Previously we looked at banns, bonds, consents, licenses and applications and their respective roles leading up to a marriage. Today, we’ll explore returns, registers and certificates.
Marriage returns were typically completed by ministers who united the couple “in holy matrimony.” The couple had to provide the officiant with their license or, in earlier times the bond or consent before the preacher could “legally” perform the ceremony. Not that people didn’t “jump over the broom” or “stomp the glass” without state consent. It’s just that if they did, it’s less likely there will be an official record of the union. Sometimes the returns are a part of the license, sometimes they are loose papers.
Once the town or county clerk received the return, he could then register the marriage. Marriage registers exist in various forms, depending upon the locale. Sometimes they are books, not unlike will or deed books. These books can hold a genealogical treasure trove of information such as:
- date and place of marriage
- full name of each party
- age and marital condition, i.e. widowed, etc.
- place of their birth
- place of their residence
- names of their parents
- occupation of the husband
- name of the officiant
Marriage certificates were usually issued by whatever entity recorded the marriage to the newly married couple. At times quite ornate, certificates can be found in marriage registers or in personal effects, such as a family bible or trunk of important papers.
To recap this series: banns, bonds, consents, licenses and applications imply a marriage took place while returns, registers and certificates prove a marriage took place.