Friday, June 29, 2012

EXAMPLE: Get the MOST original version of a marriage record

Yesterday, Ol' Myrt here blogged about finding the marriage certificate of her father and stepmother among her father's compiled genealogy papers. I carefully transcribed the document in my post titled Missing marriage record.

Since then, one DearREADER, Alice Allen, pointed me to the Washington State Digital Archives collection located at After downloading the viewer, I found the "marriage return" for the event. There are some major differences between the "Return" and the "Certificate". I feel this is the "Return" because the bottom of the form states:

"Filed Mar 6, 1961 [stamped]

This certificate must be filled out and filed with the King County Auditor where the license was issued within 30 days after the ceremony. See Chapter 59, Laws of Washington of 1947. Failure to make and deliver Certificate to the King County Auditor within 30 days is punishable by a find of not less than $25 or more than $300.00. See Pierce's Code, Sec 3714."

1. "Certificate to be given to the contracting parties" does not include the birthplace or age at last birthday of the male and female, as we find in the "Marriage Return".

2. "Certificate to be given to the contracting parties" does not include the stamped date of filing at the County Auditor's Office.

3. Marriage date on the "Certificate" is 31 March 1961 and on the "Return" it is 3 March 1961.

4. The names of the couple, the witnesses and the Bishop who officiated at the ceremony are the same in both documents as is the 7pm time of the ceremony.

5. The "Certificate" lists only the county and state, but the "Return" includes the city where the ceremony took place, in this case Seattle.

6. The handwriting of the Bishop's address which appeared as either a messy "20" or "28" as I transcribed from the "Certificate" appears more clearly as "20" on the "Return".

Confusion arose when the date of marriage was listed as 31 March 1961 on the "Certificate" and  3 March 1961 on the "Return". However, since the King County Auditor stamped the "Return" with the date of filing  "March 6, 1961" we have a valid argument for their marriage having taken place on the 3rd, with the "31st" merely being the error on the part of the officiator when completing the "Certificate".

I am still confused how one could get married on the 3rd of March 1961 by authority of a license issued 19th of May 1961 as listed on the "Return". I am equally baffled as to the license date of 19 May 1957 listed on the "Certificate". I don't know the exact law in place at the time, but I'm confident a license issued in 1957 wouldn't be valid for a marriage ceremony in 1961. One would have to look at the marriage application for "License" for this couple, not the "Certificate" or "Return" to verify the true date of the license.

All these things point to why we must obtain the "most original" version of a marriage record.
And we're talking 20th century research here! 
Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
Your friend in genealogy.

Twitter: @DearMYRTLE
Second Life: Clarise Beaumont 


  1. Great post. You might also contact the county of the marriage and ask if there was an application for marriage. I did so for my parents and found additional information. To order the records in that particular Washington county cost $3 at the time a couple of years ago.

  2. The marriage date on the certificate looks like 3 March to me, not the 31. What looks like a "1" is actually the tail of the "y" in May from the line above.

  3. I agree with Debbie regarding the "1" and the "y".

  4. The first time I read it, I thought the license dated May 1957 was referring to the bishop's license allowing him to marry people.

  5. I agree with Debbie, it does look like 3 March and the "1" being the tail of the "y" from the line above. Also, I could be wrong about this but the wording of "by the authority of a license" I think that is the bishop's license to marry people.

  6. My husband's family are all from or still in Washington state & I've found the Digital Archives a godsend for me. I'm in NJ & this website makes it uber easy for me to check out his family's records, especially the marriage records. His grandfather was from Finland & his mother's side was from Canada and England -- none of which are on my radar to visit, so I'm doubly grateful to this site. In searching out his ancestors, I've been able to answer several questions about various aunts, uncles, and cousins while adding many more. It's an ongoing process and an enjoyable one. Glad you've found the WA archives website! I hope Washington State keeps adding to it. Keep writing about your travels and treasures -- you are an inspiration to us all.