Bi-Monthly Newsletter from The Ancestor Hunt – October 31, 2020

Hello to The Ancestor Hunt readers! Here is the latest Bi-monthly Newsletter. It includes links to all of the articles published since the previous newsletter, as well as articles that I think you might find interesting from other authors. It also includes research tips, a joke or two, and other interesting genealogical stuff.

It is published on The Ancestor Hunt website and shared on The Ancestor Hunt Facebook Page, Twitter, Linked In, and Tumblr.

I hope that you find it useful. And Thank You for being a loyal reader and visitor.

Download the pdf file by clicking on Bi-Monthly Newsletter 2020-10-30


Good Luck and Happy Hunting!

Elephind Update – October, 2020

The “Search Multiple Historic Newspaper Collections All At Once” website, elephind.com has just published an update that includes many more items and issues from 2 updated collections:

​(from the October, 2020 Elephind Newsletter):

Updated Newspaper Collections

​​For the complete newsletter article, click HERE

If you have never used (or heard of) elephind, here are a couple of articles that I have written about this wonderful site that may be interesting to you:

If you have never tried Elephind, check it out! The url is elephind.com.

Inaugural Bi-Monthly Newsletter from The Ancestor Hunt

Hello to The Ancestor Hunt readers! I have decided to start publishing a Bi-monthly Newsletter. It will be anywhere from 5 to 8 pages, published on the 15th of the month, and the last day of the month. 

It will include links to all of the articles published since the previous newsletter, as well as articles that I think you might find interesting from other authors. It will also include research tips, a joke or two, and other interesting genealogical stuff.

It will be published on The Ancestor Hunt website and shared on The Ancestor Hunt Facebook Page, Twitter, Linked In, and Tumblr.

I hope that you find it useful. And Thank You for being a loyal reader and visitor.

Download the file by clicking on Bi-Monthly Newsletter 2020-10-15 

What is the Future of Obituaries?

Just the other day, I was having a short conversation with François Desjardins, of the Drouin Institute, the company behind Généalogie Québec, which offers over 45 million online files and images for the Quebec and French-Canadian research community.  My interest was particularly the free online obituaries, which now number over 2.3 million names across Canada.

​It got me to thinking about the future of obituaries – in my view, one of the richest pieces of information that a genealogist can make use of in their research. For my personal genealogy research, several breakthroughs came about SOLELY because of newspaper obituaries that I’d found.

Obviously, the methods of preparing and publishing obituaries are changing quickly. A simplistic view might be – “What’s the Big Deal?” Instead of paper, they are now online.

I’m not so sure there is a simple answer. Here are my thoughts:

Publishing Newspaper Obituaries and Online Newspaper Obituaries

Physical newspaper obituaries are costly. So besides the burial and funeral expenses, a newspaper obituary just adds to the expense.

From National Cremation:

“An average obituary can easily be $200.00-500.00. Costs vary by publication. Newspapers charge by the line and can average $450 for a complete obituary. The average obituary cost begins at $200.00 and increases due to the amount of content, including a photograph and the length of the obituary.”

From Legacy.com:

A recent study they performed shows that most people seeking to publish a newspaper obituary have no clue how much they cost. See the results of their study – Obituaries: The Gap Between Newspaper Pricing Trends & Consumer Expectations

From BeyondTheDash,com. 

In their article, they discuss published newspaper obituaries and published online obituaries. The complete article is at: How Much Does an Obituary Cost?​

The good news about publishing an obituary via an online newspaper is that despite the cost, it can be inexpensive enough that one can author a longer obituary than you might if it was intended for an obituary that would actually be published in the physical newspaper.

So, as genealogy researchers, where does that leave us in the future in order to find Obituaries?

There will still be published newspaper obituaries, whether in a physical newspaper and/or in the online version of their newspaper.

Where Can I Find Published Newspaper Obituaries?

The old-fashioned way – the primary methods we use now, such as searching old newspapers, or specialty obituary web pages, or obituary indexes, often prepared by libraries and genealogical societies. For free resources, check out the Newspaper Links Page, and the Obituaries Page on this website.

Where Can I Find Online Obituaries?

This is where it gets interesting. They are all over the place. Here are the options:

  • Individual online newspaper websites
  • Funeral Home websites
  • Free aggregators like Legacy.com, who on their website state that they partner with 1,500 newspaper websites, and 3,500 funeral homes. There are quite a few aggregators. 
  • Individual “remembrance” and other online obituary sites where one can post a recently deceased relative. I have personally made use of one of these. These are typically not aggregated.
  • Schlock sites who gather up obituaries from a bunch of sources and publish them, but they really are a bait and switch because they are simply trying to get you to click on their ads. And their web pages are incredibly ugly and busy and full of ads.
  • Aggregators who charge a few bucks for a one time or subscription access to their posted obituaries.

