Monday, March 12, 2018

Women's History Month 2018: Marriage Records

First comes love...then comes marriage...

from the collection of Gena Philibert-Ortega

Milestone events like a marriage result in records. The question is, what type of records and where are they archived if they still exist?

The term "marriage records" is a generic phrase that can actually mean different documents depending on the time and place. It can also refer to documents issued by a government or religious entity. But, in general for our purposes here, we are referring to documents that would have been issued by a government authority (county). 

Typically a couple would first secure a document like a bond or a marriage license  prior to getting married. Once married, the minister would enter his/her name and those of the witnesses and now there would be a marriage certificate. The certificate would provide information including the names of the parties involved (bride, groom, witnesses, officiant), and the date and place of the wedding ceremony.

 Now this can differ according to place. In some cases you will research "marriage records" that are simply an entry in a ledger book and the information about the marriage license or certificate will be found on one line. In others it might be a handwritten paragraph in a larger county record book. You may also find forms that were filled out and include your ancestor's signature. 

Now an official marriage certificate isn't the only type of certificate. You might find as a home source a decorative marriage certificate that may have took pride of place hanging in the family home. These were provided by the minister and are decorative but provide some details such as the names of the bride, groom, witnesses and minister as well as the date and place.

So where do you start to find marriage records? First you need to identify the name of the county when your ancestor lived there (remember, it may have changed over time). Then you need to find out when they started recording marriages (I have provided a list of states and years on the GenealogyBank Blog article linked below). After you know that, start your search online via genealogy websites for digitized records and if that doesn't provide you what you need, then order it from the county via their website or by mail. 


No comments: