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From: "Joanne [GenExchange.]" <>
Subject: Historical Account - Explanation Of Marriage Bonds
Date: Wed, 24 May 2000 12:51:56 -0300

WVGenExchange - Historical Account
WVGenExchange -
Explanation Of Marriage Bonds And Minister Returns Taken From The Wooddell
Submitted by: Alison martin-county contact

These Pocahontas county marriage bonds and ministers returns were copied
from the original documents on file at the county courthouse in Marlinton
West Virginia. Records such as these, so assiduously preserved in the county
clerks office, serve as mute testimony to the diligence of the many who have
served as clerk of the county court. A marriage bond was required of each
prospective groom during the thirty one year period immediately following
the formation of Pocahontas County. By pledging his bond to the commonwealth
of Virginia the groom certified that the parties planning to marry were
legally free to do so. A second individual was required to sign a 150 dollar
bond as surety, a role usually filled by he father brother or other relative
of the bride.

Marriages in Virginia were by license or banns since the colony was founded.
Marriage bonds were first required in 1660 when the governor ceased to grant
licenses, this authority having been placed in the hands of local
authorities by an act of that year. Henings statutes vol. 1 page 54 lists
the following enacted in 1661 "that henceforward all persons desiring
licenses for marriage shall first repair to the clerk of the county court
and there give bond with sufficient security that there is no lawful cause
to obstruct their said marriage and that upon receipt of such bond, the
clerk shall write the license and certify to the first in commission for
that county, or such other when it shall please the governor to depute, that
he had taken bond as aforesaid who by virtue thereof shall sign that the
license and direct the same to the minister. And to the end that the legal
grant of the said license may be evident and the governor ascertained of his
just dues. It is further enacted that the said clerk shall yearly in
September court return the names of the parties married and of the
securities to the secretaries office there to be recorded etc. An example of
a bond found in Pocahontas county reads as follows:

Know by all mean these presents that we William F. Ervine and Joshua burner
are held firmly bound unto the commonwealth of Virginia in the sum of one
hundred and fifty dollars to which payment well and truly be made to our
said commmonwealth we bind ourselves our heirs etc. Jointly, and severally
and firmly by these presents, sealed with our seals and dated the 8th day of
October 1849. The condition of the above obligation is such, that whereas
marriage is intended shortly between the above bound William F Ervine and
Mary Jane burner of Pocahontas county: if therefore there is no lawful cause
to obstruct the said marriage, then this obligation be void, else to remain
in full force and virtue. William F Ervine Joshua burner signed sealed and
acknowledged in the presence of W Skeen Many notes of consent are also
filed - some with marriage bonds others in a separate packet. Statutes
required a statement of consent from the father of guardian of a bride and
groom under 21 years of age. Frequently an affidavit was presented to the
clerk attesting to the fact that the bride or groom was over the legal age
of consent thus negating the consent statement.

After the bond requirement was filled, the clerk issued a certificate
authorizing the marriage . An example of this is

To any minister of the gospel or other person legally authorized to
solemnize the rites of matrimony in Pocahontas county. These are to
authorize you to solemnize the rites of matrimony according the forms and
ceremonies of your church between Enoch Burner and Rachel A Tallman of
Pocahontas County and for doing so this shall be your sufficient authority
given under my hand this 16th day of December 1845 h m Moffett clerk

As will be noted a ministers return is not listed for each marriage bond.
This does not mean that the marriage did not take place, but rather in most
instances, the failure of the officiating minister to report the marriage to
the clerk. Some original ministers returns could not be located. These
marriages were copied from the marriage register and indicated by the word
register. The code of 1848 deleted the requirement for marriage bonds but
most counties continued the practice until 1852/`1853. Pocahontas
discontinued the requirement in 1852. If a marriage was in banns is the
intent to marry was published r read in church on three Sundays or holidays
at the time of divine services no license or bond was required and the
officiating minister reported the marriage to the county clerk with the
annotation "by publication". Such marriages are similarly identified in this
volume. Marriage by banns was abolished on march 18 1848. It is of interest
that at that time divorce by the legislature was repealed and placed under
the jurisdiction of the circuit courts.

Ministers certified to the county clerk the marriages they performed. These
written documents or ministers returns ran the gamut from precisely worded
and elaborately scribed letters to mere scraps of paper whose size often did
not exceed one inch by six inches. Not all ministers returns and as a
consequence not all dates in the marriage register reflect the actual date
of the marriage. A standard license format was produced in 1853 and put into
use at that time.

Joanne Abby - National Coordinator
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