How to Find Marriage Records Online?
Getting married is a multi-step process that is hopefully done only once in a lifetime. While the processes needed to get married have become streamlined, there have been some unifying concepts amongst marriages throughout the ages. One not often thought of is permission to get married. In the past, this was the job of the local clergy, be it the local rabbi, imam or priest, one needed to get approval to get married from religious or state institutions, who also kept records in many cases.
The Church of England had a particularly large influence in deciding who was allowed to get married. The first record of marriage licenses ever being required to get married was found to be in the Middle Ages specifically the year 1100 in what is now England. The records back then usually referred to an exchange of goods or money between the two families and the marriage between the two as well. Today as well, before getting married you have to get a marriage license from the local county clerk’s office.
What is a Marriage License?
People often get confused between a marriage license and a marriage certificate. In fact, a marriage license is very different than a marriage certificate, a license is a marriage application of kinds that are approved by the local authority allowing you to get married. A marriage certificate is proof of the marriage. Having a marriage license is a necessity in order to get married. Once you receive it you will have to fill in the information on the form, this is usually done during the wedding and requires witnesses. Following the marriage, having filled out the full marriage license, the license is sent back to the county clerk either by mail or in person, and then the marriage certificate is issued.
A marriage certificate is considered to be one of the three vital records that need to be attained and registered through the government authorities for record-keeping purposes. The other two records are birth and death certificates. There are various purposes of a marriage certificate, including family tree building, proving a marriage in court, using it to get a tax benefit from the IRS and to create a joint bank account.
Similar to almost all vital records, marriage certificates are a matter of public record and can be accessed by anyone who has enough data to find the certificate. This is true in all of the US except for a few states. The reason these records are public is to help with the creation of census statistics and data. There are several ways to find a marriage certificate online. The first is to go to the local records office and request a copy of the record. This can be done by first identifying where the marriage took place and then contacting that county’s records office. You will need to know when the marriage took place as well as the names of the people who were married in order to locate the record. You will usually have to pay a fee for the document as well as a service fee. An official copy of a marriage certificate can be ordered this way, but only by the married couple or their direct relatives.
Most genealogy websites offer searches for public records. These searches work two ways, if you have a family tree on the site, it will automatically take the information you have entered into the system and attempt to find matches based on that. If you have listed that your grandfather named Pete Johnson was married in New York in 1954, the algorithm will provide records that match. Most of these sites also have a public records search tool that allows you to input the data and view the records.
Another option is through background search companies that work by aggregate millions of public records and census data and provide a platform to make them searchable based on basic information. As marriage certificates are for the most part public records, these records may be in their database already and accessible immediately.
Best Websites to Find Marriage Records Online
The CDC keeps all vital records in the US for purposes of statistics, trend reports, and datasheets. They have a page that links to the official sites of each state where you can request vital records including marriage records. You will need to follow the directions based on each state’s page in order to access the records, but in order to find the record, you will need to know the location of the marriage as well as the names listed and estimated date.
MyHeritage is one of the fore-mentioned genealogy sites. One of the tools offered by MyHeritage to its subscribers is a records search. In order to use this tool you will need to input the full names of the couple whose marriage record you are looking for, you will also need to select which database you wish to search. From the drop-down menu, you can select marriage records from within the vital records section. While a MyHeritage subscription costs money they do offer a free trial.
GoLookUp is a trusted background search company that works by collecting public records and aggregating them into a searchable database. The site allows its users to conduct unlimited searches for any public records including marriage records. The search works by inputting the full name and state in which you wish to search. You will then be led to another page that will prompt you to select the correct person you are trying to access records about. GoLookUp does not have a free trial, but they do offer a 2 day trial for 1 dollar.
Ancestry is another genealogy site that offers services that are very similar to MyHeritage. You can run a marriage records search by typing the full name, location, and range of years in which the marriage took place and other data points that can help narrow down the results of your search. Ancestry also offers a free trial before needing a monthly subscription.