@2004-present - Sue Ashby                                                                                        Updated:12/11/2009

Sue's Gab & Tips Page

Here is where I hope to exchange knowledge, about Chatham County and tips for you, in your research.
I've been doing this so long, sometimes, I expect everyone to know some of the things I know.
BUT, by the same token, I'm sure there is a lot of things, you folks know about Chatham and it's people, that I will NEVER know.
Perhaps the NCCHATHA-L is the place for us to go, but I feel more personal and comfortable, doing it here.

I will post some tips and information that I have on genealogy in general and Chatham in specifics and I would like for you all to respond to me by my email address and I will be happy to post your replies here or if you would rather not....I'll reply directly, to you.  Whatever....PLEASE, Respond and let's help each other out.     Sue



There has been some questions about Marriage Bonds, Marriage Banns and Marriage Licenses in the past.
But, first of all, let me tell you what was really the norm in the back country of NC.

This is the scenario:  A couple decides to marry.  In the back country of NC, they live too far away from a courthouse to apply for a bond even if they had the money or property, to post security. They are known by everyone in the community where they live. The folks there may have known their ancestors and everything about them. They figure there is no need to involve the government, in something that is personal!!  (This is particularly true, if your people are Scots-Irish ) They are the originators of the "don't ask, don't tell philosophy.
There may be a lay preacher or someone who is called on to preach a sermon, in there community and they may ask him to 'say the words' over them. But, there was was no  ordained preacher in the area and would not be for months, maybe years. The concept of the "Traveling" Preachers did not come into being until the 1800's

So - They tell the neighbors and community, where they live, that they are going to be, man and wife and set up housekeeping.
If  a licensed, traveling preacher comes around they may ask him to say the "words" over their marriage.
He may do so, and maybe, if he can write, records the marriage in his book.
If he can't read or write, he obviously, doesn't keep a 'book'.

If he still has it when he gets to a courthouse, he may register it. BUT, here is the catch for some of this...It costs money to register anything at the courthouse... (This is a major hang up in registering records through the years..)

If the couple did not have it or just paid the preacher, in farm stock or produce, then he may not have had the coin to do so.

So, if you ancestors lived far away from a county seat or there was no established church, you may NEVER find a documentation of their marriage.
You must always, put yourself in the time and custom of your ancestors and knowing the laws affecting them, figure out what 'could' have happened.

So, even if something was the LAW, not everyone obeyed it. Just as today!! 

You should know the difference between these three terms.

Marriage Bonds: A bond was supposed to be a legal requirement in the time period of 1741-1868. It was a security bond put up by the couple and/or their parents/guardians to insure that there was no legal impediment to their marriage. The legal impediment could have been- being already married - physically unable to be a husband or wife - being a convicted felon or an indentured servant bound, still under bond to a master and other reasons. But, these would be the most obvious.
The Bonds HAD TO Be file in the county of the BRIDES residence. So, if the groom was from another county, the bond "may" say which one, or which state.

Marriage Banns:   This is the written posting, of intention to marry; on the church door or vestibule of the church intended for the marriage, on three consecutive Sundays. Or reading of the intention to marry by the pastor/preacher. If there were no objections to the marriage by any persons, then the minister was allowed to perform the ceremony.

Marriage Licenses:  Beginning in 1868 all the bonds were discontinued and only marriage licenses were used for the rites of matrimony.
And, even before 1868 there will be marriage licenses. What few there are will be in the Register of Deeds office. But, you must know the name and date for them to look them up for you.....Sorry.
(I had thought there were none at all but, the Register of Deeds said they did have a few and is that, which, Mr. Holcomb has based, some of his book.)

At different times there were different questions asked of the applicants. So, that will make a difference in what you can find on them.
I won't attempt to post all of the material on this, found in Helen Leary's "North Carolina Research: Genealogy and Local History"  You need to see this book, to get a complete understanding of the processes.

In essence it  is:

1669 - Because of the lack of clergy in the colonial period of NC there was a law made in 1669, that said two persons desiring to be married could take 3 or 4 of their neighbors with them to the Governor or the Council and declare that they were joined in wedlock and the Governor would give them a Certificate and register it in the Secretary's Office or the Secretary of the precinct and it would be legal.

1715 - The law was confirmed at this time but, there are few records of marriages surviving. People married but, it was not written down and recorded. And, because of this, the General Assembly decided that there were unlawful and clandestine marriage being performed, so an "Act Concerning Marriages" was passed, granting the authorization of performing marriages to all the clergy of the CHURCH OF ENGLAND, only,  AND to County Justices.
BUT, the County Justice could not perform the ceremony without the permission of the parish minister and before the couple could marry they had to get a marriage license or publish the banns.

1741 - By no, Marriage Bonds are now required. But, Chatham County has very few that are still in existence ("extant")
I have asked about this and no one seems to know why. Of course, anything that is written on paper is subject to time and destruction.. The only thing I can suppose is, that the county clerks in those times, just did not care whether they were kept or not. 

And,  even though the law required that you secure a bond for the upcoming nuptials and a license too.  You could not force people to do so,  "Surprise, Surprise" -  as Gomer says) and so a lot of men and women lived in the "common law" state of marriage. 

