|Introduction to Genealogy|
Marriage records are primary source records because they are completed at, or close to, the time of the marriage by someone who was present at the marriage. A marriage certificate is usually signed by the person who performed the marriage. They are especially valuable to genealogists because they prove that our ancestors were legally married and they often provide us with the maiden name of our female ancestors.
In general, there are three primary types of civil marriage records:
- Marriage License - A bride and groom obtained a license to be
married by applying to the proper civil authorities, usually the clerk in
the town, county, district or parish in which the marriage is to take place. These
records usually have the most information of genealogical value, including
the couple's names, ages, residences, race, birth dates, occupations and
usually the names and maybe even birthplaces of the parents. The license was
presented to the person who performed the marriage.
- Marriage Register - On completion of the ceremony, the signed
marriage license was returned to the clerk for recording in a register or
book. The information on the marriage return usually included the names of
the couple, the date and place of the marriage, and the name of the person
who performed the marriage.
- Marriage Certificate - The individual who performed the ceremony or the civil office where it was recorded may have given the couple a physical certificate of marriage upon completion of the ceremony. These certificates were often elaborate and intended for framing or display. The amount of information on such a certificate varied, but always included the couple's names, marriage date, and location. This certificate is usually the hardest marriage record to locate as copies were not often kept by officials, though some original marriage certificates do exist in various records repositories and archives.
What information will a marriage record provide? This will vary widely by location and time period. In general, vital records forms usually allow space for the following information but are not consistently filled in by the users.
Marriage records usually contain:
full name of bride
full name of groom
date and place of marriage
and may contain:
age and birth date of bride
age and birth date of groom
names and place of birth for bride's and groom's parents
residences of bride and groom
occupations of bride and groom
whether single, widowed or divorces
number of previous marriages for both the bride and groom
witnesses and officials present at the marriage
One very important thing to consider when
researching in marriage records, is that a marriage license by itself is not
proof of marriage. It was not uncommon for couples to apply for a license to
marry and then never follow through with the ceremony.
Next page > Death Records
- Genealogy Glossary - marriage record
- About Genealogy - How Do I Find a Marriage Date or Location
- Connecticut Marriage License Requirements - How To Obtain a Connecticut Mar...
- Female Ancestors - Genealogy Research Strategies for Tracing the Women in Y...
- Florida Vital Records - How to Obtain Marriage, Death & Birth Certificates ...