Home Marriage How to Find Marriage Records Online for Free

How to Find Marriage Records Online for Free

How to Find Marriage Records Online for Free

Marriage records contain valuable information about a couple’s union, including details like the date and location of the wedding ceremony.

These records are useful for genealogy research, learning family medical history, documenting lineage, and resolving legal matters. Traditionally, accessing marriage records required submitting requests to government archives or paying third-party websites.

However, with the digitization of public records, many marriage certificates and licenses can now be found online for free with just a little sleuthing. This article will teach you how to locate and access marriage records on the internet without spending a dime.

Search Vital Records Databases

Government agencies at the state and county levels are responsible for maintaining vital records for births, deaths, marriages, and divorces.

Many of these departments have digitized their archives and made indexes or full certificates available through online databases. Search for “[state/county] vital records” to locate databases for the location you need.

Here are some tips for finding marriage records on these sites:

  • Use name variations and wildcard symbols if you’re unsure of the exact spelling
  • Try searches even without the full names of both spouses
  • Note the county as well as the state, as that usually indicates where the license was obtained
  • Check for spelling errors in transcribed names or locations

Focus your searches on the state or county where the couple likely applied for their marriage license or held the ceremony. Even if you’re not sure, browse the different databases as coverage varies. With the right combination of names and estimated date range, you may get lucky!


The largest genealogical organization in the world, FamilySearch has free online access to hundreds of millions of digitized records. Their catalog includes marriage licenses, certificates, registrations, and church records from all 50 states and over 100 countries spanning back to the 1500s.

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FamilySearch’s database is searchable for free without even needing an account. Use filters to narrow by location, collection type, and date range. You can also browse collections state by state and country by country without entering names. When you find a record, images of original documents may be viewable online or accessible from a local FamilySearch center.

State Archives

Each state government maintains its own central archives with historically valuable public records. Many states have undertaken newspaper, military, land, court, and vital records digitization projects. Their online catalogs allow keyword searching or browsing by category and time period.

For North Carolina, the State Archives website hosts an online marriage index covering 1741-2004. Kentucky, Maryland, and West Virginia also have fully searchable marriage record indexes. Other states may provide scans of ledger books or microfilm reels with marriage license/certificate detail. Dig into a state’s archives to uncover marriage records gems!

Genealogy Websites

Large genealogy sites like Ancestry.com and MyHeritage have billions of global historical records tucked away behind paywalls. However, as these sites have grown, many cooperative agreements provide free public access to vital records indexes and digitized images.

Under the “Search” tab on Ancestry’s homepage, go to “Card Catalog” and filter by the “Marriage & Divorce” category. This displays all collections related to marriages. You can view search results or the image index for collections marked “U.S., Public Records Index.” MyHeritage also has freely searchable marriage record databases.

Crowdsourced Databases

Wikitree, FamilySearch Tree, and other crowdsourced databases rely on user contributions to build out family trees. They stitch together digitized records, public profiles, and user submissions. Many have strong U.S. marriage records thanks to active genealogists mapping lineages.

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Search these databases for direct ancestors or relatives of your target subject. Then traverse their family trees backwards and sideways to find marriage details. Always independently verify the accuracy of any crowdsourced information used as a starting point for your research.

Newspapers.com + Chronicling America

Historical newspapers published marriage announcements, bridal descriptions, elopement notices, and wedding stories. Two sites provide free access to hundreds of papers spanning the 1700s to mid 1990s.

Chronicling America hosts over 15 million newspaper pages from 1789-1963. Search by names, date ranges and state location filters to surface marriage-related articles. Newsapers.com has marriage announcements from 1700-2000 in its guest member search results. Read the snippet visible before the paywall pops up.

Immigrant Ancestors

CastleGarden.org and EllisIsland.org house immigration records for over 100 million newcomers entering the U.S. in the late 1800s-1950s. Manifest documents provide native town, residence details, travel companion information, and marital status.

Use filters to narrow by arrival year and passenger origin/ethnicity. Manifest listings and ship manifest scans surface marriage details for immigrating couples making the transatlantic journey together. The records link children and relatives as well.

Strategize Searches

  • Try different name spelling variations like McDonald, MacDonald, etc.
  • Search both first/middle and middle/last name combinations
  • Use wildcard ? and * operators to catch different suffixes
  • Input just one spouse’s info if you only know details for one
  • Try locations beyond where the couple lived if unsure of wedding place
  • Scan all available traditional and digital records indexes completely before paying any fees

By following these search tips and digging into all the free online marriage records resources, you can likely track down the official documentation you need.

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Analyze Results Carefully

When you uncover leads to possible marriage records, carefully inspect before determining an exact match. Analyze names, dates, locations, ages, parents’ names, witnesses listed and any other pertinent facts.

Records may contain errors or reflect individuals with the same/similar details. Twenty first century indexed digital databases also introduce room for inaccuracies. Verify corroborating evidence across multiple sources whenever possible.

If you exhaust all the free online search avenues without finding the specific marriage confirmation needed, consider hiring a professional genealogist. Experts have access to paid record repositories and decades of research experience needed to solve difficult marriage research conundrums.

Vital Cheat Sheet

Quick reference checklist when searching for online marriage records:

  • Vital records department databases
  • FamilySearch catalog and tree
  • State archives and digital projects
  • Ancestry / MyHeritage / Geneanet
  • Wikitree and crowdsourced trees
  • Chronicling America newspapers
  • CastleGarden and EllisIsland manifests
  • Genealogy message boards

Follow these open access links first before paying any site fees. With clever searching and patience mining these indexes, you can likely find marriage records free online.


Tracking down marriage records is easier nowadays thanks to online archives and databases. But comprehensive searching across vital statistics agencies, genealogy sites, state/local government digitization initiatives, immigrant manifests and historical newspapers is still required to surface that needle-in-a-haystack record.

Use this guide to better understand the breadth of available free marriage records resources. Apply search best practices like wildcard symbols, name variations and flexible location parameters.

And carefully verify any discoveries against other evidence to confirm complete accuracy. With the right combination of heuristics and persistence, you can gain marriage confirmation without any out-of-pocket costs.

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