Skip to main content

Dumetz Family Marriage Contracts

Identifier: MSS 0104

Scope and Contents

The Dumetz Family Marriage Contracts date from 1642 to 1705 and include four French marriage contracts, handwritten in black ink on vellum sheets, then folded and sewn in folios. The notary's stamp appears on the 1680, 1688, and 1705 contracts.


  • 1642 - 1705


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright is retained by the creators of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information. Please see our Sensitive Materials Statement.

Biographical or Historical Information

Marriage in the seventeenth century was an alliance of property rather than affection. Because the marriage of a child required the transfer of property, and thus involved inheritance and succession rights, parents most often chose their child's life partner in the interest of posterity. Marriage contracts are thus very useful in the study of social groups and social mobility.

The Church at this time continued to stress the sacramental nature of marriage and, since the Edict of Blois in 1586 forbade notaries to hear promises of marriage, a priest was necessary to conclude the ceremony. In its continuing struggle with the Church for supremacy, the State, through the royal lawyers, developed a contractual theory of marriage that put forward the argument for royal rather than clerical control of the institution. The marriage contract was thus the juridical device whereby the monarchy asserted the right of the State to regulate marriage.

Marriage contracts were drafted by notaries and signed at some time between the betrothal and the wedding, which could be a matter of hours.

The contract was an elastic document into which any clauses could be inserted provided that they did not contravene the law or public morality. The standard wording consisted of an opening declaration that two parties had mutually promised la foi de mariage and were about to accomplish that promise, followed by details of the material and financial contributions that each was making to the conjugal community and the advantages that should accrue to the surviving party.

A flourish of signatures terminated the list of dotal provisions, custom decreeing that as many notables as possible be invited to sign along with parents and relatives in order to enhance the social standing of the family. Before adding their signatures, the well-bred young couple would bow in the direction of their parents to request permission. (Gibson. Women in Seventeenth-Century France. NY: St. Martin's, 1989).

Since marriage contracts were drawn up for individuals, they vary quite remarkably and are often quite complex, but all marriage contracts recorded the legal status of the persons involved, the nature of the property being transmitted, and the province or region in which the persons and/or property were located.


0.20 Linear Feet (1 box)

Language of Materials



The Dumetz Family Marriage Contracts date from 1642 to 1705 and include four French marriage contracts, handwritten in black ink on vellum sheets, then folded and sewn in folios.

Method of Acquisition

Gift of Luther Self, 1990.

Offensive Language Statement

The UNC Greensboro University Libraries collects, preserves, and makes accessible unique and historical materials for learning and research. The nature of historical materials is such that some material may represent positions, norms, and values that are offensive and objectionable. These materials represent the opinions and actions of their creators. By providing access to these records in our reading room and through our digital collections, we recognize that archives and rare books can play a vital role in holding those creators accountable and in helping us learn from the past.

Our finding aids and other collection descriptions may occasionally re-use language provided by creators or former holders of the materials, but we strive to place outdated or offensive terminology in context. That said, we recognize that we may not always make the right decision and welcome feedback from all sources so we can learn and adjust our practices. Please contact us at if you encounter problematic language in our finding aids or other collection description. We will review the language and, as appropriate, update it in a way that balances preservation of the original context with our ongoing commitment to describing materials with respectful and inclusive language.

Processing Information

Processed by Archives staff.

Dumetz Family Marriage Contracts
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives Repository

P.O. Box 26170
320 College Ave.
Greensboro NC 27402-6170 US