Cuffe As An African American Last Name

The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 81 black Americans with Cuffe as their last name. That represented 13% of the total of 643 entries.

This article tracks their numbers in the census since the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Cuffe.

We end with a review of early records of black military service in the United States.

After The Civil War

The 1870 census was the first survey after the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation. In 1850 and 1860, only free African Americans were recorded in the census. The many enslaved were omitted.

From 1870 onward, all black Americans were included.

11 people named Cuffe were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 0 as mixed.

There was a total of 26 people with the name.

Cuffe In The 1900 And 1940 Census

The mixed category was dropped from the census in 1900, so we just need to look at the black numbers this time.

The 1900 census recorded 11 people with the last name Cuffe as black within a total of 121 that year.

By the way, the mixed category returned in the 1910 and 1920 censuses. It was dropped again in 1930, but replaced with extra categories for colored and non-white in a way that seems confusing now.

This changed again in 1940 and we can simply focus on one black category.

The 1940 census recorded 6 people named Cuffe as black within a total of 252.

Historic Black Figures With The Cuffe Surname

Here is a notable African American in history with Cuffe as the last name.

Paul Cuffe

  • Born: 1759
  • From: Cuttyhunk Island, Massachusetts
  • Died: 1817

Paul Cuffe’s father was freed by his Quaker owner in the 1740s and worked as a sheep farmer on Cuttyhunk Island. Paul worked in farming while sailing from time to time on whaling ships in the 1770s.

Paul ran a small cargo ship to Nantucket during the Revolutionary War. After the war, Cuffe built up a successful shipping business with his brother-in-law.

He became an early abolitionist and supported the settlement of Canadian blacks in Sierra Leone.

Other Sailors

George Henry was born into slavery two years after Paul Cuffe’s death. But he too started sailing and eventually became a ship’s captain.

Cuffe In Black Military Records

Military records are a rich resource of information for family history research. Some of the earliest for African Americans date back to the Civil War.

President Lincoln authorized the use of “colored troops” in combat in the Union Army in 1863, although some black units had fought before then.

The records show that Michael Cuffe enlisted in December 1863 in New York City. He was from Southampton, New York, and his occupation was recorded as being a sailor.

He was mustered with the 20th Regiment of the U.S. Colored Infantry. Michael was aged twenty-one in a muster record of 1864 when he was stationed on Rikers Island.

Cuffe In The Freedmen’s Bureau Records

The Freedmen’s Bureau was established after the Civil War to help newly freed African Americans. You can read more in our article on researching the Freedmen records.

There are over sixty records for Cuffes in the archives. Most are records of residence based in Norfolk, Virginia in the 1860s. They may be of the same family.

Some of the first names are quite distinctive. Here are a few:

  • Nathaniel
  • Ashwell
  • Clotilda
  • Zima
  • Catron
  • Asthama