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Marriage Bonds

Marriage bonds and why they were used.

At a time when communication between different locales was poor, marriage bonds had to be posted for a set period of time before marriage was permitted. This was to help insure that both parties were free to marry---no living spouses in the closet etc. A couple could post a "marriage bond" to guarantee that no such impediment to the marriage existed and go ahead with an immediate marriage. If such an impediment was later found the bond was forfeited. The bond was high because the matter was serious, but there was no cost unless some irregularity was found. - Ray Wilson

A marriage bond was required in those days so that if the husband died or left his wife, she would not be a burden on the county or state. The amount paid for the bond would be used to support her. We no longer have to post such a bond because we have the welfare system. We only pay a small fee for the marriage license. Some states had a higher price than $100 for the bonds. In North Carolina there was a law that a man had to pay a $500 bond for a bastard child (if he got caught and the lady took him to court, that is!) so that the child was taken care of. Bonds also had to be paid by an executor of an estate to assure that he did not mishandle the estate funds.

Sometimes there was several days, months or even one year between the posting of the marriage bond and the actual marriage date. Some bonds show the minister's statement with the date of the marriage at the bottom of the bond and other times the minister would simply make a record in his book which he usually took with him from one church to another, and you will only find the bond in that case unless you can find a record of the "Minister's Returns"--meaning his book with marriages, births, baptism or death. In other cases, the Justice of the Peace or Clerk of the Court would record the marriage date and certify to the marriage, usually at the bottom of the bond. - Veva in VA

"The Source," by Loretta Szucs and Sandra Luebking. This wonderful book answers any question about any subject that the genealogist might have. This is their explanation about marriage bonds:

"Marriage bonds were not required by all colonies or states but have been common in the South. Bonds were posted prior to the issuing of the required marriage license in some states and were the sold documents required in others. Bonds were posted by the groom alone or with a second person, usually the father or the brother of the bride, to defray the costs of litigation in the event the marriage was nullified."

"Bonds were posted in the jurisdiction where the marriage was to take place, often in the bride's home county. These bonds, the only marriage records maintained in some jurisdictions, were usually annotated with the marriage date after the ceremony. It was rare for a marriage not to take place within a few days of the posting of the bond, even though many bonds do not bear the annotation. Although the missing information could mean that the marriage did not take place, more often it reflects poor record keeping or failure of the justice or minister to report the marriage to local officials."

I believe I am correct in saying that money did not actually pass hands. But the bond insures that if the man did not marry the woman, then he had to pay the amount shown on the bond. Once of the reasons this was done was that many couples began to live together after engagement. And if the marriage did not take place, then the woman's reputation could be ruined. So, the bond insured his intention to marry her. - Janice B. Palmer

 

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