Most of us have heard that relatives could not marry in Kentucky, but we do not know what the law actually said. Here is what the law was in the mid-1850s. The man or woman could not marry a parent, grandparent, sibling, child or grandchild. A man could not marry the wife of his father, grandfather, son or grandson, nor the daughter, granddaughter, mother or grandmother of his wife , nor the daughter or granddaughter of his brother or sister or the sister of his father or mother. A woman could not marry the son, grandson, father or grandfather of her husband, nor the son or grandson of her brother or sister or the brother of her father or mother.
Marriage was prohibited with an idiot or lunatic or between a white person and a Negro or Mulatto, either as a slave or free. Marriage was not permitted with a person not legally divorced with a privilege of remarrying. A marriage was to be solemnized in the presence of a person authorized to do so.
Marriages could be solemnized by ministers of the gospel or priests of any denomination in regular communion with any religious society. Also, judges of the county court and justices of the peace were authorized to perform marriages. No minister or priest could solemnize a marriage until he had obtained a license from the county court of the county where he resided. The person solemnizing the marriage had to return the license to the clerk of county court within three months, with a certificate of the marriage over his signature, giving the date and place of the marriage and the names of 2-3 people present. Failing to make this return was to result in a $60 fine.
No marriage could be solemnized without a license issued by the clerk of the county court. "It shall only issue from the clerk of the county court where the female usually resides, unless she is of full age or a widow, and it is issued on her own application in person or by writing signed by her." Although if a license was issued from a county clerk of another county , where the bride resided, the marriage would not be considered invalid.
Marriage was prohibited when the male was under the age of 14 or the female was under 12 years of age. It either of the party was under 21 years of age and never before married, no license could issue without the consent of his or her father or guardian, or if there was none or he was absent from the state, without the consent of his or her mother, along with the signatures of two witnesses. If the parties were not known to the county clerk, a license could not issue without bond and surety in the penalty of $100, to be given to the commonwealth with condition that there was no lawful cause to obstruct the marriage.
I hope this answers some questions about marriage laws in Kentucky in the mid-1800s.