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Love and Marriage

Valentine's Day is a time to remember those we love. It's also a good time to learn more about love as our ancestors celebrated it and document the marriages of our ancestors and their kin. The following resources will help you learn more about marriage from a historical prospective and find the records you need to document your ancestor's marriage


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Type: Article
Resource: GenWeekly
Prepared by: Gena Philibert-Ortega
Word Count: 910 (approx.)
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Valentine's Day is a time to remember those we love. It's also a good time to learn more about love as our ancestors celebrated it and document the marriages of our ancestors and their kin. The following resources will help you learn more about marriage from a historical prospective and find the records you need to document your ancestor's marriage.

An interesting web site that provides some historical views of dating is Courtship in America at On this web site you can read a history of dating, parent involvement in matters of dating and marriage, romance, love letters, marriage traditions, and quotes about love from 1920s and 1930s newspapers and books. One of the points that the article on parents makes is that marriage was at one time about much more than romantic love; it was definitely a contract that included a property arrangement. It states, "A young man was expected to bring land or some other form of property to a marriage and a young woman was expected to bring a dowry worth about half as much."

The book, To Love and To Cherish: Brides Remembered by Linda Otto Lipsett is an interesting mix of marriage customs, history, and the stories of individual brides the author has researched. Some of the historical facts that Lipsett provides includes information about marriage customs such as the origin of the word "bridal" which came from a fund raising custom in England in the 16th and 17th centuries, where the bride brewed a strong "bride-ale" to sell to friends and neighbors right after the wedding ceremony. Afterwards a collection box was passed around (p. 27). One superstition having to do with marriage was that a sharp object should never be given for a wedding or it will sever the romance (p. 113).

According to's Marriage site,, the tradition of giving an engagement ring is almost universal and dates back to the Romans. The ring, being a circle, symbolizes eternity and a marriage that would be eternal. You can read articles about other marriage traditions and ideas about marriages throughout the ages at this web site.

For those with Irish roots, you may be interested in how Irish couples of yesteryear celebrated marriage and the traditions for marriage. The web site Celt, the Online Resource for Irish History, Literature and Politics, a project of the History Department of the University College Cork at, includes and article entitled "Marriage in Early Ireland" that may be of interest to you. This article explains the sources of information on early Irish marriages, around 700 A.D., including the three types of marriages and what they meant for the parties involved.

Some of the following online marriage indexes may help you to search for your ancestor:

United States

The web site, I Dream of Genealogy,, provides links to online marriage records for most states. Links for statewide marriage indexes as well as indexes for counties are included.

Joe Beine has a web site that includes links to online marriages indexes at

World Vital Records, World Vital Records, has a few marriage records databases, including one for the state of Maine.

Ancestry has several databases for marriages, to see if it has a marriage database for the state you are researching, go to the homepage and click on the "Search" tab. Then select the state you are interested in by clicking on the United States map.

Family Search's International Genealogical Index (IGI), includes marriage records that were extracted from the original sources.

Western States

BYU Idaho's Western States Marriage Record Index at, includes marriage records for select time periods and counties for Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. The database contains over 467,000 marriage records and more are being added on a daily basis. The database allows you to see what records are available by state and county, and you can search the database by either the brides name or the groom's name. Hits provide you with the bride and groom's name, county of residence, place of marriage and where to locate the record.


For those with a San Francisco ancestor, San Francisco Genealogy, San Francisco Newspaper Marriage & Divorce Notices, has transcribed over 4,000 marriages that appeared in historic newspapers before 1906.


The Illinois State Archives web site features a database entitled, Illinois Statewide Marriage Index, 1763-1900 at One million marriages are featured in this index. The index provides you with the bride's and groom's name, the date of marriage, the county the marriage took place, the volume and page number where the information is located, and the marriage license number. From this information you can go ahead and order the record.


One of the free databases offered by is Nevada Marriages, 1860-1987( This index is not a complete index of all Nevada marriages for this period, but it does include selected county and church records. Ancestry also offers the database, Nevada Marriage Index, 1956-2005 ( for free. This database includes information from the Nevada State Health Division, Office of Vital Records and the Clark County marriage Bureau.


The Utah State Archives, has a collection of records that have been digitized. Records differ for each county. But some marriage licenses and applications are included for select counties. For a list of counties and the inventories for these counties see,

The Western States Marriage Index web site not only contains marriages for Utah but also has a page on sources for pre-1887 Utah marriages by county,

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2007.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

*Effective May 2010, GenWeekly articles that are more than five years old no longer require a subscription for full access.

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