Family History: Genealogy Made Easy Podcast
with Lisa Louise Cooke
Republished March 25, 2014
with Lisa Louise Cooke
Download the Show Notes for this Episode
Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008-09. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.
Episode 24: Using Marriage Records in Family History
So far in this podcast series you’ve made a lot of progress. You’ve set up your genealogy database, talked to your relatives, gotten familiar with the Family History Centers and you have your research worksheet to lead you in your investigation backwards in time, through death records and the census.
In today’s episode we’re going to continue working backwards down the records aisle looking for marriage records. Marriage records are a type of vital records, meaning they provide vital statistics for a person’s life. They can be a rich—even vital!—source of genealogical information.
Marriage records, like death and birth records (which we’ll be covering in an upcoming episode) are primary sources. This means that the record was completed at the event or very close to it by someone who was present at the event. That means it’s a pretty reliable source.
There are two types of marriage records: civil records which are recorded with the local government, usually at the county level, and church records, if the marriage took place in a church.
Update: Many government and church marriage records have found their way into major genealogical databases (www.Ancestry.com, www.FamilySearch.org, www.FindMyPast.org, www.MyHeritage.com, etc). Look for indexed records and—if you’re lucky—digitized versions of the actual record. (If you find only indexed records, use the process below to find copies of the actual record.)
Civil/Government Marriage Records
You need to determine where the marriage took place in order to figure out the proper civil authorities to contact. Usually that’s the clerk in the town, county, district or parish where the happy couple said “I do.” In the U.S., chances are it was at the county level, but if you’re not sure, do a Google search on the name of the county and the phrase “vital records” or “marriage records.” Chances are one of the first search results will be a link to the website for that county and hopefully the specific page that will tell you how to request vital records. There you should find specific instructions about how to make the request and any fees involved.
3 Tips for Obtaining Marriage Records for Genealogy
- Tip #1: Be sure and follow the instructions to the letter because otherwise you will likely have your request returned to you unfilled and asking for more information which just wastes time.
- Tip #2: As with Death Records, it isn’t necessary to order a certified copy because you are not using it for legal reasons, just information reasons. Certified copies cost more and usually have more requirements to applying for them.
- Tips #3 Request a complete photo copy (which is sometimes referred to as a LONG FORM) rather than a SHORT FORM which can be a brief transcription of the record. There may be clues in the original record that may be left out (or mistranscribed) in the SHORT FORM.
If all this sounds cumbersome there is an easier to request marriage records and that is through Vitalcheck.com (see below). While it costs more you can order the records quickly and easily online.
If you’re looking for civil records in England or Wales, those records have been officially recorded by local District Registrars who reported to the General Registrar Office since July 1, 1837. These records are probably easiest to access, particularly if you are not in the UK, through FindMyPast.com, which does charge a fee for each record.
Types of Civil Marriage Records:
- Marriage application. I can’t guarantee they’re available in every county, but it’s definitely worth asking!
- Marriage license. This record often holds the most genealogical value. It will include their names, ages, residences as well as perhaps their race, occupation, age, and perhaps their parents’ names.
- Marriage register record. This confirms the marriage actually took place. This may be just a signature and date from the official who performed the marriage, and may be a small section at the end of the marriage license information. (The latter type of record may also be called a “marriage return” or minister’s return.”
- Marriage certificate. While this record is part of the process it isn’t available through the vital records office. It would have been kept by the couple and will involve some looking around and asking relatives to see if it still exists.
Tip: A marriage license alone does not prove a marriage. A couple could easily apply for a license but never go through with the big day.
Church Marriage Records
Start looking for these records at the Family History Library (www.familysearch.org).
Other places to look:
- The church if it still exists. Search for their website. Contact the church office and ask if they have records for the time period you’re looking for. If they no longer have the records ask where they are being archived.
- Check in with the closest local library and ask to talk to the reference desk.
- Search the WorldCat catalog (see Links).
- Check the US Gen Web site for the state and county where the marriage occurred (see Links). These sites are run by volunteers and each county has a different variety of records and resources available. Contact the local genealogy or and historical societies and ask for their help.
Other records to look for:
- Banns of marriage records. Look for a record of the banns in the church minutes or church bulletins.
