Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Marriage Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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Philadelphia Marriage Certificate.jpg

Collection Time Period

Philadelphia has recorded marriages from 1857 to the present. This collection covers records from 1885 to 1915.

Record History

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. In 1885, Pennsylvania authorized the Orphans’ Court in each county to register marriages. By 1885 all marriages were supposed to be licensed in Pennsylvania. 

Since October 1, 1885, marriage licenses have been recorded with the Clerk of the Orphans' Court within each county without interruption.

Why This Record Was Created

Marriage records granted permission for a marriage to be performed and replaced the previous requirements to post banns or intentions. They were also used to validate a spouse’s legal claim to property. 

Record Reliability

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. 

Record Description

Marriage records from 1885 to 1938 include the marriage license and a duplicate marriage certificate. The license is a preprinted 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. 

(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).

Record Content

The following information may be found on a marriage license that was recorded between 1885 and 1913:

• Full name of bride and groom
• Birth date and place
• Occupation
• Current residence
• Previous marriage
• Whether or not parties are related
• Date of license

Marriage licenses after 1913 may include the following in addition to the previous information:

• Race
• Name of father and mother
• Birth place of father and mother
• Mothers’ maiden name

If the duplicate marriage certificate has been returned it will include the following:

• Name of bride and groom
• Date & place of marriage
• Signature of witnesses
• Name of official/minister performing the ceremony

How to Use the Record

Marriage records are the best source for identifying a family unit and marriage-event details. The records are a great source for identifying the legal names of the bride (including her maiden name) and the groom. Other research clues may include the name of the officiator, parents’ names, ages, occupations, birthplaces, birth dates, residence, and consent statements. Anyone under 21 was considered a minor. To obtain a license when one or both parties were under this age required the consent of a parent or guardian, In this case a separate form was filed which gave permission for the minor to marry.

Related Web Sites

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Related Wiki Articles

Pennsylvania Philadelphia Marriage Index
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Marriage Records 1885-1951
Pennsylvania Vital Records

Sources of This Collection

• Pennsylvania. Marriage records, 1885-1915. Digital images of original records housed in the Philadelphia County Clerk of the Orphans’ Court, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

How to Cite Your Sources

Instructions for citing this source can be found at: How to Cite FamilySearch Collections

CID 1452415 Please do not erase or change the identification number