This North Carolina collection includes marriage bonds, licenses, certificates, and registers, as well as indexes and abstracts to the various records from 87 North Carolina counties. (See the browse for included counties and record types.) Of special interest to African American researchers are records of cohabitation, which were required to be recorded in 1866 in order for the marriages of recently emancipated slaves to be legally recognized.
Details included on the records will vary depending on the record type, location, and time period, but you may find information like:
- groom’s name
- bride's name
- bride and groom’s current ages, or age at next birthday
- marriage application date
- marriage date
- marriage county
- places of residence
- places of birth for the bride and groom
- color and nationality
- parents’ names for the bride and groom (including mother’s maiden name)
- location of the marriage
- name of the officiant
- names of witnesses
Historical Background Prior to 1741, marriages were regulated by the Church of England, but in 1741 justices of the peace were empowered to marry couples as well. Banns were required to be read in the bride's parish for three consecutive weeks, or with the groom's payment of a bond, a license could be secured. These restrictions were to ensure there were no legal impediments to the marriage. Legislation in 1868 put the county registers of deeds in charge of granting marriage licenses and the bond requirement.
In 1866, “An Act Concerning Negroes and Persons of Color or of Mixed Blood” made provisions for the legal registration of the marriages of recently emancipated slaves. While the recording of the marriages took place for the most part in 1866, they reference the joining of couples living as man and wife dating back to 1820 and possibly earlier. While these records typically give only the names of the bride and groom, the year, and sometimes the month they began living together as man and wife, they sometimes also include the names of their former owners, making these a powerful genealogical tool for those researching their African American roots.