NOTE: I have all of the marriage bonds in existence for Chatham Co. I have the abstracted form on microfiche, the original form on microfilm and the transcribed form that was published.
(I also have ALL of the Marriage bonds for NORTH CAROLINA, as abstracted and done on microfiche by the archives)

1766 - The other religions and their ministers were not allowed to perform the marriage ceremony and have it registered, until 1766 when, the General Assembly passed legislation allowing "Presbyterian, or Dissenting Clergy who had performed marriages prior to Jan 1, 1767, to be valid.
And they allowed Prebyterian ministers but, not those of 'other' denominations to perform marriages after that date. (in other words they were legalizing the marriages done before, but don't do it again. (except for Presbyterian and Anglican ministers.)

1770 - The General Assembly tightened the laws again, and said all marriages had to be signed by the Governor.
1776- The INDEPENDENT State of North Carolina passed by ordinance, that "all regular ministers of the gospel of every denomination" (who had been appointed of the congregation) was allowed to perform the ceremony.
1778 - The Ordinance became Law. And, gave the Quakers the right to retain "their former Rules and Privileges in Solmenizing the Rites of Matrimony in their own Church"
During this time there were some marriage 'licenses' issued by J.P. and certain Ministers of God. So, the couples did not follow the "3 consecutive Sundays" marriage banns.

1868 - The Marriage Bonds were discontinued and only Marriage Licenses were required to be applied for:


In the days when we didn't even have the 1850 census  index, to go by, genealogy was done by reading each years census county by county and very few libraries even HAD the 1860 census or later.  (oh well, now you know what an old hag I am)
So, when I hear 'kids' griping about having to read census or not having an index, I get snippy!!

Nothing can be as frustrating as trying to read census pages, done by illiterate and unorganized enumerators (I'm being nice here and not calling them some of the 'names' that I have applied at times)  :- o

PLEASE be aware that sometimes, the enumerator dropped his sheets and scrambled them. So, that the pages are NOT IN ORDER . 

ALWAYS look for any possible spelling of your surname. I had a man tell me one time that there was only two possible spellings of the name "VAUGHAN" - with or without the last 'a'.
He was amazed when I told him that it could be VAUN, VANN,VAWN,  BAUN, BAWN, BAUGHN, BAUGHAN, BANN, FAUN, FAUGHN, etc., etc.....
LOOK at the first letter of the name, then think of every consonant that you could possibly apply as a 'sound alike'.
(This is how the soundex works, in case you didn't know) So, as above, F, B, V and in desperations even P, H  and D. 'could' be mistaken.
In Chatham Co., the simple name of SCOTT is written as SCOOT.  The name DISMUKES is written Disquicks in one census.
The accent and colloquialisms of the area is going to influence the way the name is pronounced and sounds.
In Chatham, the name FEARRINGTON is Fairington - WOMBLE is Wumble, RALEIGH is Rolla,  WOMACK is
Whoa mac.  So, when you say your surname say it with a deep southern drawl and then listen to how it sounds , or say it to someone else.That may be how it is written.
AND, if it SOUNDS the SAME, it IS the SAME!!
(In other parts of NC, Graham is Grayham, Grime/Grimes. Landis- Landess is Landeez.. Foushee is Fushay or Fushee, Farrar is Farrow, Fara, Farr, McIver is McKeever, and on.....)


If a woman became pregnant and had no husband, she was called into court and asked to name the father of the child. If she named the father, then he was called into court and required to post a "bastardy bond", giving security to the county court, that the child would be supported by him, for a certain period of time. He would have to pay the mother for the "laying in" time.  (she would not be able to earn a living during the time of birth and afterwards and many times these young women were indentured servants, so the money would be paid to her 'Master" for the time he would be without her services as his servant. Then, her time would be extended, etc.
If she refused to name the father, (and that happened more than you would think), the woman's family or friends would post bond for the same reason. The county court did not want to have an indigent woman and child to have to feed at county expense.  Often, the child would be bound out as soon as it was weaned. A family would take in it to raise and get a servant at the same time, with very little expenditure on their part.
In the very early days of the colony the woman would be taken to the town square and be whipped and left at the stocks for her to be pelted with rotten fruit, etc., for her sins. And, in many places, the purported father was also fined and made to wear a white or other colored smock, that branded him a 'fornicator'.  I don't think I've ever read where he was whipped, however...

A child that was called an orphan, was usually a child without a father.  Sometimes he had no mother or father, but if he had no father, he/she was always called an 'orphan'. This child would be bound out as an apprentice to learn a trade. They were the lucky ones, there was usually a mother to make sure the child was treated fairly. The ones that had neither were no always treated well. And, the apprenticeship lasted until they were 21, if boys and 18 if girls.

If the child is called and orphan and a guardian was appointed by the court then, the child was an heir to an estate. The court appointed a guardian, if the father (and/or mother had died without a will, which named the guardian)
A guardian was responsible for maintaining the estate of the child (in the case of a slave(s) or land) The guardian had to file a report detailing the amount of monies paid out for services for the child, and monies brought in, as with the renting out of the slaves or land) every year.  When a child became an orphan before the age of 14,  he had no say so in the choice of guardian. At 14 the choice became the child's. The same age limits applied.  

Anyone could indenture themselves for debts owed, etc. but an apprentice was indentured to learn a trade and it was  sometimes 7 years or until they were 21 years of age, if under that age.

A immigrant coming to the colonies would indenture themselves to a Master of a Ship, to pay their way across the ocean. Then, when they reached here, the Ships' Master would sell the indenture to anyone who would pay the cost of their passage, to him. That person paying the passage would receive what is called a "head right". The Crown would give anyone paying a passage to the new world would received 50 acres of land in payment.
This is how most of the colonists came to the new world.  After the indenture, of 7 years then the passenger was free and he was eligible for 50 acres, too.