Marriage Certificates

When you first hear about marriage certificates when learning about genealogy you just sort of think Oh yes I know about them. They give a bit of information but are they really useful for anything aside of figuring out the next step in my research? The answer is of course both a yes and a no. The answer also ranges depending upon when and where your marriage certificate comes from.

For example, some of the early marriage certificates I have give just a line saying the name of the two people, not much more than what is on an index in later years. More recently still I get a little bit more information like this one between John and Sarah Gransden.

John Gransden and Sarah Wood marriage registration.

John Gransden and Sarah Wood marriage registration.

Even this registration gives some details. The fact that both are from the Parish of Strood in Kent, the date, of course and two people who were important to the couple in some way. This can always lead to extra places to research.

So what about a more modern marriage certificate. In the UK these give useful information like the parents of the couple about to get married and their birth dates. In Australia we get even more details. We get things like a place of abode, parents and a bunch of different bits and pieces. All of which can be used to take your research just that little bit further. For example, you now have the parents of both parties, you can go and look them up. You also have a place of abode, that is a whole area of research all together that can be totally fascinating. In Australia try putting some of the address details into Trove trove.nla.gov.au and you never know what you will come up with.

Elizabeth Carter and Edward Weston marriage 1866

Elizabeth Carter and Edward Weston marriage 1866

Then there are the odd little bits and pieces that you only get every now and then. That marriage certificate that comes back with the word divorce scrawled across the top of it. When you have that one you know you have a marriage certificate that is going to reveal more to you about the people that you have been researching than you expected.

On the rare occasions that you get the word divorce on a marriage certificate, don’t let it go. Divorce records are held in all different locations. In Australia they are usually held by the Archives for that State. It is worth following up on this information and going and checking out your State Archives because it is rare that a divorce goes through, particularly the further back we go, without some information about the family going to the Courts. You may find names of children, you may find good things, you may find bad things. What you will find is more things.

Always remember with a divorce, prior to 1975 there was no ‘No Fault Divorce’ so often you will get only one side and you will get a negative experience. After all one or more people are trying to get out of a marriage and that was not easy. So you may only hear one side of a story. Don’t forget that is always a second side to that story and it is worth keeping an open mind.


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