[APG Public List] Need help interpreting 1893 Minnesota marriage license

Ray Beere Johnson II raybeere at yahoo.com
Sun Mar 6 20:19:16 MST 2011

     My thoughts are as follows: first, a parental _oath_ is _not_ the same thing as parental _permission_. An oath means that you are swearing to a fact (in this case, that there are no legal impediments to the marriage), rather than granting permission for something.
     For that reason, before I reached the end of your message, I'd independently arrived at the conclusion you suggest as possibility #2 - that they gave his age as twenty-one despite knowing this was the wrong age. The fact that the clerk mentions their oath suggests to me that there was at least some doubt about his age, in the mind of the clerk or of someone else. I then considered the possible reasons _why_ they might have given an incorrect age, rather than just granting their permission for him to marry.
     _Keep in mind that I know nothing of the laws in Minnesota at this time. The details of those laws might lend more or less weight to various of my speculations._
     1: It is possible, either that Minnesota law did not allow at this time for men to marry at an age younger than twenty-one, even with parental permission - or, more likely, that in such a case, there was either a required waiting period or legal formalities that would have rendered this option unsuitable under the circumstances you describe. Thus, the family felt their only choice was to state that he was twenty-one.
     2: Even if parental permission might have otherwise been an option, it is possible that the bride's family would have - or the groom's family believed they would have - objected to her marrying a man younger than twenty-one. Or, since the groom was legally underage, there might have been liability issues; his parents might have been considered legally liable for the couple's support if they granted permission for him to marry. So these factors might have influenced the decision.
     3: Although I've never personally run across this, I _have_ seen other odd provisions in the law, and I wonder if perhaps, in Minnesota, the legal form for parents granting permission for an underage child to marry might have been for them to formally acknowledge him as twenty-one - not as a statement of actual age, but as a formal acknowledgment that they were releasing any claims over that child and recognising them legally as an adult. I listed this third because it doesn't seem the most likely choice - but I have seen other legal rituals as odd in their own way as this one, so it seemed like a slight possibility. (Note: I also phrased this badly: I'm just trying to get across the idea of what I mean, not to guess at the precise legal fiction that might have been employed.)
     4: Although the clerk's possible suspicion of the groom's true age would argue otherwise (surely, in such a situation, the clerk would explain the law to them), I've also learned to never underestimate the power of human ignorance. Even if the law would have permitted the parents to grant permission for their son to marry, they may have remained ignorant of this fact and believed the action they took was the only possible one which would allow the marriage to take place. I don't think this is very likely at all - but we do sometimes forget that some situations came about for no other reason than the total ignorance of those involved as to whatever other options they may have had.
     Researching the relevant laws effective in Minnesota at that time would help to establish, or eliminate, any of my first three suggestions. Of course, if they acted as they did simply because they didn't know any better, only a family letter or diary stating as much could ever prove this was the case.
     If you ever figure out the actual reason for this, I'd be curious to know the answer, if you don't mind sharing.
                                     Ray Beere Johnson II

--- On Sun, 3/6/11, Linda Johnson <lindajohnsongenealogy at yahoo.com> wrote:

> I've seen several marriage records from various times and places in 
> which the parent of an underage bride or groom gave permission for 
> his/her child to marry. Those records generally said, very simply, that 
> the child was under the legal age to marry but the parent granted 
> his/her permission. That being the case, I'm not sure how to interpret 
> this one:  
> The groom in a Minnesota marriage was nineteen when he filed an 
> application in 1893, at which time legal age for males to marry was 
> twenty-one. The groom declared on oath in the application that he was 
> "of the full age of twenty-one years." Numerous other records show him 
> and his parents to have been very consistent in stating his birth date 
> and place, so I don't believe this is a case of ignorance or 
> confusion. The license section, filled in by an assistant clerk, states 
> that the license to marry is granted, [his] "being satisfied by the 
> statement of said [groom's name] and parents on oath, [blank lines with 
> nothing written on them] that there is no legal impediment thereto." I 
> would have expected either that there would be no parental oath on the
> marriage record of a groom who was of legal age or that, with a 
> parental oath, his age would have been stated correctly (under 
> twenty-one years).
> Questions:
> 1. Does the fact that the parents' oath was apparently
> required indicate that the clerk (in a small community) knew
> the groom was not of legal age?
> 2. Does the record imply that the groom's parents, as well
> as their son, lied about his age in order for him to marry?
> (The bride was already pregnant, so there was some urgency
> for the couple to marry before the birth of their child.) 
> Thank you for any insights you may have.


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