Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Marriage Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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United States Gotoarrow.png Pennsylvania Gotoarrow.png Philadelphia County

FamilySearch Record Search This article describes a collection of historical records scheduled to become available at


What is in the Collection?

The collection consists of an index and images of Philadelphia city marriage license application packets containing multiple documents, such as marriage applications, certificates, guardian consents, etc. These records are arranged in packets that are numbered by a license number. This collection covers records from 1885 to 1915.

Coverage Map

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

Collection Content

Information on the records varies by time period. You may find any of the following:

  • Full name of bride and groom
  • Birth date and place
  • Occupation
  • Current residence
  • Previous marriage
  • Whether or not parties are related
  • Date of license
  • Date and place of marriage
  • Race
  • Parents' names
  • Parents' birthplaces
  • Mothers’ maiden name
  • Signature of witnesses
  • Name of official/minister performing the ceremony

How Do I Search the Collection?

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

  • Name
  • Other identifying information such as marriage date and place or parents' names

Search the Collection

To search the collection by name:
Fill in the requested information in the boxes 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 look at the information on several individuals comparing the information about them to your ancestors to make this determination. 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 Search 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

  • Occupations listed can lead you to other types of records such as employment or military 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.
  • 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.

What if I Can't Find Who I'm Looking For?

  • Look for variant spellings of the names. You should also look for alias names, nicknames and abbreviated names.
  • Look for a different index. Local genealogical and historical societies often have indexes to local records.
  • Search the indexes and records of nearby localities.
  • Try alternative search methods such as only filling in the surname search box (or the given name search box) on the landing page leaving the other box empty and then click on search. This should return a list of everyone with that particular name. You could then browse the list for individuals that may be your ancestor.

General Information About These Records

In 1854 the city and county of Philadelphia were combined. In 1860 the city passed a law requiring the Board of Health to register all marriages. Marriage records from 1857 to 1885 include the marriage register and the marriage return from the person who performed the marriage. The marriage registers are large bound volumes with entries recorded chronologically.

In 1885, Pennsylvania authorized the Orphans’ Court in each county to register marriages. By 1885 all marriages were supposed to be licensed in Pennsylvania. They were recorded by the clerk of the Orphans' Court within each county.

Marriage records from 1885 to 1938 include the marriage license and a duplicate marriage certificate. The license is a pre-printed form that the clerk numbered sequentially. The officiator returned the duplicate certificate to the clerk for filing. The licenses are filed sequentially by license number. Marriage records after 1885 are loose papers instead of bound registers.

The most reliable information is the date and place of the marriage and the license date. The accuracy of the other information depends on the reliability of the informant(s), usually the bride and groom. Marriage records may be inaccurate as brides and grooms sometimes intentionally provided false information.

Related Web Sites

Philadelphia Courts

Related Wiki Articles

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:

"Philadelphia Municipal Marriage Records, 1885-1915." Database with Images. FamilySearch. : accessed 2016. Citing Philadelphia County Clerk of the Orphans’ Court, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Record Citation (or citation for the index entry):

The citation for a record will be available with each record once the collection is published.