- Newspaper marriage announcements. Tip: Keep in mind when you’re searching a newspaper database and you find a listing for what appears to be the right family in the right area but the date is way off, be sure and check it out because it just may be a republishing of the news you were looking for! (Learn more about newspaper research in my book How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers.)
FamilySearch. To search for marriage records by place, click on Search, then Catalog, then search by location. You’ll find both government and church marriage records listed here. Look at the county level for U.S. government records; look at the municipal level or under the Church records category for church marriage records.
U.S. land entry case files are now free to browse at FamilySearch. We give you a link to a free index to those–and MORE new and updated records for Argentina, Australia, England, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Scotland, and other U.S. collections (Crimean War photos, Illinois birth certificates, and more).
Featured: U.S. Land Entry Case Files
Over a quarter million record images have been added to the free FamilySearch database of United States, Cancelled, Relinquished, or Rejected Land Entry Case Files, 1861-1932. This collection gives researchers access to browsable images of case files for those who unsuccessfully applied for homesteads (such as the one shown above; click the image to see its citation), mining claims, and land pre-emptions. Even better–the National Archives website hosts a name index to speed along your search of the browsable records at FamilySearch!
According to a National Archives description of the original collection, “A file may contain the original entry application, correspondence between the officials of the Lincoln Land Office and the GLO in Washington, D.C., receipts for fees paid, public notices, affidavits and witness statements, proof of military service, the entryman’s naturalization records, and documents concerning the cancellation or relinquishment of the entry.”
This collection of Land Entry Case Files includes Kansas land offices at Dodge City and Topeka and Nebraska land offices at Alliance, Broken Bow, Lincoln, North Platte, O’Neill, and Valentine. More records will be forthcoming.
Over a quarter million indexed names have been added to a free FamilySearch collection of Catholic church records for Entre Rios, Argentina (1764-1983). Also noteworthy are over 118,000 record images recently added to FamilySearch’s Argentina, Corrientes, Catholic Church Records, 1734-1977.
Nearly 170,000 indexed names have been added to the free FamilySearch collection, Australia, Victoria, Outward Passenger Lists, 1852-1924.
England—Newspapers and Wiltshire
The British Newspaper Archive recently announced it now has a title online for every county in England. (Click here to learn more.) They’ve also updated several London titles and added two new ones, among them the North London News and West London Observer.
Findmypast.com has recently added more than 4.5 million records that can help those searching for ancestors in Wiltshire, in southwest England:
New indexes to French censuses for 1876-1906 are now free at FamilySearch:
- France, Côtes-d’Armor, Census, 1876
- France, Côtes-d’Armor, Census, 1906
- France, Côtes-d’Armor, Census, 1891
- France, Hérault, Census, 1876
- France, Hérault, Census, 1906
- France, Nord, Census, 1906
Germany–Church and Family Tables
Ancestry.com has published two new collections of German Lutheran church records. Note that the time periods overlap, so try searching them both:
Also new on the site is a collection called Baden-Württemberg, Germany, Family Tables, 1550-1985. A tip from the collection description: “Use the browse fields to sort through the images by City or District and Description of records.”
Nearly a million new articles have been added to Findmypast’s enormous collection of digitized Irish newspapers. This unique collection now hosts more than 35 million articles.
Over a million indexed records have been added to a miscellaneous archival index for the Netherlands at FamilySearch. If you’ve got Dutch roots, check it out–it’s free.
New Zealand—Probate records
Over a quarter million browsable record images have been added to a free FamilySearch collection of New Zealand probate records.
As promised, Findmypast continues to expand its Catholic Heritage Archive. Recent additions include baptisms, congregational records, marriages, and burials for Scotland.
A collection of Crimean War photographs from the Library of Congress is free to search online, and is the subject of a recent article on the Library of Congress blog: “Witness to History.”
Got relatives from Chicago, Illinois? Perhaps they’re among more than a quarter million newly-indexed names in Illinois, Cook County, Birth Certificates, 1871-1940, free to search at FamilySearch.
Newspapers.com has added Louisville, Kentucky’s Courier-Journal to its collections of digitized newspapers. Basic subscribers have access to just shy of 100 years’ worth of issues (1830-1922) and Publisher Extra subscribers also may access more recent years (1923-2016).
FamilySearch has added 1.3 million names to its free collection, Massachusetts, Boston Crew Lists, 1917-1943.
A new online database of The Michigan Daily brings more than 23,000 issues digitally searchable. This is the student newspaper of the University of Michigan. The newspaper archive spans 125 years: 1890-2014. Click here to search it for free.
Google your way to MORE genealogy records like these
Wish you could find similar records for another time or place? Use Google search strategies to target the record types, places and even a specific range of years. You can even search for digitized photographs on Google! Click here to read more about Googling old records online.
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!
Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 218
with Lisa Louise Cooke
In this episode, Lisa answers your questions and shares your comments. Hot topics on your minds that are covered in this episode:
- discovering new records online,
- working with other people’s online trees,
- hard-to-locate military records;
- and getting help with early Pennsylvania research
NEWS: GOOGLE EARTH STORIES COMING
“Google Earth to let users post stories, photos in coming years” at DNAIndia.com
Lisa’s FREE Google Earth video class: How to Use Google Earth for Genealogy
The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, 2nd edition and Google Earth for Genealogy Video Series
Try Google Earth for Chrome (you must use the Chrome browser to access)
Download the free Google Earth Pro software.
NEWS: FAMILYSEARCH REACHES 2 BILLION IMAGES
Why you should have a free FamilySearch account and use it!
How to use the FamilySearch Catalog (it’s free! Everyone should use it!)
Best strategies for accessing content at FamilySearch.org (special podcast episode on the end of microfilm lending)
GEMS NEWS: LISA’S NEW COLUMN IN FAMILY TREE MAGAZINE
Purchase the May/June issue in print or digital download format
Subscribe to Family Tree Magazine: print format, digital download format or get a great price for both!
StoryWorth for Father’s Day: Invite your dad to share stories with loved ones every week, and then get them all bound in a beautiful hardcover book at the end of the year. Go to http://www.storyworth.com/lisa for $20 off when you subscribe. This Father’s Day is actually a gift for you, too!
BONUS CONTENT for Genealogy Gems App Users
If you’re listening through the Genealogy Gems app, don’t forget to check out your bonus content for this episode! The Genealogy Gems app is FREE in Google Play and is only $2.99 for Windows, iPhone and iPad users.
MAILBOX: SARA’S FRIDAY RECORD POST DISCOVERY
Click here to view several recent Friday records posts and see what new records have appeared online lately!
Tell Lisa Louise Cooke about your “Friday records post” discoveries or anything else at genealogygemspodcast @ gmail.com or call the podcast voicemail at 925-272-4021.
MAILBOX: ONLINE FAMILY TREE MATCHES
Reviewing tree hints at Ancestry.com
MAILBOX: BACK TO RESEARCH AFTER 10 YEARS!
Lisa’s recommendations to a new Genealogy Gems Premium eLearning member for getting back into the swing of research:
Watch the Premium video, “Take Control of Your Family Tree” (Premium eLearning membership required)
Listen to the Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast by Lisa Louise Cooke. It’s a great series for learning the research ropes and well as refreshing your skills.
Listen to Lisa’s other podcast
Lisa Louise Cooke uses and recommends RootsMagic family history software. Visit www.RootsMagic.com
Lisa Louise Cooke uses and recommends RootsMagic family history software. From within RootsMagic, you can search historical records on FamilySearch.org, Findmypast.com and MyHeritage.com.
Keep your family history research, photos, tree software files, videos and all other computer files safely backed up with Backblaze, the official cloud-based computer backup system for Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems. Learn more at https://www.backblaze.com/Lisa.
MAILBOX: MILITARY DRAFT REGISTRATIONS
Click here to read about finding military draft registrations
INTERVIEW: JIM BEIDLER ON PENNSYLVANIA RESEARCH QUESTION
James M. Beidler is the author of The Family Tree Historical Newspapers Guide and Trace Your German Roots Online. Learn more Pennsylvania research techniques in his on-demand webinar download, Best Pennsylvania Genealogy Research Strategies.
Click here to read a summary of some of Jim’s tips AND find a collection of links we curated to help you find more Pennsylvania birth records online.
MyHeritage.com is the place to make connections with relatives overseas, particularly with those who may still live in your ancestral homeland. Click here to see what MyHeritage can do for you: it’s free to get started.
Lisa Louise Cooke, Host and Producer
Sunny Morton, Editor
Hannah Fullerton, Audio Editor
Lacey Cooke, Service Manager
Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting this free podcast and blog!
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