North Carolina, County Marriage Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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Access the records: North Carolina County Marriages, 1762-1979 .

Record Description

Information on marriages is generally handwritten on pre-printed forms. Some eighteenth century bonds were written out by hand. During later years the information was typed. Licenses and registers may be arranged alphabetically by the grooms’ names or chronologically within a year. Sometimes records are separated by race

For the period 1741-1868, marriages were performed after the posting of bonds or banns. Banns were the public announcement of an intended marriage made a few weeks before the actual marriage. They could be posted at the church or another public place for a given period of time. This would allow community members to express any objections to the marriage. 

Bonds are promises of payment made by the groom and another person, many times a relative of the bride, if the groom contracted an illegal marriage. The bond was given to the minister or county official usually in the county where the bride resided at the time of the marriage and later returned to the county clerk. 

Marriage licenses were rarely preserved before 1851. At that time a law required that all justices and ministers who performed marriages had to return the licenses to the county clerk who had issued them along with a marriage certificate. In 1868 the power to issue marriage license was given to the registers of deeds. 

Cohabitation records were created in 1866 after the General Assembly passed an act allowing former slaves to register their pre-emancipation marriages before the county clerk or justice of the peace. Most registered before September 1, 1866. 

This collection covers marriages from 1762-1979.

Early marriage records such as bonds and banns were to ensure that no impediment to the marriage existed (such as another spouse). Licenses empowered the minister or justice of the peace to perform the marriage. Marriage certificates proved that the rite of matrimony had been legally performed. Registers were created as indexes to the original licenses and certificates.

Information included on marriage records is usually considered fairly reliable. Sometimes the bride or groom would lie about their age. If someone other than the groom, a relative or friend applied for the license, he may not have known all the information called for on the license.

Coverage Table

A coverage table for this collection is available in the wiki article North Carolina County Marriage Records Coverage Table (FamilySearch Historical Records).

Citation for This Collection:

The following citation refers to the original source of the data and images published on Historical Records. It may include the author, custodian, publisher, and archive for the original records. 

"North Carolina, County Marriages, 1762-1979." Index or Index and Images or Images. FamilySearch. : accessed 2013.

Suggested citation format for a record in this collection.

Record Content

Bonds usually list the following information:

  • Names of bondsmen (one is usually groom)
  • Name of bride
  • Date of bond
  • Place of residence of bride and groom (normally the bond was supposed to be filed in the county where the bride resided)
  • Parent’s names were occasionally given on bonds from the 1850’s and 1860’s

Indexed register of marriages usually lists the following information:

  • Name of groom
  • Name of bride
  • County of residence
  • Ages of bride and groom
  • Date of license
  • Date of marriage
  • By whom married
  • Place of marriage
  • Witnesses

Licenses usually list the following information:

  • Name of groom
  • Name of bride
  • Names of parents of bride and groom
  • Places of residence of bride and groom
  • Date of license
  • Place where license was issued
  • Date married (if a marriage then took place)
  • Person performing marriage
  • Age of bride and groom (on later licenses after about 1872)
  • Race of bride and groom (on later licenses after about 1872)
  • Date of birth (on later certificates)
  • Whether parents were living (on later certificates)

Cohabitation register usually lists the following information:

  • Name of bride
  • Name of groom
  • Place married
  • Name of person who performed the marriage
  • Date of marriage

How to Use the Record

Fill in the requested information in the initial search page. This search will return a list of possible matches. Compare the information about the ancestors in the list to what you already know about your ancestors to determine if this is the correct family or person. You may need to compare the information about more than one person to find your ancestor.

Begin your search by finding your ancestors in the index. Name indexes to marriages make it possible to access a specific marriage record quickly. Remember that these indexes may contain inaccuracies, such as altered spellings and misinterpretations.

When searching the index it is helpful to know the following:

  • The county where the marriage occurred.
  • The name of the person at the time of marriage.
  • The approximate marriage date.
  • The marriage place.
  • The name of the intended spouse.

Use the locator information found in the index (such as page, entry, or certificate number) to locate your ancestors in the marriage records. When you have located your ancestor’s marriage record, carefully evaluate each piece of information given. These pieces of information may give you new biographical details that can lead you to other records about your ancestors. Add this new information to your records of each family.

For example:

  • Use the marriage date and place as the basis for compiling a new family group or for verifying existing information.
  • Use the birth date or age along with the place of birth of each partner to find a couple's birth records and parents' names.
  • Use the birth date or age along with the place of birth to find the family in census records.
  • Use the residence and names of the parents to locate church and land records.
  • Occupations listed can lead you to employment records or other types of records such as military records.
  • Use the parent’s birth places to find former residences and to establish a migration pattern for the family.
  • The name of the officiator is a clue to their religion or area of residence in the county. However, ministers may have reported marriages performed in other counties.
  • Compile the marriage entries for every person who has the same surname as the bride or groom, this is especially helpful in rural areas or if the surname is unusual.
  • Continue to search the marriage records to identify children, siblings, parents, and other relatives of the bride and groom who may have married in the same county or nearby. This can help you identify other generations of your family or even the second marriage of a parent. Repeat this process for each new generation you identify.
  • Use the marriage number to identify previous marriages.
  • When looking for a person who had a common name, look at all the entries for the name before deciding which is correct.

Keep in mind:

  • The information in marriage records is usually reliable, but depends upon the reliability of the informant.
  • Earlier records may not contain as much information as the records created after the late 1800s.
  • There is also some variation in the information given from one marriage record to another record.

Known Issues with This Collection

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See a list of known issues, workarounds, tips, restrictions, future fixes, news and other helpful information.

For a full list of all known issues associated with this collection see the attached Wiki article. If you encounter additional problems, please email them to Please include the full path to the link and a description of the problem in your e-mail. Your assistance will help ensure that future reworks will be considered.

Related Web Sites

North Carolina Marriage Project at GenWeb

Related Wiki Articles

Contributions to This Article

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Please follow these guidelines as you make changes. Thank you for any contributions you may provide.

Citing FamilySearch Historical Collections

When you copy information from a record, you should also list where you found the information. This will help you or others to find the record again. It is also good to keep track of records where you did not find information, including the names of the people you looked for in the records.

A suggested format for keeping track of records that you have searched is found in the wiki article Help:How to Cite FamilySearch Collections.

Citation Example for a Record Found in This Collection

"North Carolina, County Marriages, 1762-1979," index and images, FamilySearch ( https: accessed 31 March 2011).  James Vance White and Vonnie Lorene Brown, 25 May 1946; citing Marriage Records, FHL microfilm 4,138,582; Davidson County Courthouse, Lexington, North Carolina. FHL Digital Images, 62 folders, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.