The Library of Virginia has an extensive digital collection. This is a collection of documents that have been digitized and entered into a database that is very easy to search. It is also free.
This collection of documents can be invaluable to those tracing their ancestry in Virginia. Amongst other items, it contains will and tax lists. For African Americans, it contains a document called “Register of Colored Persons cohabiting together as Husband and Wife, 1866 Feb.” – there is a cohabitation document for almost all the counties in Virginia. Why are these historically important documents?
- They contain the names of freed slaves living together as man and wife, their children (and their ages). Typically, the wife’s maiden name is the name of record, which enables you to trace maternal lines.
- They contain the names of their last owners, along with their owner’s county of residence details. This will help you identify counties your ancestors were resident in before they were freed. You can see if your ancestors remained in the county where they were slaves or if they moved. If they moved, chances are they could have had kin who chose to remain in the county where they were slaves.
My great grandfather appeared in this register. I discovered he and his wife had more children than accounted for in the census. This has been pretty exciting for me as it opened up new lines of research. It also allowed me to tie a family group I had recorded in my research into my family tree.