Saturday, June 12, 2010

RESEARCH TIP: Marriage Records

Under Indiana law, counties were required beginning in 1818 to keep a record of their marriages (with some keeping records even before then). Hendricks County was officially formed in 1824, so its marriage records exist from 1824 onward.


In the beginning, marriage records did not contain much information that we as researchers find helpful - just the name of the bride and groom, the date of the marriage, and the name of the person who performed that marriage. The earliest marriage books contained only handwritten entries (pictured: an example from 1839).


By the 1850's, the county began using books that had pre-printed forms (pictured: an example from 1852), which helped standardize the presentation of the information.


In the 1860's and 1870's, in addition to the marriage books, there was the (scattered) usage of marriage affidavit books, which sometimes listed the name of a parent or the age of the bride or groom (if they were under 18). Pictured: an example from 1871.


Handwritten notes were sometimes attached to the marriage affidavit form. Pictured: an 1871 note signed by Thomas C. Sheets stating that he gives permission for his daughter Josephine Sheets to marry.


In 1882, the use of marriage affidavit books was replaced by marriage supplement books. They contained numerous columns of additional information on the bride and groom, including how many previous marriages, their occupation, their birthplace, their residence, their age, the names of their parents and where the marriage took place.


In May 1905, a change in Indiana law took effect, which included the use of marriage application books in addition to the marriage license books. These applications had to be filled out for both the bride and groom, and asked several questions of them, including their parents' residences and birthplaces. Pictured: an example of a marriage application from 1914.


In May 1950, Indiana law consolidated the marriage application and marriage license books into one book. Pictured: an example from 1953.


In 1958 a new set of marriage books was used. The application portion of the marriage record now asked for some proof of the bride or groom's birthdate and proof of medical examination (blood test). Pictured: an example from 1958, where both the bride and groom's birthdates were verified by birth certificates.


The couple would receive the completed marriage license after the marriage had been performed. This document often included information that was not listed in the marriage license books - such as the names of the witnesses and where the marriage took place.


Usually you will only find these papers if they were handed down through the family. However, the Plainfield library has a collection of marriage licenses, which were found in the Hendricks County courthouse. The Indiana Room section of their website has an index in progress (pictured).


In the 1930's, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) indexed Hendricks County's marriage license books for 1824 through 1920. That WPA marriage index (pictured) consisted of the name of the bride, the name of the groom, the date of the marriage, and the corresonding book and page number. The WPA marriage index has been converted into a searchable database, available in the Data section of the Hendricks County GenWeb site. NOTE: There are some flaws in the WPA marriage index - it does not include any entries from Book 1 1/2 (which covered 1831-1837), and errors have been found in the names and book and page numbers.




The WPA also did an index of Hendricks County's marriage supplements books for 1882 through 1920. That WPA marriage supplements index (pictured) consisted of the name of the bride or groom, their father's name, their mother's maiden name, their age as of their next birthday, the date of the marriage, and the corresonding book and page number. The WPA marriage supplements index has been converted into a searchable database, available in the Data section of the Hendricks County GenWeb site.

The Hendricks County Clerk's office has Hendricks County's marriage records. They are on the 2nd floor of the Hendricks County courthouse in Danville.


Hendricks County's marriage license books for 1824-1950, marriage affidavits for 1866-1879, marriage supplements for 1885-1906, and marriage applications for May 1905-1947 have been microfilmed. That microfilm is available at the Family History Library and the Indiana State Library. The Plainfield library also has some (but not all) of this microfilm collection - their marriage license books microfilm covers 1824-1925 and their marriage applications microfilm covers May 1905 - January 1922.

The Archives on the Hendricks County Government website includes digital files of the Hendricks County marriage license books for 1824-2003.

The Hendricks County GenWeb site has an index to the Hendricks County marriage license books in their Data section. This searchable index (pictured) includes the names of the bride and groom, their date of marriage and the corresponding book and page number. It is an ongoing project--so far it covers 1824-1848 and 1904-1964.

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