North Carolina, County Marriage Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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FamilySearch Record Search This article describes a collection of historical records available at
Access the records: North Carolina County Marriages, 1762-1959 .

Collection Time Period

This collection covers marriages from 1762-1959.

How to Use the Records

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. Compare the information in the marriage record to what you already know about your ancestors to determine if this is the correct person. You may need to compare the information of more than one person to make this determination.

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.

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

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

Record History

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.

Why This Collection Was Created?

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.

Record Reliability

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.

Related Web Sites

North Carolina Marriage Project at GenWeb

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Related Wiki Articles

North Carolina Marriage Records

Contributions to This Article

We welcome user additions to FamilySearch Historical Records wiki articles. We are looking for additional information that will help readers understand the topic and better use the available records. We also need translations for collection titles and images in articles about records written in languages other than English. For specific needs, please visit WikiProject FamilySearch Records.

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: How to Cite FamilySearch Collections”.

Examples of Source Citations for a Record in This Collection

"North Carolina, County Marriages, 1762-1979." index and images, FamilySearch ( accessed 31 March 2011). entry for James Vance White and Vonnie Lorene Brown, married 25 May 1946; citing Marriage Records, FHL microfilm 4,138,582; Davidson County Courthouse, Lexington, North Carolina.

Sources of Information for This Collection:

North Carolina County Marriages, 1762-1959. Database, FamilySearch ( Digital images of original records housed in various county repositories throughout North Carolina. Marriage Records. FHL Microfilm, 582 rolls; FHL Digital Images, 62 folders, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.