So, in the future, where do we find all these online obituaries?  The answer seems to be incredibly easy, and the future seems to be bright.

To find an online obituary or memorial, use Google (or your favorite search engine).  It works!

I have personally used this technique successfully for recently departed relatives and friends. There is a caveat of course – what happens 30 years from now?  These online companies need to stay in business. There is always the Wayback Machine I guess.

​See?  Not so easy.

8 Reasons You Can’t Find Squat About Your Ancestors Online

Whether you search online, or offline at libraries, courthouses, or archives, many times our ancestors can be elusive.

Sometimes they just cannot be found. Whether it be a birth date, census entry, or death date – or anything else of interest to us – we just can’t seem to “score.”

There are lots of reasons why we aren’t successful, but many are because of our own limitations – and especially because we are just too limited in our thinking, and sometimes either inexperienced, or unwilling to try new things.

Below are just a few reasons why we can’t find our ancestors online:

  • They aren’t there!  Yes this is a possibility. I have a great great aunt, Carrie Marks, who shows up only in one record – the 1880 U.S. Census. She is documented as the daughter of Louis and Caroline Marks, aged 11, born in California. One would think that at age 11, she would have showed up in the 1870 census at age 1, right?  Nope – she is not there with the family. Had she not been born yet and the age 11 reference in 1880 was wrong? Was she in a hospital at the time of the census? Unfortunately, there is no 1890 census to help and by that time she could have married and changed her name. Even more worrisome is that since her mother’s name was also Carrie – maybe it was a census taker error. Maybe she didn’t exist at all. Then again, maybe I just haven’t found her yet.
  • Have you expanded your search?  Just searching one or two online sources, such as Ancestry.com or FamilySearch just isn’t enough. Yes these are huge resources, but just as everything isn’t online, all the online stuff isn’t in their collections either. There are tons of other resources. Thousands of online collections not named Ancestry or FamilySearch.
  • Do you do only exact searches?  People who write down others names often write them wrong. And then if there is an index created, they can be mis-transcribed or mis-typed. There are very few if any documents available online that were written by the ancestor themselves. They are generally recorded by someone else from first or second hand (or worse) information. So you need to be creative with your name searching by deliberately searching for names misspelled or using wildcard searches. Yes I said deliberately misspell search terms. You will be surprised at what you will find.
  • Do you combine searches and omit surnames?  For example – if you can’t find the surname in a collection – do you search for the husband’s first name and the wife’s first name also, in a specific geographic area? As an example, since their surname was often mangled, I often searched for husband “Ben” and wife “Jennie” (with a blank surname) in California because that is where they lived. This may have given me quite a few folks who didn’t have the correct surname – but all I needed was one! The right one!
  • Have you looked beyond document collections?  Sure census records are popular, and draft cards and naturalization, land and immigration records too. But how about newspapers? I have found new names of extended family members stated in newspaper obituaries and other articles just as much as finding a family together in a census. Check out the Newspapers page on this site for much more information regarding searching newspapers. They are a very underrated resource for you to find stuff. Besides you might find out that your great great uncle was an ax murderer! Exciting!
  • Are you aggressive?  Or do you just give up too easy? Sitting around waiting for shaky leaves or smart matches? Have you uploaded your tree to FamilySearch, WikiTree, Ancestry, My Heritage,etc.? Then are you just waiting around for “cousins” to contact you – or the services themselves to shake a leaf on your screen? Ain’t gonna cut it. You have to be an aggressive as well as creative researcher. And get out of the house if you can. Get to libraries, archives, courthouses and genealogical societies.  There is a ton of material that can be accessed that is not digitized or is only available at the institution in a binder somewhere.
  • Do you have a research plan?  Or do you just search ad hoc, searching broadly for the same thing again and again? What’s the old quote? “The definition of Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” That applies here. Yes collections change and are updated. But gee – get yourself a plan. Here’s an Example of a Template that Caroline Pointer created for Evernote that you can adopt (with or without Evernote) regarding planning for research. Yes it seems like a lot of work when you’d rather be surfing for ancestors. But it is time well spent and I assure you that a research plan will make the difference between finding or not finding some ancestors. Guaranteed!
  • They aren’t there – Part 2  Really. They aren’t there. Nobody wrote stuff down back then. Records weren’t kept of births in many countries or local villages and towns. There were no marriage certificates. Gravestones have been buried due to wars and such over time. Babies weren’t born in hospitals and there were no mortuaries. Not every family had a Bible that they recorded information in. Men didn’t carry around a draft card and there was no Social Security.

