Iowa, County Marriage Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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Iowa, County Marriages, 1838-1934 .
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This article describes a collection of records at FamilySearch.org.
Iowa, United States
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Flag of Iowa
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Location of Iowa
Record Description
Record Type Marriage Records
Collection years 1838-1934
FamilySearch Resources
Related Websites
Archive


What is in the Collection?

Most of this collection consists of marriage licenses and certificates, including a few marriage declarations and marriage stubs. The records cover the years 1838 to 1934.

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.

Coverage Map

To see a coverage map of FamilySearch's holdings of Iowa marriages, click here.

Record Content

Information found in these marriage records may vary depending on the type of document. The following information is usually included:
  • Name of the groom
  • Name of the bride, often including the maiden name
  • Name of the officiator
  • Names of the parents or guardians of the bride and groom
  • Date of the marriage
  • Place of marriage
  • Birthplaces of the bride and groom
  • Residences of the bride and groom
  • Ages
  • Marital status or number of marriage
  • Occupation
  • Race
  • Witnesses

How Do I Search the Collection?

To begin your search it is helpful to know the following:

  • The name of the person at the time of marriage
  • Identifying information such as the approximate marriage date and place

To search the collection by name:
Fill in the requested information on the initial search page. This search will return a list of possible matches. Compare the information about the individuals 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. Keep in mind:

  • There may be more than one person in the records with the same name.
  • You may not be sure of your own ancestor’s name.
  • Your ancestor may have used different names, or variations of their name, throughout their life.
  • If your ancestor used an alias or a nickname, be sure to check for those alternate names.
  • Even though these indexes are very accurate they may still contain inaccuracies, such as altered spellings, misinterpretations, and optical character recognition errors if the information was scanned.

For tips about searching on-line collections see the on-line article FamilySearch Tips and Tricks.

What Do I Do Next?

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.
  • Use the parents' birth places to find former residences and to establish a migration pattern for the family.

Tips to Keep in Mind

  • 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.
  • When looking for a person who had a common name, look at all the entries for the name before deciding which is correct.
  • 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.

I Can't Find Who I'm Looking For, Now What?

  • Check for variant spellings of the surnames.
  • Search for the marriage record of the marriage partner if known.
  • Check for an index. There are often indexes at the beginning of each volume. Local genealogical and historical societies often have indexes to local records.
  • Search the indexes and records of nearby counties.

General Information About These 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.

Marriages were recorded by the clerk of the district court for each county from the time the county was formed. Persons desiring to marry obtained a license that they presented to the minister or other person authorized to marry, such as a justice of the peace. Once the marriage was performed, the officiator sent a return to the clerk confirming that the marriage had occurred.

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 index was created to provide an easy access to specific marriages in the collection. 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.

How You Can Contribute

We welcome user additions to FamilySearch Historical Records wiki articles. We are looking for additional information that will help readers understand the topic and better use the available records. We also need translations for collection titles and images in articles about records written in languages other than English. For specific needs, please visit WikiProject FamilySearch Records.

Please follow these guidelines as you make changes. Thank you for any contributions you may provide.


Citing this Collection

Citing your sources makes it easy for others to find and evaluate the records you used. When you copy information from a record, list where you found that information. Here you can find citations already created for the entire collection and for each individual record or image.

Collection Citation:

"Iowa, County Marriages, 1838-1934." Database. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2016. Citing County courthouses, Iowa.

Record Citation (or citation for the index entry):

The citation for a record is available with each record in this collection, at the bottom of the record screen. You can search records in this collection by visiting the search page for Iowa, County Marriages, 1838-1934.