Pennsylvania, County Marriages (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: Pennsylvania County Marriages, 1885-1950 .
Most of the records consist of marriage licenses, certificates, applications, docket books, and affidavits. Most are in bound volumes but there are some loose records. Marriages were recorded to legalize marital relationships and to safeguard the interests of the wife and other heirs.
The most reliable information is the date and place of the marriage and license date. Other information is dependent upon the reliability of the informant.
On January 12, 1852, the Pennsylvania Legislature enacted its first statewide law requiring the registration of vital records, including marriages. Probably due to lack of compliance, the law was repealed in 1855.
On October 1, 1885, a new law went into effect that made it illegal for any “minister of the gospel, justice of the peace, or other officers, or persons authorized by law to solemnize marriages” to marry any couple who did not first obtain a marriage license. Since then, marriage licenses have been recorded without interruption with the Clerk of the Orphans’ Court within each county.
Before 1885, marriage records created by ministers, justices of the peace, and larger cities may still be kept by the originator, but the bulk of the marriages recorded in Pennsylvania are in this collection.
Counties in the state generally achieved 90 percent compliance by 1915.
As of 2009, no marriage records are included for the following counties:
- Union counties
- Lackawanna (before 1926)
No records are included for the city of Philadelphia and Philadelphia County. They are available as a separate collection.
Citation for This Collection
The following citation refers to the original source of the data and images published on FamilySearch.org Historical Records. It may include the author, custodian, publisher, and archive for the original records.
- County Clerks. Pennsylvania County Marriages. County courthouses in Pennsylvania.
Information about creating source citations for FamilySearch Historical Collections is listed in the wiki article Help:How to Create Source Citations For FamilySearch Historical Records Collections.
The following information may be found on a marriage license that was recorded between 1885 and 1913:
- Full names of the bride and groom
- Birth dates and places of the bride and groom
- Current residence
- Previous marriage
- Whether or not the parties are related
- Date of the license
- Name of the father and mother
- Birthplaces of the father and mother
- Mother’s maiden name
If the duplicate marriage certificate has been returned, it will include the following:
- Names of the bride and groom
- Date and place of the marriage
- Signatures of the witnesses
- Name of official or minister performing the ceremony
How to Use the Record
To begin your seach it is helpful to know the following:
- The county where the marriage occurred
- The names of the bride and groom at the time of marriage
- The approximate marriage date and place
Search the Collection
Fill in the requested information in the initial search page. This search will return a list of possible matches. Compare the information about the ancestors in the list to what you already know about your ancestors to determine if this is the correct family or person. You may need to compare the information about more than one person to find your ancestor.
For tips about searching on-line collections see the on-line video at FamilySearch Search Tips.
Using the Information
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.
- 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.
Tips to 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.
Unable to Find Your Ancestor?
- 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.
Known Issues with This Collection
For a full list of all known issues associated with this collection see the attached Wiki article. If you encounter additional problems, please email them to email@example.com. Please include the full path to the link and a description of the problem in your e-mail. Your assistance will help ensure that future reworks will be considered.
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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.
Citation Example for a Record Found In This Collection
“Pennsylvania County Marriages Records, 1885-1950,” idex and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/VF96-G11 : accessed 21 June 2012), Henry O. Easton, 1890; citing County Clerks. Pennsylvania County Marriages. County courthouses in Pennsylvania.
A suggested format for keeping track of records that you have searched is found in the Wiki Article: Help:How to Cite FamilySearch Collections.