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How to Get a Copy of a Marriage License

Marriage LicenseWhether you’re looking for a recent marriage record, a copy of your own marriage license or want to research your family history, getting a copy of marriage license is easy once you know how. There are several ways to accomplish this task, and you can often get a copy online. Depending on the state and how advanced their record system is, a digital image of a marriage license is sometimes available. Otherwise, to obtain a copy, you must place an order or make one in person.

Why Obtain a Marriage License for Genealogy Purposes?

A marriage license is required in every state prior to getting married, and the information found on the marriage certificate can be very valuable to someone researching their family history. A marriage license doesn’t just feature the full names of the bride and groom, but often includes the names and contact information for witnesses, which could be valuable sources of information, as well as the parents of the bride and groom.

The bride and groom’s dates of birth are usually included as well, and this can help narrow down results from other types of records searches, especially if one person has a common name. Learning the parents’ names leads the search to the previous generation and will keep going as long as marriage licenses exist.

Tips for Getting a Copy of Marriage Licenses

Many online resources exist for locating marriage licenses. Some offer digital images that can be printed from a home computer, while others give an overview of the information contained in the marriage license and give instructions for ordering a physical copy.

  • Search online marriage records indexes using as many identifiers as you know, such as date of birth and location, to help narrow results.
  • If you know the town where the marriage occurred, search the local county clerk website or local court website. Some offer online access to marriage license databases, while others will give instructions for ordering a copy.
  • Many local genealogical societies exist and offer access to marriage records.
  • Most states have a vital records office that records marriage licenses and usually provides easy ways to obtain copies.

Why it’s Easy to Obtain a Copy of a Marriage License

Most states consider marriage certificates open records, meaning that they are available to the public should anyone wish to view this information.  In contrast, other vital records, like birth certificates and death certificates, are often restricted due to privacy laws and an increase in identity theft.

Obtaining a marriage license, especially your own or that of a family member, is usually a matter of making a request to the local county clerk or using one of the many online public records tools to easily obtain a copy online.