Georgia Marriage Laws
Under laws originally enacted in 1799, and still in effect in 1845, marriage could be either by marriage license or publication of banns. However, return of the license to the clerk of the court of the ordinary by the officiant wasn’t required until the law changed in December, 1805, which probably explains why there are no recorded marriages in Jackson County before that date. Also, beginning in December 1805, the clerk was entitled to a fee of twenty-five cents, collected at the time the license was issued.
Although the law specifically provided for banns, there was no statutory provision for registration of marriages resulting from this process. In 1863, however, the law changed to require the officiant at such a marriage to certify it to the Ordinary, who was then to record it with the other marriages.
A marriage could be performed by a judge, justice of the inferior court, justice of the peace, or minister of the gospel as long as the parties were of legal age and “authorized by the levitical degrees.” The latter phrase is a reference to Leviticus 18 and its prohibition of incest.
“Of legal age” wasn’t explicitly defined in the 1845 codification. The 1867 Code provided that females at least 14 years old and males at least 17 years old could marry. However, the marriage of a female under 18 required the consent of her parent or legal guardian.
Georgia law also provided that the laws as they existed on 14 May 1776, including the provisions of English common law, applied just as if enacted by the legislature, unless contradicted by subsequent legislation. Presumably this validated the practice of common law marriage, which was recognized in Georgia until 1 Jan 1997. Note that while a common law marriage can no longer be created in Georgia, the state will recognize the validity of such a marriage if validly entered into in another jurisdiction, i.e. a state that still permits such marriages.
A codification of the statute law of Georgia: including the English statutes of force: in four parts. To which is prefixed, a collection of state papers, of English, American, and state origin; together with an appendix, and index
Compiled by William A. Hotchkiss
Publisher: J.M. Cooper, 1845
The Code of the State of Georgia
Authors Richard H. Clark, Thomas Read Rootes Cobb, David Irwin
Publisher: Franklin Steam Printing House, 1867
Documenting Marriages in Georgia
Publisher: The Georgia Archives
Note: This is an excellent resource, and provides far more detailed information than I have given here.
Images from microfilm of the original records, located in Georgia’s Virtual Vault. Select Jackson County from the box in the lower left corner of the page