Kentucky, County Marriages (FamilySearch Historical Records)
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Collection Time Period
The dates covered by this collection are 1797 to 1954.
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.
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.
Most of this collection consists of marriage licenses and certificates, including a few marriage declarations, birth records, and death records.
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. Later they were recorded as handwritten entries in preprinted volumes.
Genealogical facts found in the marriage records includes 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
Genealogical facts found in the birth records includes the following:
• Date of birth
• Name of child
• Born alive or stillborn
• Father of child
• Mother of child
• Birthplace of parents
• Residence of parents
Genealogical facts found in the death records includes the following:
• Name of deceased
• Age of deceased
• Marital status
• Birth place
• Names of parents
• Death place
• Time of death (death date)
• Cause of death
How to Use the Record
Begin your search by finding your ancestors in the index. Name indexes make it possible to access a specific 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 place where the birth, marriage, or death occurred.
• The approximate date the event occurred.
• The name of the individual or individuals such as the names of the bride and groom, the infant, or the deceased.
Use the locator information found in the index (such as page, entry, or certificate number) to locate your ancestors in the records. Compare the information in the 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 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 may be a clue to their religion or area of residence in the county.
• Use a marriage number to identify previous marriages.
• The name of the undertaker or mortuary could lead you to funeral and cemetery records which often include the names and residences of other family members.
• Compile the 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 records to identify children, siblings, parents, and other relatives who may have been born, married, or died 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.
Keep in mind:
• The information in the 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 1900.
• 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.
• Check for a different index. There are often indexes at the beginning of each volume.
• Search the indexes and records of nearby counties.
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Sources of This Collection
“Kentucky County Marriages, 1797-1954," database, FamilySearch, 2010. Digital copies of originals housed in the clerks’ offices of the district courts in various counties throughout Kentucky. FHL microfilm, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.
How to Cite Your Sources
A full bibliographic record is available in the Family History Library Catalog.