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The Freedmen's Bureau Online

Records of the Assistant Commissioner for the State of South Carolina
Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865 - 1870
National Archives Publication M869 Roll 44
"Other Records"

General Order No. 14
Hd. Qrs. Asst. Commissioner
Bureau R. F. & A. L. South Carolina
Charleston, 1866

Marriage Rules

Section 1

Parties Eligible to Marriage

  1. All male persons of the age of eighteen and having never been married; and all females of the age of fourteen or sixteen, and having never been married, shall be eligible to marriage.
  2. All persons having been married, who shall furnish satisfactory evidence of either the marriage or divorce, or death of all former companions, will be eligible to marriage again.
  3. All married persons producing satisfactory evidence of separation from their companions against their wishes, and for cases not under their control for a period of two years, and that they have no evidence that they are alive; or if alive, that they will ever forcibly be restored to them, may marry again.

Section 2
Authorized to Grant Permits for Marriages

  1. Ordained ministers of the Gospel are authorized to give permits of marriage.
  2. Any un-ordained preacher of the Gospel with two male members of his church, whom he may select, or, if he forfeit, two such male members as his church may appoint shall constitute a committee authorized to grant permits for marriage, provided in all cases, satisfactory evidence be furnished.

First - that the parties are both of lawful age and that neither has never been married.

Second - that if either, or both have been married, that such party has complied with the conditions of Section 1, rules 2 & 3.

Magistrates and any other persons authorized by the State to grant permits of marriage, or to solemnize the same are requested to conform their action, so far as may be practicable, to the rules herein adopted.

Marriages to be legal must be solemnized by:

First. Ordained ministers of the Gospel, or

Second. Such Civil Magistrates as are authorized by the laws of the State.

Section 3
for Dissolving Marriage Agreements

  1. A Commission for dissolving marriage agreements may be formed as follows: The parties desiring a separation shall first jointly choose a minister of some church, who shall act as chairman. Each party shall then select a man to serve with him, and these three persons so chosen shall constitute the commission.
  2. If only one party sue for a separation, the other party being absent, or if present, refusing to take any action in the appointment of the commission, then the party suing shall select the minister as before provided, and action shall also choose a man to act with him. The minister thus chosen shall select a third man to constitute the commission. The said applicant shall in all cases furnish to the commission evidence of notification of the proceeding to the other party when present, or if absent, that reasonable effort has been made to notify such party of the proceedings in the case.
  3. The Commission may at the request of either party, or of any one of its own members, select two other persons to serve in the Commission.
  4. The Commission after hearing the complaints & evidence offered by the party or parties complaining shall give its decision, which shall be accepted as final, and the parties shall be required to comply therewith.
  5. It is further provided that any church having provisions, rules and regulations of its own adoption for dissolving marriage agreements may be applied to, by any parties, and the decision of the church, in all such cases shall be accepted and complied with by the parties.

Section 4
for Dissolving Marriage Agreements

  1. For adultery or for fornication proven against either party.
  2. If after a willful and protracted absence a former wife refuses, upon application made by the husband, to renew her marriage relations with him, he may ask for a release from said wife, by a Commission which shall be formed as provided for in Section 3, Rule 2. If after due notice given by the Commission to the wife so refusing, she fail to show any moral or legal objection as provided for in these regulations to the renewal of her former marriage relations with him; the Commission shall grant to the man a release from all his obligations to her as his wife, and for the support of all her children by him.
  3. If a man refuses to renew his marriage relations with a former wife, she may appeal to a Commission, which shall be formed as provided for in Section 3, Rule 2. If the husband fail to prove any moral or legal objection to the renewal of their marriage relations, then the Commission shall grant her a release from all her obligation to him as her husband.
  4. The Commission shall be further authorized to give such direction for the custody and support of any children of parties so separated as under the particular circumstances may seem proper.
  5. No future marriages, duly solemnized, may be dissolved by the provisions of these rules except for either adultery or fornication clearly proven. It being understood in all cases, that the party proved guilty of adultery or fornication (either of these crimes) for which the divorce shall have been granted, shall not be eligible to marriage again.

Section 5
Marriages and Re-Unions

  1. The marriage of all parties being together as husband and wife at the time of obtaining their freedom, or solemnized since obtaining it, will be acknowledged as legal and binding.
  2. All parties whose marriage was only a mutual agreement between themselves, with no public form of ceremony, are required to have their marriage confirmed by a Minister or Magistrate, and obtain a certificate of the same.
  3. No parties having agreed to enter the marriage relation will be allowed to live together as husband and wife until their marriage has been legally solemnized.
  4. All parties claiming to have been married but separated by the War or other causes and having no certificate of their marriage must obtain from some ordained Minister or Magistrate a permit for their reunion before they will be allowed to live together as husband and wife.

Duties of Husbands to Former Wifes

  1. A wife when restored by freedom to her husband, if he be living with another, shall be received by him as his lawful wife except for moral causes as provided in Section 4, Rule 1.
  2. If a man living without a wife find two wives restored to him by freedom, the one having children by him and the other not, he shall take the mother of his children as his lawful wife unless he show cause as provided in Section 4, Rule 1.
  3. If a man living without a wife shall refuse to renew the marriage relation with a former wife restored by freedom who may desire such renewal, there being no moral or legal objection to the same proven by him, he shall be held responsible for the support of such wife and also of all his children by her so long as they remain minor.
  4. The man failing for want of cause proven to obtain a release from renewing his marriage relations with a former wife, will be allowed to marry another woman so long as such wife may live, or until for just cause, she shall have married another.
  5. Every man marrying a woman having children shall be responsible for their protection and support so long as they are minors, or until their marriage provided they have no other means of support.

Section 6
of Marriage and Separation

  1. Ministers shall furnish each couple married by them with a certificate giving the name, age and residence of each party, with the date of the marriage.
  2. Certificates shall be given to both persons, if present, whose marriage agreement is dissolved. Such certificates shall be signed by the Chairman of the Commission.
  3. There being no provision by the State for recording certificates of marriages dissolved, it is recommend that all Commissions keep an accurate and carefully preserved record of the same.
  4. Ordained ministers are authorized to give certificates to parties married since obtaining their freedom if they have no official evidence of the same, provided such parties furnish satisfactory evidence of their marriage. Returns of all such certificates for public record will be required as in all other cases.
  5. Every Freedman having only one name is required to assume a "title" or family name. It may be the name of any other person. When once assumed, it must always thereafter be used and no other.

Section 7
of Marriages

  1. Ministers will make returns monthly of all marriages solemnized or confirmed by them, to the Tax Collectors of their several Districts as required by the laws of the State.
  2. The party receiving a permit for marriage shall pay therefore fifty cents. For a certificate of marriage one dollar. Each party receiving a certificate of separation shall pay one dollar.