The National Institute for Genealogical Studies

LEADERS IN ONLINE GENEALOGY EDUCATION

The National Institute for Genealogical Studies - LEADERS IN ONLINE GENEALOGY EDUCATION

Marriage

Marriage Records 

The marriage certificate is the only civil record that actually records a union between two individuals, whereas other marriage records indicate that a marriage was “projected or planned.” So be cautious regarding which marriage document is being reviewed and understand the difference.

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Information you will always expect to find on a marriage certificate: 

  • the name of the bride and groom 
  • the date of the marriage  
  • location of the marriage (at least the county in which the marriage was filed) 
  • the individual who married the couple 
  • name of the clerk who recorded the marriage with the county 

The type of information recorded on a marriage document will change over time and will vary from county to county and state to state.  

The US Federal Census can also help with finding a marriage record. What kind of marriage information can the census provide? While the 1850 to 1870 census doesn’t record marital status, it does note if the person was married within the year. The 1900 through 1940 census will provide the marital status “married, single, widow, or divorced,” the “age at first marriage” (1930), or the “number of years of present marriage” (1900, 1910).

 

Record Keeping 

In our modern society (the 20th and 21st century), marriage records are typically kept at both the county in which the ceremony took place and the state bureau of records. There is a central gathering point in each state, typically known as the Bureau of Vital Records or Statistics (or something similar).  

For most states, marriage records began being kept at the time a county was formed at the county level. These early records are not kept by the state, unless they have been transferred to the state archives.  

With our United States: Vital Records  course you will learn more about obtaining marriage records and the information they hold in your genealogy research.  

Terms to be Aware of

Marriage Documents 

Most of the documents below are not proof that a marriage took place, only that a marriage was being planned. Just like today, there were many broken engagements.

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  • Marriage license: When the county receives a completed marriage license application form from an engaged couple along with the payment, then they will issue the couple a marriage license.  
  • Marriage return: When a marriage is performed by someone, such as a minister or justice of the peace, the marriage license is returned to the court. The marriage license is now called a “marriage return” and is recorded in the marriage register by the town or county clerk.  
  • Marriage banns: In a parish church an announcement is made to the general membership that two people intend to marry. This was usually done over three successive Sundays. This gave time for the congregation to let the clergy know if either person was not able to marry for any reason.  
  • Marriage intention: In New England, the Intention was treated much like the Banns. Only the Intention is published in the town meeting books prior to the marriage.  
  • Marriage bond: A prospective groom posts a bond in the county of the bride’s residence. The bond is bought as a surety that there is no reason the groom cannot marry.  

With our United States: Vital Records course you will learn more about marriage records and how they will help you in your genealogy research.  

Death Indexes Online

US Death Indexes 

There are many different death indexes online. Please note that most indexes do not include every year. Remember that a name in an index is not proof that this is the researcher’s person! Often the person you are seeking is not the first to have this name and won’t be the last! Never assume the indexed name is your person and stop your research at that point.  

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Always be creative in finding various ways to search for what you might be seeking. Go to the FamilySearch website and choose Catalog from the Search drop-down menu. Another way to search is to conduct a Place search and then enter the name of the county and state.  

One other place to check for online death indexes is Google. Conduct a Google search on the phrase, free “death index.”  

Research Plan 

Go beyond the index. Creating a research plan for more documents is necessary. The first item on the research plan should be finding an obituary. Next, would be checking with the cemetery where the individual was interred. Personalize a research plan to your needs. If you do not have the exact date of death, then the research continues. With our United States: Vital Records course you will learn more about researching and locating a death index.  

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