Consent in a Virginia Marriage Bond

Under what circumstances would a woman give consent to her own marriage in Virginia in 1821?

Mozingo-Smith 1821 Virginia Marriage Bond

We are all familiar with the concept of “consent“. The law states who is legally able to give consent in a variety of circumstances, age and mental capacity being two that come to mind. Another party who meets the legal criteria is required to stand in and give consent on behalf of someone who is underage, for example, and legally incapable of giving consent. What one typically finds in marriage records in particular is a parent or guardian giving consent for their underage child or charge to marry. That is not what we have with this 1821 marriage bond from Westmoreland County, Virginia, quoted in its entirety below.1

  “Know all men by these presents that we Newton Mozingo & William Johnson are held and firmly bound unto Thomas M Randolph Govener of Virginia and to his successors in office, in the just sum of $150..~ which payment will truly to be maid, we bind our selves and each of us, our Heirs, Exrs & Admers. Jointly & Severally firmly by these presents Sealed with our seals & dated this 22nd day of August 1821.

The condition of the above obligation is such that whereas a marriage is soon intended to be solemnized between the above bound Newton Mozingo & Elizabeth Smith. Now if there be no legal impediment to the said marriage taking effect then this obligation to be void otherwise to remain in full force and virtue. Witness our hands and seals the day and year written.”

harvey-mozingo-johnson-marks

Here is the part that I find odd. On a separate slip of paper filmed with the original bond is the consent – but not consent given by a parent or guardian. Consent, in this case, was given by the same woman who later was party to the marriage. Why?

elizabeth-smith-marriage-bond-consent-1821The above reads: “this is to testafy that I have give Mr Newton Mersingo leave to get out Lisens to be married to me Elizabeth Smith” 2
x
[her mark]

This consent statement has me puzzled. It is unlike any I have come across in a marriage bond in decades of doing research. I have raised the issue previously among my colleagues without getting a satisfactory answer. I have looked at the law for the time and place, and have found no reference to a woman consenting to her own marriage. Virginia marriage laws at the time dictated that:

» all parties to a marriage be 21 and over
» if either person was under 21, then consent of a parent (typically a father) or guardian was required
» a marriage license could only be procured upon “thrice publication of banns” or posting of a bond in the bride’s county of residence
» servants were unable to marry without consent of masters or owners
» a free person was unable to marry a servant, unless there was a certificate of consent from the master or owner3

While the law does not appear to directly address this situation, what is certain is that this is not an isolated example. I have examined other marriage bonds from the same county in Virginia, and in some cases, they too contain this same type of attestation. Perhaps it is a case of an overly-cautious court official going above and beyond the strictures of the law.

This question of consent is one of the issues I hope to raise in class next week at the 2017 Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG). I am excited to have a week-long opportunity to learn from Barbara Vines Little, C.G., the highly regarded Virginia expert who is the coordinator and instructor for Virginia from the Colonial Period to the Civil War.

Sources:
1 Westmoreland County (Virginia). Clerk of the County Court, “Marriage bonds, licenses and ministers’ returns, 1772-1901”, Newton Mozingo-Elizabeth Smith Marriage Bond, no. 21-38 (1821), digital image, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-89ZG-H3XX?mode=g : accessed 16 Jan 2017), image 411, imaged from FHL microfilm 007,490,279.
2 Westmoreland County (Virginia). Clerk of the County Court, “Marriage bonds, licenses and ministers’ returns, 1772-1901”, Elizabeth Smith consent, no. 21-38a (1821), digital image, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-89ZG-H3XX?mode=g : accessed 16 Jan 2017), image 411, imaged from FHL microfilm 007,490,279.
3  William Waller Hening, The Statutes at Large: Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia from the First Session of the Legislature in the Year 1619, vol. 6 (Richmond: W. W. Gray, Printer, 1819), 81, chap. XXXII, “An act concerning Marriages.” October 1748—22nd George II”; HTML edition, Freddie L. Spradlin, transcriber, “Hening’s Statutes at Large,”  VAGenWeb (http://vagenweb.org/hening/vol06-04.htm#page_81 : accessed 16 Jan 2017).

New Jersey Digital Newspaper Project

In this installment of Web Sightings, we take a look at the New Jersey Digital Newspaper Project, one of the latest states to be brought into the fold of the larger National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP).

loc-ca-no-new-jersey-newspapers
There are no New Jersey digital newspapers included in the Chronicling America portal for the Library of Congress. That situation is about to change with the recent announcement.

I am excited to learn and share with you that New Jersey has been included in the latest round of National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant winners as part of the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP).1 New Jersey is one of the states that I spend much of my time researching online, and the Chronicling America project of the Library of Congress is a topic that I have lectured on and written about in the past, on this blog and elsewhere, so this is a welcome announcement indeed.

According to the Rutgers University blog the New Jersey Digital Newspaper Project is a joint collaboration with Rutgers University and the New Jersey State Library, along with the New Jersey State Archives in Trenton, three big holders of historical collections in the Garden State.

nj-digital-newspaper-project

The $186,204 grant will allow for the inclusion of at least 100,000 digitized pages from New Jersey’s historic newspapers published between 1836-1922.2 The advisory board is already hard at work determining which of the 450 available microfilmed newspaper titles meet the criteria for inclusion.3 That list has now apparently been winnowed down to 29 titles.4 I sure hope the early Trenton newspapers make the cut, and that the Hightstown Gazette is among the selections as well.

