Marriage Records

Family Search - Online United States Marriage Records

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What do marriage records tell us asides from the obvious. Marriage records can also dovetail with many other searches to bring about a more holistic picture of an individual. There are a myriad of sources to begin your marriage records search. These include but are not restricted to Church records, newspapers, personal histories and family bibles, online records, state archives, obituaries, other geneology submissions, civil registrations (County and Civil) while not forgetting search engines and Google books. Marriage records can also uncover bigamists and immediate family affiliations and relatives. These family connections brought about by marriage may well be of interest to any one conducting an asset search on a debtor.

The other benefit of marriage records is, of course, uncovering a maiden name. While uncovering a maiden name need not be restricted to licenses or applications other sources may well be census records, land records, military records, probate and cemetery records. There is an abundance of records archives from State to State and some records even go back to the 1600’s (New York Marriage Index (1600-1784)). These marriage records were obtained from the Dutch in the 17th century as New York became one of North America’s most recognised English colonies. These records pre date 1784 and have the date along with both the groom and bride’s name. Many State databases are an excellent tool for finding ancestors prior to the American Revolution. However in 1911 the New York State Capitol Fire sadly ruined 21 of the 40 volumes while leaving the balance of 19 volumes damaged. The database was created from these volumes and the damage has rendered them restricted to use and informational value.

Marriage RecordsEstablished in 1971 The New York State Archives was publicly accessible in 1978. Sponsored by The State Education Department The Cultural Education Centre houses the main facility in Albany (Madison Avenue). Therein lies a goldmine of information with over 200 million documents which take in the 17th century to the present day recounting New York’s story. It is also responsible for administering programs State wide inclusive local governments, State agencies and community organizations. The State has 9 regional offices accommodating Archives staff who organise records and archives management of every New York State. Please bear in mind when searching marriage records you must know the state the individual was married in. Marriage records remain an invaluable resource for genealogists and it’s worthwhile remembering that that these records were prioritized by governments and churches.

As marriage has always been a very public ‘celebration’ it is recorded in a number of ways. Records may also be available confirming a couple’s intention to marry. Marriage Banns (religious custom) were required in order that community members had an opportunity to voice objections. These were more common in the New England and Southern states in the mid 1800’s. Marriage bonds were surety paid by the groom and/or more often that not a relative to ensure the legality of the marriage. The bond was secured by an official or minister and thereafter returned to the clerk of the relevant town or county. Marriage bonds were more common (mid 1800’s) in the mid Atlantic and Southern States. Applications and Licenses slowly replaced bonds, intentions and banns. The license was applied for to the civil authorities. Applications and licenses contain the most informative genealogical value inclusive residence, age and names. More recent records provide parent’s names, ethnicity, date of birth and occupation. The license would be presented to the individual who conducted the ceremony then returned to the town or county clerk. License applications themselves are a 20th century record which actually contain more details than the license itself. Consent Papers may be available if the groom or bride was underage and consent was required from a guardian or parent. Settlements or Contracts serve to protect property and legal rights. Sometimes within a marriage application and primarily in areas that Spain or France Colonised.