More Pennsylvania Statute Fun: Where Are They Now?

While granted, most of my Pennsylvania research has been western and central PA (i.e. “newer”), I have done a reasonable amount of research in eastern Pennsylvania. Never once have I seen any governmental document similar to what is required in this statue. I’ve seen Quaker meeting records that contain a marriage certificate like this, and of course, Penn being a Quaker, it’s no mystery where this law’s origin lies. However, have any of you EVER seen a marriage record like this recorded at the county level as this statute states it should have been? Are there any collections of these loose anywhere? Does anyone actually have a surviving example of a marriage bann that would have been posted to the door? That would be such a cool treasure!


For the preventing of clandestine, loose and unseemly proceedings in marriage within this province and counties annexed:

[Section I.] Be it enacted by the Proprietary and Governor, by and with the advice and consent of the freemen of this Province and Territories in General Assembly met, and by the authority of the same, That all marriages not forbidden by the law of God shall be encouraged; but the parents or guardians shall (if conveniently they can) be first consulted with, and the parties’ clearness of all engagements signified by a certificate from some credible person where they have lived or do live, produced to such religious society to which they relate, or to some justice of the peace of the county in which they live; and by their affixing their intentions of marriage on the court-house or meeting-house doors in each respective county where the parties do reside or dwell, one month before solemnization thereof; the which said publication, before it be so affixed as aforesaid, shall be brought before one or more justices of the peace in the respective counties to which they respectively belong; which justice shall subscribe the said publication, witnessing the time of such declaration and date of the said publication, so to be affixed as aforesaid. And that all marriages shall be solemnized by taking each other for husband and wife before twelve sufficient witnesses; and the certificate of their marriage, under the hands of the parties; and witnesses at least twelve, and one of them a justice of the peace, shall be brought to the register of the county where they are married, and registered in his office.1


I’ve only followed this law as far forward as 1730, but the additions don’t seem to change the recording requirements other than to add a residency restriction. I’m not sure when the law was actually changed, but you’d think at least a few of these records would exist somewhere if the law were required for 30+ years. Interestingly, the 1730 revision also reflects the relative religious freedom that Pennsylvania embraced at that time:

“and also that no person or persons, of what character or degree soever he be, presume to publish the banns of matrimony or intentions of marriage between any person or persons in any church, chapel or other place of worship within this province unless one of the parties at least live in the town, county or city where such publication
shall be made”2

The floor is now open. Impress us with your cool certificates!

  1. Pennsylvania, Statutes at Large of Pennsylvania From 1682 to 1801, Volume II 1700 to 1712 ([no city stated]: Clarence M. Busch, State Printer, 1896), 161; digital images, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Legislative Reference Bureau, Pennsylvania Session Laws, accessed 6 Mar 2012). []
  2. Pennsylvania, Statutes at Large of Pennsylvania From 1682 to 1801, Volume IV 1724 to 1744 ([no city stated]: Clarence M. Busch, State Printer, 1897), 153; digital images, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Legislative Reference Bureau, Pennsylvania Session Laws, accessed 6 Mar 2012). []
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2 Responses to More Pennsylvania Statute Fun: Where Are They Now?

  1. Where are those records now… and why didn’t the states where MY ancestors lived have a law like that???????

  2. avatar Chris Staats says:

    I know, right? I’ve never seen anything like this recorded, though – even in register form. (Other than the aforementioned Quaker marriage certificates, which DO contain all those witnesses. However that is in meeting minutes, not a civil recording as this appears to require).
    I love the whole idea of tacking a notice to the meeting house, church, or courthouse door. It’s sooo made-for-TV! Can’t you just picture the scene where the giddy young couple bounce up the steps, nail it to the door, then bound happily away – their first steps in their lifelong commitment? If only the next step was to take that announcement back down and save it somewhere it would last for 300 years 🙂