How to Find California Marriage RecordsEdit This Page

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How to Find United States Marriages Gotoarrow.png California Gotoarrow.png California Marriages

  • Marriage records began at the creation of the individual county
  • County clerks began sending copies to the state in 1905

Next Step: When did the marriage occur?

Choose a time period to search for your ancestor's marriage record:

Learn more about U.S. Marriage Records

Marriages before 1905

Marriage records began at the creation of the individual county. The first official law that required the recording of marriages was passed in 1850.

California Marriage Databases - Includes Index Only
Try 1st:
1850 - 1952 - At FamilySearch.org Free; index of marriage records from individual counties. Includes marriage licenses, certificates, registers, applications, affidavits, stubs, etc. Microfilm copies of these records are available at the Family History Library and FamilySearch Centers.
Try 2nd:
Western States Marriage Index Free; incomplete.
Next try:
1850 - 1945 - At FamilySearch.org Free; index of marriage records. Microfilm copies of these records are available at the Family History Library and FamilySearch Centers.
Can't find your ancestor in the online index? Tips for searching online indexes


If your ancestor does not appear in the index, you may need to contact the town clerk office or you may need to search substitute records to locate your ancestor’s marriage date and place.

  Records that give marriage information:
Church Records
Newspapers
Military Records
Obituaries
Census Records
Cemetery Records
Death Records
Bible Records


Obtain the Marriage Record

If your ancestor appeared in the index, there are two options:

  • FamilySearch.org - If the indexed information contained a GS microfilm number you can order the microfilm from the Family History Library.
  • Individual County Registrars and Recorders - If there is no GS microfilm number available, or if you cannot gain access to the microfilm, you may contact the county registrar or recorder office where your ancestor was married and order a copy of the marriage record.
Return to top: Choose another marriage year


Marriages between 1905 and 1952

  • County clerks began sending copies to the state in 1905

STEP ONE: Find Marriage Information

For marriages that exist during this time period, try the following database.

California Marriage Databases - Includes Index Only
Try 1st:
1850 - 1952 - At FamilySearch.org Free; index of marriage records from individual counties. Includes marriage licenses, certificates, registers, applications, affidavits, stubs, etc. Microfilm copies of these records are available at the Family History Library and FamilySearch Centers.
Next try:
1850 - 1945 - At FamilySearch.org Free; index of marriage records. Microfilm copies of these records are available at the Family History Library and FamilySearch Centers.
Can't find your ancestor in the online index? Tips for searching online indexes


STEP TWO: Obtain the Marriage Certificate

If your ancestor appeared in the index, you have three options:

  • FamilySearch.org - If the indexed information contained a GS microfilm number you can order the microfilm from the Family History Library.
  • Individual County Registrars and Recorders - If there is no GS microfilm number available, or if you cannot gain access to the microfilm, you may contact the county registrar or recorder office where your ancestor was married and order a copy of the marriage record.
  • California Department of Health - You can order the certificate from the state department.



Return to top: Choose another marriage year


Marriages after 1952

Statewide registration of marriages began in 1905 with general compliance by 1920. The Vital Records office of the California Department of Public Health has copies of marriages from 1905 to present day.

STEP ONE: Find Marriage Information

For marriages that exist during this time period, try the following database.

California Marriage Databases - Includes Indexes Only
Try 1st:
1949-1959 at VitalSearch-ca.com $; index only, no images
Try 2nd:
1960-1985 - At FamilySearch.org Free; index to marriage records.
Next try:

Ancestry Databases - Includes Index Only
Choose one of the following:

1960 - 1985 - use Ancestry Institution at FamilySearch Centers/Libraries Free at FamilySearch Centers and Libraries; Find your local FamilySearch Center




1960 - 1985 - use your own Ancestry subscription $, To obtain a subscription to Ancestry; Ancestry is often available for free through your local public library
Can't find your ancestor in the online index? Tips for searching online indexes

STEP TWO: Obtain the Certificate

To Order Death Certificates
County Registrar and Recorder offices Vital Records office of the California Dept of Public Health
Pros Cons Pros Cons
May be less expensive and faster than ordering from the state County websites can be more difficult to use Has an expedited service on Vital Chek May be more expensive than ordering from the county


Restrictions to qualify for marriage certificates:
To obtain a certified copy of the marriage certificate, you must be:

  • The person named on the certificate
  • The person's spouse
  • The person's spouse, parent, child, grandchild, or sibling
  • A legal party (attorney, law enforcement or representative of the government) with authorization or court order
  • The legal custodian, guardian, or authorized representative of the person named on the record
  • An individual who orders the certificate in behalf of an individual in the above categories

NOTE: An certified copy of the death certificate cannot be obtained by anyone except those listed above. If you do not qualify for an authorized copy, you may order an informational copy.

The department of public health ONLY provides certified copies between 1949 to 1986, 1998 to 1999.

If you do not want to order the marriage record, there are other records with marriage information you can search.

Return to top: Choose another marriage year


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  • This page was last modified on 1 May 2014, at 17:10.
  • This page has been accessed 2,369 times.