Rockbridge County VA
USGenWeb Archives
Marriage Bonds, 1778-1801
What are Marriage Bonds?

Marriage bonds were issued by the courts. A bridegroom signed a bond for a specified amount, usually 50 pounds, later $150.00. He and his surety promised the Governor of Virginia he and the bride were legally entitled to marry the marriage would then be preformed. They were sort of a legal promissory note to ensure the marriage was legal. If the bride or groom were already married, not of legal age, without proper consent, or some other other cause, the marriage would not be legal. The bond ensured that it was.

If there was legal cause to void the marriage, the groom and his surety would have to pay the amount of the bond to the state.

In Virginia, 21 was the legal age. In cases where the bride or groom were under age 21, their parents or guardians had to give consent for them to marry. Many of the marriage bonds within carry consents of the parents. These consents are generally signed by witnesses or relatives.

Often affidavits accompany the marriage bonds. These affidavits are often by a neighbor, a relative, or some other party well acquainted with the bride or groom and serve as proof of their age.

Each and every name in these marriage bonds, consents and affidavits are clues. Use them wisely and relationships can often be determined.

Also note that original signatures are on these documents. You may be able to solve the problem of "names's the same" with these documents. Perhaps there were two John Smiths in the area at the same time. Using the original signatures of the fellows may help to sort them.

Some interesting marriage bonds were found. One in particular is that of Beverly Ligon and Ruth Mathews, a mulatto. The affidavit which accompanies the bond, was given by Robert Saville who states he had been acquainted with Jeff Mathews, deceased, and Rachel Mathews his widow, mulattos, late of Chester County, Pennsylvania, and now of Rockbridge county, for over 20 years. He states they were free persons and not considered, nor suspected to be slaves. Rachel Mathews attached her mark to the consent allowing her daughter to marry Beverly Ligon.