Archive for 2014
There are several kinds of official records of marriages (see this earlier post), but many unofficial sources can also be useful to family historians trying to learn the name of an ancestor’s spouse or the date of a marriage. Whether or not an unofficial source’s information about a marriage is precise or complete, it can provide useful clues.
Some of these unofficial records may provide information which is not recorded in official sources. For example, a 1960 Idaho State Journal article about my aunt’s wedding reports that her sister – my mother – came from Salt Lake City, Utah, for the wedding. The article also describes the bride’s wedding dress, which may be of little genealogical consequence, but nonetheless interests some of her offspring more than half a century later.
Here are some sources to consider:
- Personal records of officiators or other participants or family members
- Family Bibles
- Newspaper announcements of engagements, weddings, and anniversaries
- Children’s birth records or announcements
- Census records
- Tax records (at least as to marital status)
- Occupational records (marital status and spouse name)
- Death records
- Military records
- Pension records
- Living relatives, within the limits of memory
- Old wedding announcements kept in that box in the attic.
Don’t neglect the World Wide Web; some of this information is now searchable online, and more recent marriages may be noted in online newsletters or web sites of towns and churches.
Marriage records are one of the oldest types of records kept by churches and governments. Their form and content vary widely from place to place and over time. They tend to be issued locally, though it is now common for them to be archived at the state or national level. In the United States weddings are performed and documented according to state law; elsewhere these matters are often regulated at the national level.
Marriage records usually contain the full names of the bride and groom, though some early official records of marriages in some places named only the husband. They may include several dates, of which the wedding date — the date the ceremony was performed — is preferred for genealogical purposes. Lacking that date, you may have to settle for the license date, bond date, recording date, or another relevant date. (Tip: In many marriage record formats, it’s easy to mistake one of these dates for another, and the actual wedding date is not the most obvious date. Use caution!)
Official marriage records may also contain: