How can the census help in locating my ancestor's marriage record?

After 1850 certain marriage-specific questions were asked in the U.S. Federal Census that can help you learn more about your ancestor's marriage and when that marriage might have taken place. Of course, the best method is to follow your ancestor through all census years during his or her lifetime, beginning with the last census before death to the first census after birth to compare the changes from one census year to the next, and to evaluate the ages of children.

Following are the marriage-specific questions asked in the census, along with the years that question was asked. From this you can determine what marriage questions were asked during your ancestor's lifetime. Some questions were unique to a single census year' others were asked across several censuses. And while this information does not give you precise dates, it certainly does allow you to narrow the field in your search for records.

It is important to be note that, depending on the year, not all questions were asked of all people: race did play an issue. Information presented here applies to questionnaires given to the general population during a particular census year.

Overall, these marriage-specific questions in the census, taken together over time can help you create a timeline of your ancestor's married life, and in turn provide important clues in your search for records.

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