Bound for Life (or To a Wife)

They wanted to marry, but first there was the bond to be taken care of.

Until a few weeks ago, I had thought that a marriage bond was a guarantee that the groom was not going to cop-out on his promise to marry the bride. But I was badly mistaken. I participated in a webinar entitled “The Ties That Bond” sponsored by Legacy Family Tree presented by the Legal Genealogist, Judy G. Russell, in which she set my thinking straight on this matter.

In 1804 in Kentucky, a marriage bond was required to guarantee that there was no legal reason that the marriage could or should not take place. No money was actually paid at the time the bond was posted, but the money would be required if a reason was discovered later.  If the marriage never took place, the bond was not paid.  And the bond was no guarantee that the intended marriage ever happened.

On this day, 21 March, in 1804, Joseph Abram [sic] and Thomas Abram bound themselves for fifty pounds to the governor of Kentucky for the marriage of Joseph Arams [sic] and Betsey Persefield, both of Madison County. Thomas Abrams signed his name to the bond, but Joseph made his mark, and the clerk wrote his name as Jesse [sic] Abrams.[1]


Especially disconcerting is the word “Paid” which appears on the reverse side of the document – almost as disconcerting as the different variations of one name (Joseph Abrams) in a single document.

Joseph Abrams and Elizabeth (Betsey) Persefield were my paternal 4x great-grandparents. Although married in Kentucky, the couple later moved to Ohio where many of their descendants were raised and lived.

[1] Madison County, Kentucky, Marriage Bonds 1804-1806, File 5, Joseph Arams [Abrams] – Betsey Persefield, 21 March 1804; digital images,, “Kentucky, County Marriages, 1797-1954,” ( : accessed 20 March 2014).

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