Document Detective: Understanding Marriage Bonds

Document Detective: Understanding Marriage Bonds

Marriage bonds are separate documents from marriage licenses, and can contain new clues to use in researching your ancestors. Here's what to look for.

marriage bonds

1. Bonds vs. licenses

A man would file a marriage bond to legally affirm his intention to marry a particular woman and confirm there was no legal impediment to the marriage. Don’t confuse it with a marriage license, or with a marriage contract the parties might have agreed to.

2. Naming a location

Caswell County, NC, where this bond was filed in court, is where the marriage is planned to occur. Use this place to launch your search for all the people named in censuses and other records.

3. Those named

The document names the bond applicant, the groom and others committing themselves to the bond. Cosigners often are relatives, as suggested by the common last name of these men. Seek other records that may connect them.

4. A fine for not marrying

This bond obligates the prospective groom and any cosigners to pay a $1,000 fine to the state if the marriage doesn’t occur for some legal reason (such as the groom or bride is already married).

5. Differing dates

The dates of the bond and marriage are usually different. This bond is dated Jan. 21, 1867 (the marriage license was issued at the same time). The marriage took place on Jan. 25. Enter the bond and ceremony dates as separate events in your family tree.

6. Research the clues

Research the names of any witnesses for possible connections.



Uncover your ancestors in all kinds of genealogy records using the tips in this Document Detective e-book. This guide will teach you how to use census records, birth records, draft registrations, and more.

Who Should Get This eBook

You’ll love the Document Detective eBook if…

  • You want to learn more about the records you’ve found in your research
  • Your research has ground to a halt and you need to find new record sources
  • You’re new to genealogy and want to know what kinds of records are available

What’s Inside

The Document Detective eBook features:

  • Tips for finding and decrypting more than 20 kinds of genealogy records
  • Annotated sample records to show you how to find information in genealogy resources
  • Brief summaries of types of records, including how and why the records were created, what they recorded and how they can help your research

Excerpt: Sample Tips

Here are some tips you’ll find in the Document Detective eBook:

  1. View the original record. When possible, request copies of original documents, as those who create record transcriptions (whether human or computer) can make mistakes and throw off your research.
  2. Use records in conjunction with each other. The details you find in one kind of record may open research doors to other kinds of records, such as a WWI draft registration card that lists a spouse’s name and leads you to a marriage certificate, which could in turn gives you information about the bride’s and groom’s parents that you need to find birth records.
  3. Read records carefully. Make sure you read all the information contained in a record, as each detail (now matter how minor) can clue you into a different aspect of your ancestor’s life.

Download yours today!

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