The 10th most searched record collection on the FamilySearch website is the Pennsylvania, County Marriages, 1885-1950. This collection of marriage records is one of the finest vital record resources available for Pennsylvania vital marriage information. It includes civil marriage records created in Pennsylvania counties for the years 1885 to 1950. These records include registers, affidavits and marriage licenses. In some instances, divorce records are recorded with marriages.
The following information might typically be found on a marriage license that was recorded between 1885 and 1913:
- Full names of the bride and groom
- Date and place of marriage
- Current residence(s) of the bride and groom
- Age, race, occupation and nativity of bride and groom
- Notes of a previous marriage
- Names of parents
- Notes of parental consent, if required
- Date of the license
- Name of person performing the ceremony
In addition to the previous information, marriage licenses after 1913 may also include the following:
- Maiden name of mothers
- Birthplaces of the father and mother
Information about Pennsylvania Marriage Records
Marriages were recorded to legalize marital relationships and to safeguard the interests of the wife and other heirs. The most reliable information is the date and place of the marriage and license date. Other information is dependent upon the reliability of the informant.
On January 12, 1852, the Pennsylvania Legislature enacted its first statewide law requiring the registration of vital records, including marriages. Probably due to lack of compliance, the law was repealed in 1855.
On October 1, 1885, a new law went into effect that made it illegal for any “minister of the gospel, justice of the peace, or other officers, or persons authorized by law to solemnize marriages” to marry any couple who did not first obtain a marriage license. Since then, marriage licenses have been recorded without interruption with the Clerk of the Orphans’ Court within each county.
Before 1885, marriage records created by ministers, justices of the peace, and larger cities may still be kept by the originator, but the bulk of the marriages recorded in Pennsylvania are in this collection.
Counties in the state generally achieved 90 percent compliance by 1915.
FamilySearch has more than 2 million marriage records currently available for this time period. You can search this collection of marriage records for your ancestors by clicking on the Pennsylvania, County Marriages, 1885-1950 link.
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