Are you able to trace marriage records of your forefathers?
It is not easy to do so without proper documentation and good records. In the United States, marriage records are as important as the union itself and they are a valuable resource for genealogists. These records can help trace the foot of your ancestors. They tie together two different direct ancestral families and most importantly, they help in identifying a married woman’s maiden. We know that women change names after marriage to adopt the husband’s name. This is the only way to unlock a new branch in the family tree.
Where to get the information?
Well, apart from civil marriages, which are normally registered at the civil offices, at the District Commissioner offices and other state offices in some countries, other unregistered marriages are hard to trace. In the United States, marriage records are important and can be found from licenses and certificates which are a requirement for all marriages. A license is different from a certificate. A marriage license is like an authorization that gives couples a go ahead with their plans to wed. A license is normally filed at the venue of the wedding, but not residence. The greatest challenge here would be to trace the records of people who were married in a remote area, unless you come across the documents. In this case, a marriage certificate would be the reliable document. It is a proof that marriage took place.
A certificate is normally issued to the bride and bridegroom upon marriage. It is the most reliable document and undoubtedly the best source of a record. A copy of the certificate can be traced at county offices or at the local offices. Therefore, if you are looking for specific marriage records, these are the immediate places you should think of. However, for confidential marriages, the records cannot be shared once sealed unless consent is granted by the parties in question.
So what happens when the records cannot be found at the local or county offices?
Records can disappear, burn, get damaged or distorted, omitted or erroneously recorded. In this case, you can still get the information from the certificates in the hands of the couples. Another possible problem that might arise here is the spellings and order of the names. If someone is looking for records from the County offices or local, be sure to give the correct spelling and exact names and existent nicknames as well. If you fail to get help here, there is still hope.
Where else should you look for records?
Other than the certificate, records can be retrieved from marriage licenses, family records, such as wills, naturalization papers, pension applications or bibles. It is possible to get marriage information from these documents. Other records would be ship logs for marriages conducted on a ship, cemetery records, census records, funeral records, church records, divorce records, newspapers, fraternal organizations and voter registrations, wills, and other records.
What to check on a marriage certificate?
Errors, omissions or wrong information are common in marriage certificates. Also, note that there are unofficial documents out there. A party to marriage may possess unofficial document with fake information for reasons best known to him or her. A complete certificate should include full name of the bride, full name of the groom, date of request, date of ceremony, city or county where the marriage took place and license issued. And for a person seeking marriage records of another, you should be able to state the purpose of obtaining the information and your relationship with the individuals. Any document other than the marriage license should bear enough proof and for avoidance of doubt, you can always contact any the local office or state directly. You should take your time to verify any unofficial document and information provided by family members and at all times consider the possibility of an error in your search.
Easy ways to get information
As it was mentioned earlier, the full names, nick names or alternate names are crucial when doing the search. When beginning the search, it is appropriate to start at the state level to establish any information available and at which city, county or government office. Accurate information about the dates, the type of event, the state or any other relevant information will be important to ease the work. If you are not sure about these, it is better to have idea about the period in months or the span of years.
Are there costs involved?
There may be costs involved, but it is advisable not to send cash unless you are sure of the exact amount. The best approach to this would be signing a blank check and noting any appropriate amount or amount not exceeding $10 under the space for dollar amount. This, with the search request form, should be put in a sealed envelope. Alternatively, you can try calling the office for information or send the first letter together with a request for quotation for the amount chargeable. On receiving the response, you can now send the exact amount in cash or check. The envelope used should be always be self-addressed and stamped for proper identification.
Also, remember to master the first name, last name, state and status, such as married, divorced, dead or birth record. These are the essential elements a genealogist will use for the search. But again not all public records are necessarily available, some have restrictions for instance in the state of California while others may only be shared with the consent of the persons in question.
If you want to know more about you lineage, it is possible to get free public marriage records in the United States. The genealogists are experts in this field and will assist in unearthing any record upon request. Marriage records are also important since they reveal the maiden name of a wife and records of previous marriages.