Amanuensis Monday: Marriage Bond for Edward Roberts and Rosy Stewart, 1800

Marriage Bond for Edward Roberts and Rosy Stewart, 1800.
Marriage Bond for Edward Roberts and Rosy Stewart, 25 February 1800, Clark County, Kentucky. (Click to enlarge.)

Roberts Family (Click for Family Tree)

In the early days of our country, communities policed themselves by making the whole group responsible for keeping everyone legal. Marriage, of course, was one of the most important legal events- paternity and inheritance were very much affected by a marriage, thus there were certain rules for a betrothed couple to follow.

Generally, ‘marriage banns’ were read and/or posted at the church or meeting house each week for three successive weeks. By announcing their intention to marry, the couple was open to community scrutiny. Anyone could come forward and declare some legal reason they should not be married. (“Speak now or forever hold your peace.”) These reasons included that the prospective bride, groom, or both, were either:

a) already married to someone else

b) too young to marry, and/or

c) too closely related, such as first cousins

If a couple planned to be married in a place where one or both were not well known, or if the marriage was to take place quickly, they would provide a marriage bond instead of banns. Since our ancestors Edward Roberts and Rosey Stewart lived out on the frontier of our country (Kentucky in 1800), there might not have been a church or minister nearby to read or publish banns. Marriage bonds were also a southern custom, and common in the mid-Atlantic states as well. (The Roberts family may have lived in the mid-Atlantic states prior to Kentucky, but that’s another post.)

The marriage bond would stipulate that if there was later found some legal reason that the couple should not have been married, the bondsman would pay the Governor of the state an agreed-upon sum of money as a penalty. The groom would sign, and the bride would be represented by a male usually of her family, since women had few legal rights. Her representative was the bondsman, and often her father, but could be another male such as a brother, guardian, uncle, family friend, etc., or even (!) her mother if no other male was available.

Contrary to popular belief today, a marriage bond was NOT a guarantee that a marriage would take place. If the couple did not follow through with the marriage, the bond did not have to be paid at all. It would only be paid after the marriage and only if the union was found to have been illegal, such as the bride being underage.

Outer paper of Stewart-Roberts File. Note spelling of names.
Outer paper of Stewart-Roberts File. Note spelling of names. (Click to enlarge.)

It is amazing to be able to see this marriage bond that was written 216 years ago! It was signed on 25 February 1800, and Edward and Rosey were married two days later in Clark County, Kentucky. A Charles Stewart signed the bond to represent Rosey, and many researchers (myself included) have thought that meant he was her father. He might be, but he could also have been the only relative she had in Kentucky at that time. So we do need more research to prove her father.

Following is my transcription of the document. Some of the words are hard to make out, so please let us know if you think there should be some changes to the transcription.

Know all men by these presents
that we Edward Robbards & Chas. Steward are held
and firmly bound unto James Garrard, Esq’r Governor
of this commonwealth & his successors in the sum
of Fifty pounds to which payment well & tru-
ly to be made to the Said Governor & his successors we
bind ourselves our heirs Exers [Executors] & AD’mos (Administrators) jointly Severa-
ly firmly by these presents Sealed and Dated this
25th Day of Feby   1800

The Condition of the above
is such that whereas there is a marriage
Shortly intended to be had & Solemized between
the above bound Edwd Robbards & Rosey
Steward if therefore there be no lawful
cause to obstruct the same then this obligation
to be void else to remain in full force

Sealed & Delivered                          Edward Robbards [seal]
in presents [large mark- X]            Charles Steward [seal]


Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. An ‘amanuensis’ (ə-măn′yo͞o-ĕn′sĭs) is a person who takes dictation or who copies a literary work. It is Latin for “slave at handwriting.” It is also used for someone who transcribes.
  2. Marriage bond from Clark County, Kentucky, possibly county clerk’s office. Received from a cousin many, many years ago.
  3. Dodd, Jordan. Kentucky Marriages, 1802-1850 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 1997., accessed 04/08/2016.
  4. “United States Marriage Records, 3.2 Marriage Bonds”, FamilySearch Wiki, Accessed 04/08/16
  5. “Bonds That Bind: What’s a Marriage Bond – and Why?” by Richard Pence. Accessed 04/08/16.
  6. “The Ties that Bond” by Judy Russell, The Legal Genealogist, Accessed 04/08/16.


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