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What You Need to Know About Marriage Records

The next time you need to apply for a new passport or social security card, claim insurance benefits or search for your long-lost cousin, you’ll most likely need to obtain copies of marriage records from your local government offices. Marriage records are typically recorded and kept in the corresponding state or country in which a couple is wed, and can be accessed whether you’re part of this couple or not. 

In addition to marriage records, divorce records and domestic partnership or civil union marriage records for same-sex couples may be found in the corresponding state system where the joining or dissolution of a relationship occurred. Here, we’ll discuss what types of marriage records exist, and how to obtain a copy of your free marriage records.

The Process of Establishing Marriage Records

In order to establish a marriage record, there are three basic steps involved: applying for and obtaining a marriage license, having witnesses sign a marriage certificate at the civil ceremony, and filing this certificate with the local authorities to become a marriage record. Public marriage records typically include marriage license records, divorce records or even documented civil unions may be found during a marriage records search. State marriage laws will dictate whether these options exist in your locale.

Requesting a Copy of Your Marriage Records

Typically, the state records offices will have options to request a copy of marriage records held there via mail, fax or even in person. Appropriate government-issued identification, such as a valid driver’s license or I.D., passport or military I.D., or some combination of these will be required to obtain your marriage records.

Information Needed to Obtain Marriage Records

In order to obtain copies of marriage records for someone other than you, such as a grandparent or acquaintance, each state will require different types of information to provide these records. Many state records offices will ask for a specific time period pertinent to your marriage records search, as well as either the husband’s or wife’s name. Older marriage records that occurred more than 100 years ago, or those for someone with a common last name like Smith or Jones may require specific county information in order to find them.

Copies of Marriage Records

When requesting copies of public marriage records, you should have the option of receiving a certified or uncertified copy. Uncertified copies are available to anyone and contain the same information as certified copies, but can not be used for legal purposes. These are ideal for researching your ancestors and extended family members, and can usually be found online. 

Certified copies of marriage certificates will usually bear a seal and signature of the State Registrar and are printed on special paper. These certified copies may be used for legal issues such as claiming insurance benefits or changing a last name. 

Information Contained in Marriage Records

Marriage records, both certified and uncertified copies, will include the full names of the husband and wife, their corresponding places of birth, and the date and location of their marriage. More recent records may include additional information such as their home addresses or occupations.

Anyone can obtain marriage records for a couple when armed with the appropriate information. Finding your extended family members or discovering your ancestry, requesting certified copies for insurance or government purposes, or simply double-checking the facts are all possible by researching and requesting marriage records from the correct government records office.



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