Marriage Records

Tips In Researching

Transcribed by : Tina Easley



Words that you will run across while doing research in marriage records and meanings.


marriage banns - notice of intended marriage published by a church and often read before the congregation; normally published three Sundays or holy days in the parish were the persons dwelled or wedding was to occur

marriage bond - document binding parties to pay a sum of money if the obligation of marriage is not performed; used in colonial era; usually paid by the father, brother or a relative of a bride; posted before a license could be issued

marriage license - document issued by a civil authority authorizing that the marriage can be performed

marriage record or return - report of marriage returned to the civil authority by person performing marriage

marriage register - record of marriages performed in a civil or church jurisdiction

bondsman or surety - person legally liable for the debt or default of another; they are shown as such on early marriage bonds

declaration of intent to marry - in some instances required before a ceremony could be performed

marriage contract - also known as a prenuptial agreement; normally used to protect property for children (in case of second or more marriages); sometimes filed in probate or land records

dowry - property a bride brings to her husband at the time of marriage

dower - is the legal term designating the portion of a deceased husband's real property that is legally allowed to the widow for her lifetime.


early marriage records the bondsman or surety may be related to either the groom or bride.

look for a letter or form signed by one or both parents giving permission for the marriage. This is good proof as to the relationship and age.

using marriage records that have been recorded in an index type volume within the courthouse jurisdiction, ask where the actual records are located. These will sometimes provide more information and possibly conflicting information. Usually any extra papers, such as the permission letter, will be attached to the original document.

names of witnesses - They may be related. If you are uncertain, keep them in mind when searching other records.

If bride and groom are older and particularly if they have been previously married, be sure to look for a marriage contract. These prenuptial agreements may be filed with the marriage record, but can also be found in probate files or even within land records if there is detailed information about the ownership of land.