First comes birth, then comes marriage


Birth, marriage, death – these are the milestone events in a person’s life – and family pedigree chart – that help the genealogist put together an ancestor’s story. Once you have recorded and cited the actual place of your birth, finding your marriage documentation is the next step in gathering your vital records.

Your marriage record actually contains information about two individuals. On a marriage license or certificate you will at least find the bride and groom’s full names, the date of the marriage and the county in which the marriage took place. Many records also include other information, such as the names and birthplaces of the brides and groom’s parents, the addresses of the bride and groom, information about previous marriages and the names of the witnesses to the marriage.

To obtain a copy of any marriage license in the United States, write or go to the vital statistics office in the state or area where the event occurred. Vital statistics office information is also available online.

In addition to an actual marriage certificate or license, there are several other types of documents that may have been generated by the announcement and consecration of a marriage. These may include an engagement announcement published in a newspaper, the recording of the event in a county marriage ledger or in the records of a religious institution and a newspaper marriage announcement. All of these provide opportunities for vital information to be recorded for posterity.

If you have not saved marriage records such as the ones described above, take some time to go back and search for them. Newspaper announcements of engagements and weddings – like obituaries and death notices – can be filled with information that can add rich detail to what was most certainly a very special day in your life and will one day point researchers to additional sources of information about your history.