The Different Elements of Marriage Records

One of the valuable sources for genealogists is a marriage record. Governments and churches are known to have often kept marriage records before the documentation of other life events. It was required by the local laws that the marriage be recorded in civil records. 

This requirement was irrespective of whether it was the church or a civil authority that performed the ceremony. Marriage has always been an agreement between two individuals made in public but recorded in many different ways. The records of marriages were usually stored with the clerk of the town or county where the bride resided. 

Some of the earlier records might’ve been housed in the archives of the state. The more recent ones may be stored in a state’s Division of Vital Records. In addition to the actual marriage record, you’ll also come across records that show a couple’s intent to marry.

Marriage Banns

The announcement of an intended marriage made in public is called marriage banns. The intentions and banns were made a few weeks before the couple went ahead with their plans of marriage. This might’ve been a requirement to enable other community members to raise objections to the marriage if necessary.

Throughout the mid-1800s, this was a common custom in the southern and New England states. The announcement of a wedding was traditionally made in the church about three weeks before the event. Banns were more of a religious custom. It required the couple to announce that they had plans to marry their local congregation. 

They might’ve posted a written notice at the church as well. Intentions were presented to the local civil authority as written notices. They were posted in a public place for a certain period of time. The town clerk or minister then recorded these announcements in a register. 

Applications and licenses

The most common types of records that show an intent to marry are the applications and licenses. The use of banns, bonds, and intentions was gradually replaced by these documents. A bride and groom applied to the appropriate civil authorities for obtaining a license to be married. 

The civil authority, in this case, was usually a town or county clerk. Most of the information on genealogical value can be found in these records. They include the names of the couple, their residence, and their ages. The race, occupations, birth dates, and names of the parents of the couples were also provided in the later records. 

The person who performed the marriage has presented the license. It was later returned to the town or county clerk. Applications for obtaining a license are primarily records of the twentieth century. They often contain more detailed information when compared to the license.

Marriage bonds

Marriage bonds are guarantees in a written form. They are promises of payment made by the groom or a person who is often the bride’s relative. This ensures that a forthcoming marriage would be legal. The individual posting the bond was known as the ‘surety’ or ‘bondsman’. 

The bond was then presented to the official or minister who performed the ceremony. It was then returned to the town or county clerk. The southern and middle-Atlantic states frequently used bonds until the mid-1800s.

Consent papers

Consent papers were made available in cases where the permission of a parent or guardian was required. They were usually required when the bride or groom was underage. The consent might’ve been either verbal or written on the bond or license.

The Different Elements of Marriage Records

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