Banns vs. bonds

Genealogy in Time Magazine is back after a summer break. They started the fall season with a summary of new genealogy record sets.

Sandwiched within the announcements was an explanation about English marriage banns and bonds:

For those who are not familiar with marriage bonds in England, they were a financial guarantee give by an intended groom and an associated bondsman to the local archdeacon, bishop or archbishop. The financial guarantee provided assurance by the groom that there were to legal or moral reasons why a couple should not marry. To ensure the groom was telling the truth, if the marriage was not consummated, the financial guarantee was forfeited to the Anglican Church.

In England, a marriage bond served much the same function as a marriage bann. A significant difference, however, was that a marriage bann required a notice to be posted in a church for at least three consecutive weeks announcing the pending marriage. This was a necessary condition before the couple could get married. The church notice allowed the local community an opportunity to provide legal or moral objections to the marriage.

The most common reasons why a marriage might not proceed included the bride or groom changing their mind, the possibility that one of them was already married (in a world before strong record keeping, people tried this more often than you might think), either the bride or groom was underage or the risk that the two were more closely related than allowed by law, which could happen in a small village (and which sometimes even the bride and groom did not know).

In England, labourers tended to get married by marriage bann, whereas those who had more money, or were in a hurry (perhaps the bride was pregnant), would often instead take the financial risk and get a marriage bond.

Marriage bonds are interesting for genealogists because they can provide useful information not typically found on a marriage record. For example, the person listed as the bondsman (the person who provided the financial guarantee) was often a brother, an uncle or other relative or close friend of the bride.

To read more from the September 2017 Genealogy in Time, click here:

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