When a couple decided to marry and had a previous marriage behind them, it was - and still is - common to sign a marriage contract to protect the assets they brought with them to the new marriage. For example, if a widow owned property inherited from her deceased husband or father, she might wish to designate what would happen to that property in the event of her death. The prospective bridegroom might do the same thing. To make sure their wishes were known, they could sign a marriage contract and have it recorded in the county deed books. The following marriage contract has been transcribed from Union County, Kentucky Deed Book H, pp 227-228. John Randolph and Mrs. Rebecca Thornberry, widow of Daniel Thornberry, married 8 August 1844, according to Union County, Kentucky Marriage Book BB, pp 266 and 354.
Whereas a marriage is shortly to be solemnized between John Randolph and Rebecca Thornberry, both residents of the county of Union & Commonwealth of Kentucky and they are both the owners of property and respecting of which they have mutually come to the following arrangement (to wit) The said Rebecca is the equitable owner of of [sic] a tract of land in the County & Commonwealth aforesaid on the waters of lost creek containing 100 acres for which she holds a title bond on her brother Alexander G. Ray - she is by the last will and Testament of her deceased father John Ray entitled to the undivided third part in another tract of land in the County Commonwealth & water Course aforesaid containing 156 acres and also has cash & cash notes on hand to the amount of $100 also beads [sic] & beding loom and a variety of other articles of personal property the title of which is not to pass & be vested in Randolph by the marriage, but Randolph is to have the use and enjoyment of the personal property during the natural lives of himself and Rebecca and Randolph, for and in consideration of the premises as well as the sum of $1.00, covenants and agrees that Rebecca shall have the sole and absolute right at all times to dispose of said property by last will and Testament as she may think proper and in case the same should not be disposed of that way before her death the same shall descend to the legal heirs of Rebecca in the same way as if she had remained a femme sole and it is further agreed by Randolph that in case Rebecca should be the survivor, Rebecca shall receive one equal eighth part of his whole estate that he has now at this time on hand death of slaves losses and un avoidable accidents excepted she is to have the distributable share of one of Randolphs heirs not calculating any advancements that Randolph has made any of his children and also first deducting the sum of $1000, being the amount of some specific legacies that Randolph intends to dispose of to some colateral heirs acquired property hereafter Rebecca is to receive the one eighth part thereof - and in consideration of the foregoing consideration, Rebecca after receiving back her property before named and the one eighth part, she doth hereby release all claim ... of dower in Randolphs estate if she should be the survivor. 5th day of August 1844. [signed] John Randolph, Rebecca Thornberry