Marriage Records in the United States Marriage records in the United States are usually found at the county and town clerks' offices, but in some cases they are found in the records of churches, the military and in the state offices of vital records and boards of health. Find out which office holds the marriage records in the locality where the couple was living at the time of their marriage or, if they resided in different localities, in the bride's county or town of residence. Look for all records of a marriage including marriage certificates, applications, licenses, and bonds. In some areas all documents generated by a marriage will be found combined into the same record, in others they will be listed in separate books with separate indexes. If you're researching African-American ancestors, some counties maintained separate marriage books for blacks and whites in the years following the Civil War.
Marriage Records in Europe In many European countries, church records are the most common sources for marriage records, though Civil Registration became the norm in the late 19th and 20th centuries. Civil marriages are often indexed on a national level, though it is very helpful if you know the province, region, parish, etc. in which the marriage took place. In the church, most couples were married by banns, rather than marriage licenses, mainly because licenses cost more than banns. Banns may be recorded in the marriage register or in a separate banns register.
Marriage Records in Canada Marriage records in Canada are primarily the responsibility of the individual provinces and most were recording marriages by the early 1900s. Earlier marriage records can usually be found in the church registers.
Details Found in Marriage RecordsIf you find a record of the marriage for your female ancestor, then be sure to take note of all pertinent information, including the names of the bride and groom, places of residence, ages, occupations, date of the marriage, the person who performed the marriage, witnesses, etc. Every little detail can lead to new information. Witnesses to a marriage, for example, are often related to the bride and groom. The name of the person who performed the marriage ceremony may help to identify a church, a lead to possible church records of the marriage, plus other church records for the family. The surety, or person who put up money to guarantee that the marriage will take place, on many marriage bonds was a relative of the bride, usually a father or brother. If the couple was married at a residence, you may find a notation of the location. This could provide a valuable clue to the bride's father's name since young ladies often married at home. Women who remarried were often listed by their previous married name rather than their maiden name. However, a maiden name can usually be ascertained from the father's surname.
Check Divorce Records TooPrior the the 20th century divorces were often difficult (and expensive) to obtain, especially for women. They can, however, sometimes provide clues to maiden names when no other sources exist. Look for divorce decrees in the court in charge of administering divorce decrees for the area in question. Even if your female ancestor never received a divorce, that doesn't mean she didn't file for one. It was fairly common in earlier years for a woman to be denied a divorce, despite claims of cruelty or adultery - but the paperwork from the filing may still be found among the records of the court.
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Women in Marriage & Divorce Records
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