• Marriage and Birth Records

    After collecting death records, the next step should be to obtain all civil and church marriage and birth records available for yourself, your parents or grandparents who were born on this side of the ocean. It is a serious mistake to depend only upon home sources, such as the family Bible, for this information because it can result in inaccurate or incomplete records. Since most of your families came to this country or Canada either late in the last century or after the turn of this century, I will confine my remarks to civil records available since that time.

    Modern marriage licenses came into existence during the first part of the present century (1900's). There are three possible forms to locate. The first is the application for a license, which was required in some jurisdictions. It does not give the marriage date but is filled out by both the bride and groom, gives their full names, resi-dences, birth dates and places, previous marriages, occupations, and their parents' names, birthplaces (usually just state, province or country), and occupations.

    The second form is the marriage license itself which generally gives the names of the couple, their residence, date and place of license and of marriage, and person performing the ceremony. The third form is the marriage certificate given to the couple after the ceremony, which may give only their names, the date and place, and person performing the ceremony. This is the document with the least information but most commonly found in family records. Marriage records usually can be obtained through county and city clerks, although they are also kept at the state level where you may be required to complete a form stating your relationship to the married couple and the purpose of your request.

    State registration of births was not required in all states until this century, but many cities and counties had earlier registration. Birth certificates usually give the names of the newborn's parents, the parents' birthplaces, their ages, occupations, address, and number of other children born both living and dead. It is a good idea to request a birth certificate for all members of your family in order to verify the information you may have in your family Bible or know from "hearsay". These certificates are usually kept at the state level with the Board of Health or Bureau of Vital Statistics, but you should also check with the clerks at the county and/or city level in case the state record is lost or incomplete. You can never have too many records of the same event.

    A record not well-known is the "delayed birth certificate." After Social Security came into effect in 1937, people claiming benefits had to provide evidence proving their births even though they were born before birth registration in their state or county was required. For example, my mother obtained her baptismal certificate as proof, which to her amazement gave her a different birth date than she had always celebrated. The person applying for a delayed birth certificate was required to submit a petition to the county court giving his/her name, address, birth date, birthplace, and his/her father's name, race, and birthplace. Most states have these delayed certificates, which are indexed and easy to use. They are usually filed in the county where the person applied and not in the county of birth.

    You should first check the Locality Catalog at your local branch of the Mormon Family History Library to see if the marriage and birth records you are seeking have been microfilmed, because you can frequently obtain them there more easily and at a much lower cost than going through the various levels of city, county and state government.

    Suzanne Greif Alskog, Swedish Finn Historical Society
    June Pelo