Tennessee County Marriages - FamilySearch Historical Records

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FamilySearch Record Search This article describes a collection of historical records scheduled to become available at FamilySearch.org.

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Collection Time Period[edit | edit source]

The dates covered by this collection are 1790 to 1950.

Record History[edit | edit source]

Marriages were recorded by the clerk of the district court for each county from the time the county was formed. Persons desiring to marry obtained a license that they presented to the minister or other person authorized to marry, such as a justice of the peace. Once the marriage was performed, the officiator sent a return to the clerk confirming that the marriage had occurred.

Why This Record Was Created[edit | edit source]

Civil marriage records were created to legalize marital relationships and to protect the interests of the wife and other heirs to legal claims on property.

Record Reliability[edit | edit source]

The marriage date, place, and residence of the bride and groom are relatively reliable. Other information, such as age is dependent on the knowledge, memory, and accuracy of the informants, usually the bride and groom.

Record Description[edit | edit source]

Most of this collection consists of marriage licenses and certificates, including a few marriage declarations and marriage stubs

The records are arranged by county, then by volume and year range. The form type varies between register style and certificate style. County clerks usually used the same printed form during the same time periods. Marriage records were generally well preserved, although fires, floods, or other disasters may have destroyed some records.

The earliest marriage bonds and licenses were usually handwritten on loose papers that were later bound into lettered volumes. Some marriage records had multiple entries on each page, while others had single records per page. Later records were handwritten on preprinted pages.

Record Content[edit | edit source]

The genealogical information found in most marriage bonds includes the following:
• Name of the groom
• Name of the bride, often including the maiden name of the bride
• Names of the officiator and witnesses
• Date of the marriage
• Date of bond
The genealogical information found in most marriage records includes the following:
• Name of the groom
• Name of the bride, often including the maiden name of the bride
• Names of the officiator and witnesses
• Names of the parents or guardians of the bride and groom
• Date of the marriage
• Birthplaces of the bride and groom
• Residences of the bride and groom
• Age of the bride and groom

How to Use the Record[edit | edit source]

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, misinterpretations, and optical character recognition errors if the information was scanned.

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 age to calculate an approximate birth date.
• 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.
• 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.

If you are unable to find the ancestors you are looking for, try the following:
• Check for variant spellings of the surnames.
• Search for the marriage record of the marriage partner if known.
• Check for a different index. There are often indexes at the beginning of each volume.
• Search the indexes and records of nearby counties.

Related Web Sites[edit | edit source]

This section of the article is incomplete. You can help FamilySearch Wiki by supplying links to related websites here.

Related Wiki Articles[edit | edit source]

Tennessee Vital Records

Sources of This Collection
[edit | edit source]

"Tennessee County Marriages, 1790-1950," database, FamilySearch, 2010. Digital copies of originals housed in the clerks’ offices of the district courts in various counties throughout Tennessee. FHL microfilm, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.

How to Cite Your Sources[edit | edit source]

For instructions on citing specific records or images within this collection.

A full bibliographic record is available in the Family History Library Catalog.