United States Marriage Records

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Marriage records are another valuable source for genealogists. Churches and governments often kept marriage records before they documented other life events. Whether a civil or church authority performed the ceremony, local laws usually required that the marriage be recorded in civil records. Marriage has always been a very public covenant, recorded in a variety of ways. In most churches, the banns were read aloud in church on three successive Sundays prior to the marriage.)

These records are usually stored with the clerk of the town or county where the bride resided, but some particularly early ones may be housed in the state’s archives and more recent ones may be found in the state’s Division of Vital Records.

Marriage banns

Marriage banns are the public announcement of an intended marriage to allow for advance notice to those that might have a reason to protest the marriage. Traditionally the announcement of an impending wedding would be announced in the church for three weeks prior to the event.

Things you may find in a Marriage Records

  • Age at time of marriage
  • Church of marriage ceremony
  • County where the marriage took place
  • Date and/or place of birth for bride and groom
  • Date of the marriage
  • Full names of bride and groom
  • Name of minister or priest
  • Names and birthplaces of the bride’s and groom’s parents
  • Names of the witnesses to the marriage, often relatives
  • Occupation
  • Residence of the parties
  • Whether single, widowed or divorced

How information from marriage records can help research

Marriage records can help you find the following information:

  • Addresses to assist in researching deeds or city directories, locate on maps, or narrow your search in an unindexed census
  • Birth date and/or place to research for the bride and groom
  • Church records for the marriage
  • Determine which children belong to which mother in the case of multiple marriages
  • Information about previous marriages
  • Maiden name for a woman
  • Newspaper announcement
  • Parents' names (and possibly birth places) to research


  • GenWeb is a free genealogical research database for marriage records and a directory to other marriage records online for the United States.
  • [http://www.vitalrec.com/ Vitalrec.com is a comprehensive resource for locating vital records.