Marriage records are on the top of every genealogist’s “needs-to-be-found” list. However, sometimes those marriage records for genealogy are really hard to find. Here are a few tips you might consider when searching for a marriage record.
Marriage Records for Genealogy: Search by Name
Finding marriage records online is getting more and more common, especially at FamilySearch.org. which is free for all to use. Here’s an example of why your search-by-name may not produce the marriage record you are looking for.
Joe Nimety had changed the spelling of his last name. He is sometimes recorded as Joe “Nimeth” or even “Nemeth.” I knew he had married twice. First to Mary Super, likely in Ohio or Michigan and secondly to Lillie Eldridge, likely in Lee County, Virginia. I was particularly interested in his marriage record for Lillie.
My first search perimeters on FamilySearch were as follows:
Sadly, these perimeters didn’t give me any marriage record results. So, I tried changing “Nimety” to “Nimeth,” but still no marriage records were found in my results list.
Tip #1: When you search for a marriage record by the names’ of both spouses, you may be telling the system that both names need to appear in the record. If that marriage record does exist, but was indexed incorrectly by name, the record may not appear in your results list. To overcome this obstacle, search by one spouse at a time. Here are the perimeters I used for just Lillie’s name:
And guess what, my results included this marriage record below. Can you spot the reason why it didn’t pop up when I was searching for Joe Nimety/Nimeth, Nemeth?
Joe was recorded as “Joe Niveth,” spelled with a “v.” I never would have considered looking for that spelling!
Here is a quick list of additional tips to search by name:
- Search by last name and place only of the couple, and of each individual separately.
- Search by year and place only. The place should be by county and state, if in the U.S.
- Search by nicknames (such as “Polly” for Martha and “Bill” for William) with a place and/or year.
- Search by first initials only in a county and state.
- Search for last names of both spouses, a year range, and “United States.” They may have gotten married in another state because of marriage license restrictions.
Marriage Records for Genealogy: Search a Different Database or Website
If FamilySearch doesn’t produce the marriage record you are searching for, perhaps another database or website will. Findmypast has a particularly large database of U.S. marriage records, however, it is a subscription site.
I was recently looking for a marriage record in Kenton county, Kentucky. I noticed that FamilySearch did not have these marriage records in the time-frame I needed, 1933. I checked that by going to card catalog.
But, a quick Google Search for Kenton county Kentucky genealogy produced a GenWeb site with loads of amazing, digitized records…including the entire 1840-1940 Kenton Marriages Index from the Independence Court House.
I have been fortunate enough to find many county GenWeb sites that have marriage records and more. What a great find for those of us researching and unable to make a trip!
Tip #2: If marriage certificates or records are not online or have been lost or destroyed, don’t forget to check the marriage licenses. Often times, these were recorded in separate ledgers and can even contain more information that the marriage record!
Tell Your Story
In what unique ways have you been able to locate a marriage record? I would love to hear about it either here in the comments or at our Facebook page, The Genealogy Reporter.
I searched for my husbands great grandparents marriage record to no avail. I searched Allegheny County PA, all the adjacent counties and Ohio, Maryland and West Virginia but never found them. A few years later when I received the Civil War Pension I discovered that they had never married.
Amie Bowser Tennant says
Thanks for that tip, Claudia! You are right…another great place to find that elusive marriage record is in a pension file!
Jeanne Bryan Insalaco says
I never found the exact marriage record of my 4th great grandparents – James Bryan and Elizabeth Cain. It was listed in his pension papers that they married in 1818, Franklin Co., Ga.
Amie Bowser Tennant says
Jeanne, I had the exact same thing happen with my 4th great grandparents. The only marriage date and place exist in his War of 1812 pension. Good tip!
Robert Givens says
Amie – Besides comparing the collections of Family Search vs Ancestry, I have begun to use the US Marriages data base at Findmypast (check the collection United States Marriages.) When they first started posting it they said it would grow to over 100 million records. I believe they are past the 30 million mark now. I know it has more New York marriages that I have found elsewhere.
I love your search techniques – it is especially problematic when searching for a woman’s second marriage (whether you know it is her second one or not) as she is usually listed under her former married last name not her maiden name. Always remember that Mary Jones may get married to John Smith but Jones isn’t necessarily her maiden name.