Students, educators, historians and genealogists alike will benefit from their efforts. When complete, free access to the New Jersey content will be through the Chronicling America website, which will augment the 11.5 million plus pages already available online.

In addition to New Jersey, other new states added to the mix in 2016 are Alaska, Colorado and Maine, bringing the total number of project partners to 44.

States not yet represented are: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Wyoming. The long-term goal is for all states and U.S. territories to be represented, in roughly 30 million total page views.5

Sources:
1 “2016 NDNP Awards Announced – Alaska, Colorado, Maine and New Jersey Join the Program,” Program News, posted 17 Aug 2016, National Digital Newspaper Program (http://www.loc.gov/ndnp/news/ : accessed 28 Dec 2016).
2 “Rutgers University Libraries Receives Grant to Digitize Important Historical New Jersey Newspapers,” Press Release posted 18 Aug 2016, New Jersey Digital Newspaper Project (https://blogs.libraries.rutgers.edu/njdnp/2016/08/18/njdnp-press-release/ : accessed 28 Dec 2016).
3 “Advisory Board and Newspaper Selection,” posted 21 Sep 2016, New Jersey Digital Newspaper Project (https://blogs.libraries.rutgers.edu/njdnp/2016/09/21/advisory-board-and-newspaper-selection/ : accessed 08 Jan 2017).
4 “Project Update: December 1, 2016,” posted 1 Dec 2016, New Jersey Digital Newspaper Project (https://blogs.libraries.rutgers.edu/njdnp/2016/12/01/project-update-december-1-2016/: accessed 08 Jan 2017).
5 Barbara Quint, “Chronicling America Service Offers Comprehensive Directory of U.S. Newspapers,” posted 26 Mar 2007, Information Today (http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/NewsBreaks/Chronicling-America-Service-Offers-Comprehensive-Directory-of-US-Newspapers-35756.asp : accessed 08 Jan 2017).

Census Comparison Worksheet

It has been some time since I posted about the Charles and Caroline Carson family of New Jersey. I needed to remind myself where I left off with respect to the census information I had collected thus far. I needed a form to see my census data at a glance. With only a bit of searching on Pinterest, I found a promising census comparison worksheet, posted by Jenny Lanctot who writes the “Are My Roots Showing?” genealogy blog.

census comparison worksheet from Jenny Lanctot, found on Pinterest

Jenny has graciously made her census comparison worksheet available for download at this link. Thank you, Jenny. I like this form, in that there is room to record information from up to five different census enumerations for one couple and up to fourteen of their children. It is similar to the way I have previously laid out census extractions in a table in Microsoft Word, but with more columns. More columns equals more data points for correlation, which is a very good thing when you are writing up your research with accepted genealogical standards in mind.

I downloaded her form and began doing the data entry in short order. It did not take me long to realize that I actually wanted to see a bit more detail than the form allowed for, so I began tweaking it just a bit. In the column on the left where the couple’s marriage information is recorded, I added a row to record the marriage officiant by name and role. I added an additional row below Twp. (for Township) to note a smaller jurisdiction, abbreviated as P.O. (for Post Office), since that level of detail is included on some census enumerations. Finally, on the main tab, I also added a row for the street address when known, as this is important for tracking our urban ancestors.

completed census comparison worksheet for the Carson family, 1850-1900The main table in my census comparison worksheet allows me to visualize 50 years of census data at a glance for one nuclear family (in this case, Charles and Caroline Carson of New Jersey). I have hidden the ribbon (using CTRL+F1 in Excel 2010) and the rows near the bottom for more siblings to make the completed worksheet easier to see in this screenshot.

In my example, I chose to only include United States Federal census information, but you could just as easily create a table that includes state census enumerations or non-population schedules such as agriculture or manufacturing. I also chose to input ages, birthplaces and occupations to improve the ability to compare across census years.

The biggest change I made was to include additional tabs in my workbook, one for each census year extracted on the main page of the form. I renamed each tab to correspond with the year, then I attached an image of the actual census page that I had previously downloaded. Lastly, I included a carefully crafted source citation so that I can simply copy and paste it into other documents or blog posts when needed.

census comparison worksheet with census image and citationI added more tabs in my workbook to include an image of the census page and a source citation, one tab for every census year on the main table. This image from the 1870 Federal census shows Caroline Carson living with an unidentified male named Lewis Rainier in Mercer County, New Jersey. We have yet to learn what relationship the two shared.

This is a time-consuming process, and one that I am unlikely to do for every family that I am researching, as I normally would simply extract the relevant census information into a note linked to a census “event” in my RootsMagic database. But, for those families that present brick wall problems, or for those families that I am writing about, it is a useful endeavor. If you have a genealogical problem you have worked on for years without a resolution, then I would recommend compiling your data in a format that allows you to visualize and correlate information differently, such as a census worksheet, a timeline or mind map.