabra 10
Sawyer, Arch Nancy 15
Scott, Elbert Caty Bunnell 20
Shaw, Albert Ferebee 8
Shaw, Joseph Debby 28
Simmons, Alex Susan 7
Simmons, Layfaett Lydia 7
Simmons, Shepard Louisa 12
Snowden, Merica Nancy ---
Snowdon, Mark Cherry 16
Spellman, Richard Mary 8
Taylor, Dudly Honor 25
Whitehall, Brister Judy 30
Williams, Alfred Tibby 25
Williams, Charles Harriet 4
Wilson, Allen Clarisa Overman 2
Wilson, James Sarah 2
Wilson, Ned Emily 13
Wilson, Wesley Mary Foreman 2
(no last name), Pompy Sarah

16

Permission to post the above marriages was kindly given by Barnetta McGhee White, Ph.D, who compiled a wonderful 3-volume book, Somebody Knows My Name, on marriages of freed people in the state of North Carolina.

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2004 Kay M. Sheppard