Catawba County, NCGenWeb

NORTH CAROLINA MARRIAGE BONDS

Wedding couple

Marriage Bonds were first required in North Carolina by the Act of April 4th, 1741.
This act provided that:

  ... every clergyman of the Church of England, or want of such,
  and lawful Magistrate, within this Government, shall ... join
  together in the holy estate of matrimony, such persons who may
  lawfully enter into such a relation, and have complied with the
  directions herein after contained ...  No Minister or Justice of
  the Peace ... shall celebrate the rites of matrimony ... without
  license ... or thrice publication of banns as prescribed by the
  rubrick in the book of common prayer." "License must be
  issued by the Clerk of the County Court of the county where the
  feme shall have her usual residence.  The prospective groom, in
  order to obtain this license, must make a bond with sufficient
  security in the sum of fifty pounds proclamation money, with
  condition that there is no lawful cause to obstruct the marriage;
  if either of the persons should be under the age of twenty one
  years, consent of the parent or guardian must be had.

When planning to marry, the prospective groom took out a bond from the clerk of the court in the county where the bride had her usual residence, as surety that there was no legal obstacle to the proposed marriage. On file in the North Carolina State Archives are 170,000 marriage bonds, covering the years 1741-1868. This act provided that "every clergyman of the Church of England, or for want of such, any lawful Magistrate, within this Government, shall . . . join together in the holy estate of matrimony, such persons who may lawfully enter into such a relation, and have complied with the directions herein after contained. . . . No Minister or Justice of the Peace .... shall celebrate the rites of matrimony . . . Without license ... or thrice publication of the banns (1) as prescribed by the rubrick in the book of common prayer." License must be issued by the Clerk of the County Court of the county where the feme shall have her usual residence. The prospective groom, in order to obtain this license, must make a bond with sufficient security in the sum of fifty pounds proclamation money, with condition that there is no lawful cause to obstruct the marriage; if either of the persons should be under the age of twenty one years, consent of the parent or guardian must be had.

It should be particularly noted that there is an alternative provision herein: the marriage might be by license or by banns. If the banns were properly published according to the rubrick and the customs of the Church of England, the marriage might take place without a license and consequently without a bond. This may account for the absence of bonds for many marriages which are known to have taken place. This also became invested in the German Lutheran Church, in compliance with the existing English law.

The Act of April 4th, 1741, was confirmed in 1749. In 1766, the Presbyterian, or dissenting clergy, were permitted to perform the ceremony. They had been doing this for some time, apparently illegally. Finally, in 1778, it was enacted that all regular ministers of the gospel of every denomination, having the cure of souls, and all justices of the peace, were authorized to solemnize the rites of matrimony according to the rites of their respective churches and agreeable to the rules in this act prescribed.

Leary/Stirewalt* add futher details to the above paragraph:

"The 1741 law, too, was often ignored. Complaining that  'Presbyterian, or Dissenting Clergy, .... have joined Many Persons  together in Holy Matrimony, without either License or Publication;  whereby ... the Validity of Marriages may be endangered...,' the  General Assembly passed a law in 1766 validating marriages solemnized  by dissenting or Presbyterian clergy before 1 January 1767. It also  provided that Presbyterian ministers, but not those of other  denominations, might thereafter perform marriages on the same basis  as magistrates.

Legislation in 1770 stiffened an earlier requirement that all  licenses be signed by the Governor. Soon thereafter, the independent  state of North Carolina by ordinance in 1776 and by law in 1778  empowered every regular minister of the gospel of every denomination  who had the cure of souls, i.e., a pastoral appointment in a  congregation, to celebrate matrimony. Justices retained their rights  as before. The penal sum of marriage was increased to five hundred  pounds. Further, the law of 1778 decreed 'the People called Quakers  shall retain their former Rules and Privileges in solemnizing the  Rites of Matrimony in their own Church ...' "

The "banns of marriage," commonly known simply as "the banns", (from an Old English word meaning "to summon") are the public announcement in a parish church that a marriage is going to take place between two specified persons.

The purpose of banns was to enable anyone to raise any legal impediment to it, so as to prevent marriages that are legally invalid, either under canon law or under civil law. Impediments vary between legal jurisdictions, but would normally include a pre-existing marriage (having been neither dissolved nor annulled), a vow of celibacy, lack of consent, or the couple's being related within the prohibited degrees of kinship.

