Prepared by Elisabeth Lindsay.
Marriage record is general term used to describe a variety of records that indicate marriage or the intent of marriage. Marriage records may be generated by civil authority, church authority, or even a family. Marriage records may include early marriage banns or marriage bonds indicating the intent of a marriage; a marriage license (that may or may not have been used), giving permission for a couple to be married within a given locality; a marriage entry written in a Family Bible; or an actual marriage certificate, verifying that a marriage took place.
Marriage records, in addition to birth records and death records, are typically classified as vital records, documenting a major life event. Prior to civil registration; that is, registration by some government authority, marriage records were maintained by the church and, often, by the family. As with other vital records, great effort has been made to preserve marriage records of all types, and are available in many published formats. Family records and in some cases church records may be the most elusive for genealogists. Some records used to confirm a marriage are considered secondary source rather than primary source documents such as newspaper listings; wedding announcements; or even family journals, diaries, and letters.