The Genealogical Association of Nova Scotia has compiled an index to marriage bonds. The purpose of this page is to briefly discuss the purpose of the bonds and indicate what information can be found in them.

Before the start of civic registration of marriages in 1864, persons wanting to get married had two alternatives: Bond or Banns. Most people were married by banns, and therefore will not appear in these records.

Banns worked if someone was marrying within the local community. Both parties were a part of the same parish, everyone knew them not to be already married, and so after announcing it for three weeks in a row, they could get married. This is the way most marriages were performed.

It was necessary to be married by bond if one or both parties were not known in the community, or they did not want to wait the three weeks. The bond provided "evidence" that there was no impediment to marriage between the parties (such as a prior marriage), and so a minister who did not know those who were to be married could perform the ceremony immediately.

This often occurred when there were no local religious services available (as in isolated communities), and the couple wanted get married immediately in a church away from their rural homes. The PANS finding aid [GRD Series 1253] indicates that bonds "were provided in bulk to local officials to issue upon recipt of the appropriate application [fee]". Nevertheless, it appears that that residents of Halifax and Lunenburg Counties are disporportionately represented among users of marriage bonds. Because many of those persons anxious for a quick marriage did not wait for more than a few hours or a day (for whatever reason), many of the marriages under bond did take place in Halifax Churches, and can be compared with Terry Punch's book Religious Marriages in Halifax 1768-1841 From Original Sources.

A couple may have also chosen to be married under bond because there was also considered to be some sort of prestige to be married this way. So, if the family being researched considered itself to be at the upper ends of society, usually urban, a marriage bond may be found.

There are some important points to note, however. First, the bond was furnished in application for a marriage and is not a record of the marriage. It is therefore possible that bonds exist for marriages that were never performed. Second, it is important to remember that date of a marriage bond should not be confused with the date of marriage. Usually they differ by at least a few days, and sometimes several months (though at least one bond has been found that was given after the marriage had already been performed.)

Third, the marriage bond does not identify the parties' parents or give their ages. The place of residence and, for the groom, occupation, is usually given. Finally, the bond was much like the present day marriage license -- take it anywhere and any minister could marry the couple. Therefore, there is usually no place/church indicated on the bonds. Sometimes the bond was directed to a particular minister, by name. If one happens to know where he worked at the time, one has a clue as to where to look for the church marriage record.

In the absence of their being any general index to religious marriages outside of Halifax for the period covered (and the general absence of records for many other areas), this index is the best chance of finding someone in a hurry. For the one surname researcher, it quickly become redundant, but for the person with broader interests in Nova Scotian genealogy, it is a very valuable tool.

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Last Modified: September 20, 1997