In 1778, provision was again made for marriage by license or by banns, published three times by any minister of the gospel. The amount of the bond required for the license was raised to five-hundred pounds lawful money of the State.

In the Revised Statutes of 1836-1837, the amount of the bond was raised to $1,000. In the revised code of 1854, the regulations remain the same. Marriage bonds were in effect for North Carolina until repealed in 1867. This same law that repealed the bonds, also stipulated that the Clerk shall keep a register of marriages for that county.

The law of 1867 requires that the Clerk shall keep a register of marriages. It may be noted in passing that as early as 1715, it was enacted that "the Register of every precinct, when there is no clerk of the church in that precinct, shall register all births, marriages, and burials.". And in 1850 a further provision for a register was enacted. Apparently all such injunctions were obstinately disobeyed in North Carolina as they were in Virginia. (Compare Mr L C Bell's Old Free State, Vol. II, page 388). An incomplete register was kept in Lincoln County, NC for a few years between 1850 and 1865. After the act of 1867 the register was resumed 26 July 1868 and continues thereafter, though in a highly unsatisfactory state.

Most marriage bonds contain the following information: groom's name, bride's name, date of bond, bondsman or bondsmen's names, and witness's name. When a marriage certificate (after 1851) is filed with the bond or when additional information appears on the bond itself, this information is also included in the abstract. Such additional information may include parents' names, date of the marriage, the person performing the ceremony, and similar data.

Researchers need to be aware that, during the "Reconstruction," a time of military occupation," Catawba County and its citizens entered a period of transitional normalcy. During this period, Union General Clinton Clinton A. Cilley was appointed to serve as the administrator of Catawba County . His occupation was relatively benign. He and his family settled in with descendents continuing to reside in the area to the present day.

In the years that followed, Catawbans sought to return to a period of civil normalcy. It was not until 1868-69 that local government was re-established. Burke County, our neighbor to the east, suffered more than their Catawba . Many Burke County Court House records there were destroyed by Federal troops This resulted in confused property ownership, marriage legitimacy and the lawful administration of wills and other civil documentation. The Catawba County court house never suffered the depredations and indignities inflicted in Morganton by Federal troops. Nevertheless, the recording of vital records during that harsh time lacked the precise documentation afforded to the times before and after this period of suffering. Be that as it may, readers of "Catawba County Marriages" (two volumes published by the Catawba County Gen. Soc.) will note that, in most cases, there is a lack of parentage of the bride and groom as well as witnesses to the marriage during this time. This is reflected in the official marriage registers and is a faithful to the recorded deficits made during the transcription process. In some cases, the actual marriage license was either lost of was not recorded. It might be noted that compliance with bond statutes and the cost of posting marriage bonds probably acted as a deterrant to compliance with existing statutes. Marriages, in many case, took place outside of legal compliance and obviously don't appear in official recods.

The "banns of marriage," commonly known simply as "the banns", (from an Old Englishword meaning "to summon") are the the best source for early marriage bonds of Tryon and Lincoln Counties, North Carolina, is Marriage Bonds of Tryon and Lincoln Counties, North Carolina, by Curtis Bynum, published in 1929, by the Catawba County and Lincoln County Historical Associations. An example of an entry follows:

Cline, John (Ger. Johannes Klein); Holman. Rachel; Caleb Miller; 20 Oct 1822; V. McBee.

The abstracts are arranged by groom, bride, surety or sureties, date, witness or witnesses, and other information.

Sources:
- Curtis Bynum, Marriage Bonds of Tryon & Lincoln Counties, North Carolina 1929 (reprinted, 1962, Catawba Co. Hist. Assn.)

* North Carolina Research Genealogy and History, edited by Helen F.M.  Leary and Maurice R. Stirewalt, published 1980 by the North Carolina  Genealogical Society, Raleigh, NC; ISBN 0-936370-00-9.

 


These pages are copyrighted in the name of the NCGenWeb Project and/or the submitters and webmaster of this project.
They may not be used, housed or copied by any for-profit enterprise. Fair Use Doctrine allows for exerpting limited portions.


Derick S. Hartshorn - 2008-present
Last Modified: