Mining Revolutionary War Pensions: African American Marriage Record

Mining Revolutionary War Pensions: African American Marriage Record


When widows of veterans applied for pensions, they had to present proof of marriage. Although it is common to see copies of marriage records in the applications of white widows, it is uncommon to see them in African American widows' applications.

Stories about Mining Revolutionary War Pensions: African American Marriage Record

Marriage Record, Primus Jacobs & Dinah Smith in pension W21446

  • Danvers, Massachusetts

When Dinah Jacobs appeared in the Suffolk County, Massachusetts court on November 5, 1836 to apply for benefits due her as the widow of veteran Primus Jacobs, she not only provided the place, exact date, and name of the clergy who performed the ceremony, but she also provided a copy of her marriage record as proof.

Most widows could similarly provide place, date, and name information.  Those fortunate enough to have family Bibles, could present such pages as evidence.  Those lacking written proof had to rely on traditionary evidence provided by the testimonies or affidavits of relatives, friends, or neighbors.

Dinah Jacobs was fortunate in that she lived in a New England state that recorded vital records as early as the eighteenth century.  Massachusetts recorded African American births, marriages and deaths in a manner similar to that which they recorded events for whites.  Thus the existence of African American marriage records in Massachusetts was not unusual.  However, the appearance of such a record in the pension file of an African American widow was uncommon.

Dinah obtained the copy of her marriage record from the town clerk roughly a week prior to submitting her pension application.  The record revealed that she and Primus Jacobs married during the revolutionary war on March 20, 1776.  Reverend Benjamin Wadsworth performed the ceremony.  The couple married in Danvers, in Essex County, Massachusetts.

According to other documents in the pension file, their marriage lasted forty years, and produced one daughter, Anna Jacobs who was born approximately in 1789.  Primus died in February 1817, in Salem, Massachusetts.  There is no evidence that Dinah Jacobs ever remarried.

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