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Culpeper County Cohabitation Register, 1866


Cohabitation registers are among the most important genealogical resources for African Americans attempting to connect their family lines back through the oftentimes unrecorded past to their enslaved ancestors. The registers date from 1866 and provide a snapshot in time for the individuals recorded therein, with a wealth of information that may otherwise be impossible, or at least very difficult, to uncover. Cohabitation registers were the legal vehicles by which former slaves legitimized both their marriages and their children. The information about an individual person contained in a cohabitation register is literally priceless as it is often the first time that a former slave appeared officially in the public record and because of the extensive kinds of information that the register recorded.

Citation: Culpeper County (Va.) Register of Children of Colored Persons whose Parents had ceased to cohabit which the Father recognizes to be his, 27th February 1866, [register page 1]. Cohabitation Registers Digital Collection. Library of Virginia.


Social Studies: VS.1, VS.7, USI.1, USI.9, USII.1 USII.3, VUS.1, VUS.7
English: 4.7, 5.7,

Suggested Questions

Analyze: What kinds of demographic information can be found in this document? How might it be helpful to someone trying to trace his or her family history? 

In Their Shoes: Choose a person from the register and write a diary entry in that person's voice about the day your name was entered into the register. How did you feel? What were you thinking?

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