Monday, October 24, 2011

How to Prove a Marriage Event for a Lineage Application

I am in the process of gathering the documentation I need to submit my husband's lineage applications for the Ohio Genealogical Society's Settlers and Builders of Ohio (your family must have resided in Ohio between 1821 and 1860) and hopefully, the Society of Civil War Families of Ohio (SCWFO).  SCWFO is one of the few lineage groups that allows you to submit a collateral relative.  My husband's great-grandmother's brother served in the Civil War and I will submit his name.

As with any lineage application I make a chart of the people who will be involved in the application.  I make a list of the items that will be required:  Birth - Marriage - Death - Divorce - Tombstone Picture - Obituary - Will/Estate - Bible - Census Records - Other records.  I have this chart made in Excel so that I can use it over and over.  It has been very easy to use and has shown me where I need to find items that I do not have.

I will start with my husband's birth certificate, then our marriage record, then my birth certificate.  You will notice that I didn't say marriage certificate.  Normally, the marriage certificate you hold in your possession is proof of your marriage for most of life's events.  However, when you are applying to a lineage society, the rule is generally that you must also prove where the marriage was recorded in Probate Court.  You must include the volume and page of where the information appears!  This caused me a lot of backtracking when I did my first lineage application.  (This goes back to putting a source citation on your document when you find it.)  The official record of marriage in most states is the return to the court from the person who officiated at the ceremony.   

The source citation for this record will read:
Marriage License of John Furgeson/Ferguson and Caroline Wittel
Crawford County Probate Court, Crawford Co., OH
Volume 8  Page 12  Certificate 48
The license was issued on 11 February 1871

Important note:  Just because a marriage license was issued does not mean 
there was a marriage!

The actual marriage return is beside this and appears as:

 The source citation for this will be:
Marriage Record return for John Furgeson/Ferguson and Caroline Wittel
Married on the 10th day of February 1871
Crawford County, Ohio Marriage Records
Volume 8 Page 12 Certificate 48

I believe that the marriage records are the most misunderstood records as most people believe the marriage certificate they have in their possession, or in a frame, is the actual legal record.  I do insist of my applicants that if they do submit their original certificates, they have to submit to me the volume and page of where the document is recorded.  

So, save yourself an extra step and do this right at the beginning.

Today, many marriage records from Ohio can be found at  However, they are not "sourced" as to the volumes they came from.  On occasion I have found that by going to page 1 of the record source, there might be a volume number.  What this is doing for you is telling you what county the couple was married in and what date they were married.  You can contact the Probate Court for that particular county and ask them what volume and page that record would appear on.  If the personnel at the court will not do this for you, then check with a local genealogical society to see if they have researchers that will look this up for you if you do not live in the area.


  1. In the case of my family's research in Perry County, OH, I was fortunate to stumble upon a free website of the scanned actual pages of the probate court marriage records. See for example. Hopefully, there are others posting such records online for the other counties that will help with such research.

  2. Just so you know, marriages are never recorded in probate court in New England. In fact, there are no vital records (births, marriages or deaths) recorded at the county level in any of the six New England states. Vital records are kept by the individual town/city clerks, or by the state after the date required by the states (after 1897 in CT, 1892 in ME, 1850 in MA, etc.

  3. Heather, you are correct. I tend to focus on the Ohio roots. I have had my own research experience with New England town clerks, etc.. It has proved very helpful. The point to consider is where did the couple marry and what were the recording circumstances at that time. Even here in Ohio county boundaries change from time to time.

    Jacqi - I find many local county government entities are putting this information online. It is really a good thing as it is a backup of the original material in case of any disaster - not that we want disasters to happen to our records!

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