This week we will briefly look at two other marriage indicators, applications and licenses.
Marriage licenses came into being in the middle of the Middle Ages in England. It was basically a contract between two families. Remember that early on, arranged marriages were the rule rather than the exception, thus goods or services were often a part of that contract. Political alliances, financial security or social acceptance were the goals.
The colonial Brits brought the practice with them to the Americas. The license was usually issued by a church and after the ceremony was performed it may or may not have also been registered with the local civil authorities.
Gradually, civil licenses began to replace bonds in the mid-1800s. The town or county clerk served as the issuer. I can only imagine the government saw this as a huge win. After all, the state only made money on a bond if the ceremony could not be performed. It could now collect a fee every time a couple wanted to get married. An added bonus: it was also another way for vital statistics to be gathered.
In addition to the names, licenses usually contained the couple’s ages and where they lived. As time passed, occupations, birthplaces and the names of the parents were added. A boon of genealogical information!
Regarding marriage license applications, they are a more modern animal, coming to rise in the 1900s. Much information, often more than that which is on the license, is contained in the application.