District of Columbia Marriage Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)Edit This Page
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|This article describes a collection of historical records available at FamilySearch.org.|
Access the records: District of Columbia Marriages, 1811-1950 .
Collection Time Period
These records cover the time period 1811 to 1950.
Most of this collection consists of marriage licenses and certificates, including a few marriage declarations and marriage stubs
The records are arranged by county, then by volume and year range. The form type varies between register style and certificate style. County clerks usually used the same printed form during the same time periods. Marriage records were generally well preserved, although fires, floods, or other disasters may have destroyed some records.
The earliest marriage bonds and licenses were usually handwritten on loose papers that were later bound into lettered volumes. Some marriage records had multiple entries on each page, while others had single records per page.
Genealogical facts usually found in the marriage records include the following:
- Name of the groom
- Name of the bride, often including the maiden name of the bride
- Names of the officiator and witnesses
- Names of the parents or guardians of the bride and groom
- Date of the marriage
- Birthplaces of the bride and groom
- Residences of the bride and groom
- Age and races of the bride and groom
- Marital status of the bride and groom
How to Use the Record
Begin your search by finding your ancestors in the index. Name indexes to marriages make it possible to access a specific marriage record quickly. Remember that these indexes may contain inaccuracies, such as altered spellings, misinterpretations, and optical character recognition errors if the information was scanned.
When searching the index it is helpful to know the following:
- The county where the marriage occurred.
- The name of the person at the time of marriage.
- The approximate marriage date.
- The marriage place.
- The name of the intended spouse.
Use the locator information found in the index (such as page, entry, or certificate number) to locate your ancestors in the marriage records. Some on-line indexes, such as indexes to FamilySearch Historical Records, will take you directly to an image. Compare the information in the marriage record to what you already know about your ancestors to determine if this is the correct person. You may need to compare the information of more than one person to make this determination.
When you have located your ancestor’s marriage record, carefully evaluate each piece of information given. These pieces of information may give you new biographical details that can lead you to other records about your ancestors. Add this new information to your records of each family. For example:
- Use the marriage date and place as the basis for compiling a new family group or for verifying existing information.
- Use the birth date or age along with the place of birth of each partner to find a couple's birth records and parents' names.
- Use the birth date or age along with the place of birth to find the family in census records.
- Use the residence and names of the parents to locate church and land records.
- Occupations listed can lead you to employment records or other types of records such as military records.
- Use the parent’s birth places to find former residences and to establish a migration pattern for the family.
- The name of the officiator is a clue to their religion or area of residence in the county. However, ministers may have reported marriages performed in other counties.
- Compile the marriage entries for every person who has the same surname as the bride or groom, this is especially helpful in rural areas or if the surname is unusual.
- Continue to search the marriage records to identify children, siblings, parents, and other relatives of the bride and groom who may have married in the same county or nearby. This can help you identify other generations of your family or even the second marriage of a parent. Repeat this process for each new generation you identify.
- Use the marriage number to identify previous marriages.
- When looking for a person who had a common name, look at all the entries for the name before deciding which is correct.
Keep in mind:
- The information in marriage records is usually reliable, but depends upon the reliability of the informant.
- Earlier records may not contain as much information as the records created after the late 1800s.
- There is also some variation in the information given from one marriage record to another record.
If you are unable to find the ancestors you are looking for, try the following:
- Check for variant spellings of the surnames.
- Search for the marriage record of the marriage partner if known.
- Check for a different index. There are often indexes at the beginning of each volume.
- Search the indexes and records of nearby counties.
For a summary of this information see the wiki article: United States, How to Use the Records Summary (FamilySearch Historical Records)
Registration of marriages began in 1811. Some of the early marriages for the years 1811 to 1858 have been transcribed by the DAR and are on microfilm at the Family History Library(FHL Collection Film 845766). Easier-to-use versions of these records include:
- DC marriage records 1811-1950; indexes, 1811-1986 (FHL Collection Film 2079252).
- Alexandria (DC) marriage certificates returned 1801-1850(FHL Collection Film 1902941 item 3).
- DC marriage registers 1811-1870 (FHL Collection Book 975.3 V28p) Early registers only contain the name of the bride and groom and the date of marriage.
- DC marriage returns, 1874-1902, 1907-1923; consents, 1896-Dec. 1950 (FHL Collection Film 2070925) These records may provide the name of the bride and groom, and their age, residence, color, occupation, birthplace and number of marriages.
- DC newspaper marriage notices 1800-1850 (FHL Collection Film 929472).
You can obtain marriage records from 1811 to the present by writing to:
- Superior Court of the District of Columbia
- Marriage License Bureau
- 500 Indiana Avenue N.W.
- Washington, DC 20001
- Telephone: 202-879-4840
- Internet: District of Columbia Courts
Marriages more than 50 years old are considered public record and no approval is needed to apply for a record copy.
Why This Record Was Created
Civil marriage records were created to legalize marital relationships and to protect the interests of the wife and other heirs to legal claims on property.
The marriage date, place, residence of the bride and groom, and occupations are relatively reliable. Other information, such as age or birthplace, is dependent on the knowledge, memory, and accuracy of the informants, usually the bride and groom.
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Citing FamilySearch Historical Collections
When you copy information from a record, you should also list where you found the information. This will help you or others to find the record again. It is also good to keep track of records where you did not find information, including the names of the people you looked for in the records.
A suggested format for citing FamilySearch Historical Collections, including how to cite individual archives is found in the following link: How to Cite FamilySearch Collections
Examples of Source Citations for a Record in This Collection
"District of Columbia Marriages, 1811-1950." index, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org): accessed 22. April 2011). entry for Robert Cochran and Clara Spackman, married 10 June 1923; citing Marriage Records, FHL microfiln 2,073,130; Washington D.C. Records Office, Washington, District of Columbia.
Sources of This Collection
“District of Columbia Marriages, 1811-1950,” index, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org); from District of Columbia Clerk of the Superior Court. Digital images of originals housed at the Washington D.C. Records Office in Washington, District of Columbia. FHL microfilm, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.
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