The Ketubah is a document that has traditionally outlined a husband's obligation towards his wife, including clothing and conjugal rights. References to these obligations can be found in Exodus (21:10,11) although no mention is made of a document. The Apocrypha, however, contains mention of a scroll that was brought to the marriage ceremony of Tobias and Sarah, an early form of the Ketubah. During the Babylonian Exile, 586-536 B.C.E., the need arose to protect women regarding property that was held in her husband's name. Many men migrated to Egypt and left wives and families behind. The Babylonian predeliction for written legal contracts was a firm basis for the start of the Ketubah. Papyrus records dating from around 440 B.C.E. in Aramaic (a later form of Hebrew) clearly outline the principle of securing the wife's property. Included in this document is the sum of the bridal price paid to the father of the bride, as well as the sum of the bride and bridegroom's dower contribution. In addition, the wife is named as the beneficiary of the estate should the husband die.
Nearly four hundred year later, the ketubah introduced a price that would be paid by the husband to the bride on the death or dissolution of the marriage. The Ketubah became a contract written by the groom and was presented to the bride. The earliest actual ketubah formula is set down in the Talmud and exists today in the Orthodox text. The practice to illuminate manuscripts and to decorate ritual objects goes back many thousands of years. The concept of Hiddur Mitzvah, or the beautification of a mitzvah, has led to the creation of legacy of Jewish ritual art objects.Ric hly decorated Ketubot can be found in the great museums of the world from Persia, Italy, Turkey and North Africa. The design of a ketubah would often reflect the style of the times, and could include symbols of the country such as flags or crowns. Jewish symbols were also prevalent - the lions of Judah can often be seen in historical Ketubot as well as Hebrew calligraphy in stylized forms as the Aramaic text appearing in the top of this page.
Ketubot is often an inestimable source of data and the amateurs of genealogy can only be grateful.