Marriages and Genealogy

A major part of genealogy and family research is marriages. Who married who? What kind of families did each person come from? Were they prominent families, working families, celebrities, politicians, etc.? What religions were the families?

There are so many questions with answers that can often lead to more questions. How many kids did they have? Did they stay married? How long were they married? Did they have multiple marriages in their lifetime?

Wedding Party

Using Marriages Records for Research

Traditionally, a set of parents (mother and father) was married to each other as they built their family and raised children.

As you build your family tree, either on paper or on family tree software, you are connecting families with the mother and father of each generation. One important piece of information that is typically recorded is the date and place where the marriage occurred.

However, things happen. A spouse passes away, the couple divorces and people often remarried. It’s important to document these events as it helps keep families organized when sharing information with others.

Marriage Certificate

Fun Fact: Every child has one mother and father (parents). For each parent, there is a set of parents for each of them. If you go back five generations and do the math, a person has 128 grandparents. That’s a potential of at least 64 marriages to research!

Marriage Record Brick Walls

Marriages can both create and solve brick walls.

Records after a marriage will typically have the woman’s married surname (the surname of her new husband) as women typically take the last name of her husband. This can sometimes make it difficult to find what her maiden name was if it wasn’t recorded anywhere prior to the marriage or it just cannot be easily located.

However, when the woman passes away, her death certificate may list the maiden name of her mother. This could help you find additional information a generation further back than what you were working for but it’s still valuable information.

If she had a child, the child’s birth certificate or record may list her maiden name. If the children have passed away, their death certificates may contain their mother’s maiden name. This is assuming that the informant knew what the mother’s maiden name was at the time of filing.

What if she married multiple times? Every time she marries and changes her name, it complicates confirming records for her. It’s not impossible; it just requires more effort and careful attention to the details.

Census records, church records, and even military service records may contain information to help with maiden name mysteries and other marriage information that you may be looking for.

How much attention do you pay to marriage records? Do you use marriage records and information as a basis for confirming relationships within families? Has family marriages solved or created mysteries in your research?

What’s the most interesting marriage story you’ve found in your research? Tell us your story in the comments!