Smith-Waters wedding

Smith-Waters wedding

This summer I discussed the little known record called Petition for Letters. This record often names all known heirs of a deceased individual.

A similarly useful record is the Application for a Marriage License. We all seek out marriage records for our ancestors, but here’s one we may have missed.

I have previously discussed the kinds of records marriage created.

Marriage License

A Marriage License indicates that the applicant met the state laws with regard to marriage.

Marriage licenses are frequently incorporated into forms for marriage records, as shown here:


The Application

A valuable genealogical document, search for the Application for a Marriage License. Sometimes, states required more information in the application that does not appear in the license itself.

The example below, from Pennsylvania, provides not just ages for the couple. It also provides their parent’s names, and the (OMG!) maiden name of the mothers:

Application for License

Pennsylvania and Ohio, at certain times, required parental information for marriage. A Pennsylvania marriage record proved key for my research by uncovering the names of my 3rd great-grandparents.

That is probably the only surviving document that names the couple; their daughter’s death certificate did not.

Closing Thoughts

Remember that many valuable records such as these are not available online. In fact, marriage license applications are rarely even indexed or abstracted .

I have found them in dusty boxes in courthouse and state archives. Once I discovered their value, I routinely check each new research county for them.

I found that in Maryland in the time that I was searching, their applications did not ask for the names of parents. They did ask if the couple was related, which is a good thing to know;) And the application asked for age and town or city of residence.

That bit of information proved very useful for reconstructing communities where people often had the same name.

Check your local courthouse or state archives to see if any Applications for Marriage Licenses survive. They might just hold a clue that unlocks more of your ancestry.

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