Marriage records, like birth certificates, provide valuable information to the genealogy researcher. This is one of the first places to look for woman’s maiden name. Beyond the date and the names of the bride and groom, more information can be gleaned from the record.
Know how marriages were recorded for the time period you are researching. Recording marriages in North Carolina counties began as early as 1742, but many of these were lost over the years. Marriage bonds continued until 1868. In North Carolina, nearly all of the marriage bonds are kept at the State Archives of North Carolina.
In North Carolina, marriage licenses were not preserved until 1851 and by 1868 county register of deeds assumed the responsibility of issuing these licenses. Check with the individual county register of deeds office for your ancestor’s marriage license. If you are searching for a more modern marriage record taking place after 1962, check with the North Carolina Vital Records office.
Let’s Take a Detailed Look at a Marriage Certificate
Note: Information found on a marriage certificate will vary from state to state, but the basics will be the same.
This is the marriage certificate of Connie M Howard [Harward] and Mattie Maddox of Lee County, North Carolina.
- Groom’s Name —-> C. M. [Connie M. ] Harward [Howard] —> In this case, only the groom’s initials were used.
- Bride’s Name —-> Mattie Maddox
- Place of Residence for Bride and Groom —-> Lee County, North Carolina This location will give clues where to start looking for other family as well.
- Age of Groom —–> Gives a birth date of 1892.
- Age of Bride —–> Gives the bride a birth date of 1888.
- Date of Marriage —–> 8 March 1914
- Groom’s Parents —-> A. S. Harward and E. D. Harward. Notice the groom’s mother’s maiden name is not given.
- Bride’s Parents —> J. A. Maddox and Martha Maddox
- Parents Living or Dead? —-> Both of C. M. Harward’s parents are still living on 8 March 1914. The bride’s mother is living, too. The bride’s father is dead. This information on the couple’s parents is extremely important in progressing the family lines back. Since J. Maddox is deceased, the researcher should look for will and estate records. [James Maddox died intestate in 1892. His estate records are located at the State Archives of North Carolina.]
- Name of Minister —> J. A. Thomas – Knowing the name of the minister and the location of the marriage (below) can lead the researcher to the church the couple attended. The church may be a source of other records for the couple and/or other family members.
- Location of the marriage —-> Broadway, Cape Fear Township, Lee County, NC.
- Witnesses —-> Take note of all the witnesses to a marriage or any other event. Typically, witnesses were other family members or close friends. These people make up your ancestor’s FAN (Friends, Associates and Neighbors) Club. Just as they appear in your ancestor’s marriage record, your ancestor may appear in their records as well.
Let’s Take a Look at a Marriage Bond
Marriage Bonds were discontinued ~1868. While marriage bonds indicate an intent of marriage, they do not mean the actual marriage took place. Regardless, marriage bonds place a couple in place and time as well as indicating with whom your ancestors associated.
In the example above:
- Groom —-> Burgess Woods
- Bondsman —-> Curtis Segraves – Typically the bondsman is a relative or close friend of the couple.
- Location —-> Ashe County, NC
- Bond Date —> 2 Nov 1828
- Bride —-> Machen Seagraves
- Signatures of Groom and Bondsman —> Original signature of Burgess Woods and the mark of Curtis Segraves.
- Signature of Witness —-> Geo [Bowen] – Typically the witness is a close friend or relative.
Other Sources of Marriage Records
- Family Bibles
- Church Records – Look for marriage records in the family’s church.
- Newspapers – Check the society pages for accounts of weddings, bridal showers and family members arriving to attend a wedding.