Free Marriage Public Record Searches
There is not one centralized source for Marriage Records
Vital records, such as marriage records, may be located in a number of different places. Different states and counties are each subject to varying legislation that affects the ability to successfully locate marriage records. Unfortunately, there is not one centralized location where marriage records may be searched for free and there is no guarantee that the information sought is available online.
Free Online Services to Help you find Marriage Records
However, many records related to marriages are available online and available free-of-charge. Performing an extensive online search using these free services, particularly for marriage records more than 50 years old is a good strategy when seeking marriage records.
Are you the Spouse of the Person your are searching for a Marriage Record for?
Generally, official marriage records of those who are living are not available to anyone other than the spouses themselves, unless a court orders them to be made available. This is to protect the privacy of those who are living and discourage those with possibly nefarious motives, such as those involved with identity theft.
Different states have laws that vary with regard to who may access marriage records. For example in New York State marriage records are only available if they have been on file for over 50 years and both spouses are deceased. The 50 year time period may be waived if the searcher is a direct line descendant: child, grandchild, great grandchild, etc. The searcher is required to provide proof of this relationship as well as proof of death of both spouses. For this reason, New York State marriage records less than 50 years old are generally not available online. Similar situations prevail in most jurisdictions in the United States.
Familysearch has resources for Marriage Records
FamilySearch.org provides a detailed listing of different online resources for searching for marriage records by state. Free searches are not available for every state.
Just because a particular record, such as a marriage certificate, cannot be located, does not necessarily mean that the information sought is not available elsewhere.
Information about marriages may be found in the following documents:
- Applications and Licenses
- Consent Papers
- Contracts and Settlements
- Marriage Announcements
- Marriage Banns
- Marriage Bonds
- Personal Records of Marriage Officiant
- Returns and Registers
When searching for marriage records, the more information available, the better. At least some of the following information is needed to begin a marriage records search:
- County or state where marriage took place.
- Year or precise date of the marriage.
- Place the marriage took place. (i.e. city, town, church, synagogue).
- Name of at least one of the parties who married.
Once this information is available it is possible to search online databases. Free online resources to search include:
Not all online records will appear in searches using these resources. For example, the Schenectady County Historical Society in New York State maintains a list of marriages performed in Schenectady County between 1908 and 1916 in a .pdf document available on its website. Web pages and .pdf documents may be browsed or searched individually using the CTRL-F search function available with Adobe Acrobat Reader and most web browsers.
Steps to Find Marriage Records Online
1. Start with Google search for Marriage Records
The broadest search that can be performed is a Google search. In some cases, simply searching using the names of the spouses may be enough to pull up records. If this doesn't work, different combinations of available information may be used.
Suggestions for Google search formats include:
- Spouse name(s), date of marriage
- Spouse name(s), location of marriage
- The word "marriage", spouse names(s)
- The word "marriage", location of marriage
- Name of marriage officiant, date of marriage
A Google search of this type may lead the searcher to the actual marriage certificate or to another document that provides details about the marriage, such as a newspaper announcement, scanned wedding invitation or entry in a book, among many other possibilities.
2. To help source out Marriage Records Try FamilySearch and USGenWeb
These are two of the most comprehensive sources for finding marriage records available for free online. FamilySearch provides a detailed search function, which allows users to search using several different types of data. RootsWeb contains links to a vast number of archives offered by historical societies and other sources.
3. Marriage Record Search still far off? Get Creative
If the above options yield no results, remember that mistakes in documents like this, particularly older documents, are common. Names can change spelling over time and mistakes can be made. Searching slight variations of the information that is available can sometimes find the record sought.
4. Marriage Records aren't Unicorns... so Don't Give Up
After free online avenues are exhausted, searchers have several options. Visiting the local or state archives and searching through files, microfiche or physical documents or making a request with the archive for the information you are looking for may prove fruitful. Some archives charge varying fees for this service. There are several paid online sites that make marriage records available, but these are not complete either. As a last resort, the services of a private investigator or professional searcher may be the only option for recovering the most difficult-to-find marriage records. Unfortunately due to factors such as fire, theft and accidental loss, some records may be lost forever and impossible to locate.