So that’s it for now. A few reasons why you haven’t found some folks. But you can’t give up – with a few exceptions – ancestors who have lived any time in the last 200 years or so should be able to be found somewhere – and you are just the person to find them. Right?

All you need to do is PLAN, BE AGGRESSIVE, THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX, and BE PERSISTENT.

6 Best Ways to NOT FIND Your Ancestors

Genealogy researching is hard; nobody cooperates; the database you want to research is the next county over; you have names that have thousands of duplicates; the online family trees are all over the place, etc. So you continue to not find your ancestors.

In the interests of keeping this losing streak alive, here are 6 ways to continue to not find your ancestors:

  • Don’t interview your older relatives – I have 3 of them left and what a pain they are. They can’t hear you. They suffer from CRS disease (Can’t Remember Squat). If you bring a bunch of technology, like voice recorders, smartphones, iPads, laptops – they freak out. Don’t bother showing them your old photos because most of the answers will be “I don’t remember” or “I don’t know.” And that is if you can get them to stop crying over all their old friends and close relatives who have died. And make sure you argue with them when they tell you something about somebody that you know is not true. They are probably wrong anyway. They were “there” but their memory is failing so they are probably making stuff up. Make sure you ask them about all the “skeletons in the closet” stories that you heard about them and others. That will really get them to cooperate, because at their age they like nothing better than to tell embarrassing stories about themselves that they forgot about 40 years ago. Yeah – older relatives – what a waste of time. And they will be mad at you afterwards for dredging up old crappy memories.
  • Always do exact searches – When you are searching online, like FamilySearch or that not free one – Ancestry? Or any other – make sure that you always do exact searches because those are the best. If you have written down that they lived in Georgia, why would you search in South Carolina – that’s dumb. And oh yeah – regarding last name spelling – Imagine the census taker in the early 1900’s. They show up at the door and ask your great grandmother a bunch of questions. He says – “What’s your last name? And she says “Mankiewicz”. He says “Huh?” She says “Mankiewicz” and knowing that most people have no clue how to spell it – she starts “M..A..N….” and he writes down the letters one by one. So no mistakes made there. And even if she didn’t spell it out for him, he was smart enough to know how to spell it. They paid those census takers a lot of money – so they were smart and also had to have exceptional penmanship to get the job. So you say – what about the data entry of documents into an index? Ever heard of two pass verification or double data entry – problem solved – 99.5% success is pretty darn good. So you say – what about the changing of names at Ellis Island?  Don’t even get me started on that hocus pocus baloney. Of course they were all changed – nobody could speak English, Duh!
  • Only search online – Everybody knows that everything is online, so why would you want to go to a library or an archive? You can’t take pictures; you have to wear gloves, and forget going to a courthouse – all that dust and crabby people that work there? Not for me. And besides you have to get out of your pajamas, get dressed – shave or put makeup on – no way. And it takes too darn long looking for things one boring page at a time. You can’t read half the stuff anyway. Don’t get me started with microfilm readers. So 20th century!
  • Don’t write down where you got stuff – all the experts tell you to write down where you found stuff – you know documents and things. Why? You already found it – so why would you write down where you found it? That’s dumb. If you were walking down the street and found a twenty dollar bill would you rush home and write down the address of where you found it? Heck no – you’d spend it. Look – I found it – you didn’t. if you want to prove me wrong – go find it yourself. That’s your problem, not mine. Why? Cause I already found it. That’s another “Duh”. So you say – for future generations!. Again that’s their problem – you’ll be dead anyway – what do you care?
  • Copy from every tree you can find – this is my favorite because it makes it so easy to not find any of the right ancestors. There are tons of already perfect family trees out there – on Ancestry, FamilySearch, WikiTree, My Heritage, and many more. I have always felt that if it is written down and/or published then it has to be correct. So you want to join all these sites and copy all of the trees and merge them with your tree. Then you will have tons of possible ancestors all in one place. What a goldmine of ancestors – most of whom aren’t yours.
  • Don’t try to find living relatives – Okay – you have been at this “not finding ancestors” thing for quite awhile. Everybody says that you should try to find “cousins” – not necessarily first cousins, but 2nd, 3rd, removed ones, etc. Have you met my cousins? I don’t need more cousins like them. But I digress. Here’s the deal – if these so-called cousins were interested in genealogy wouldn’t they have already contacted you? And if they haven’t, then it means that they don’t care. And let me tell you – some of these cousins make this “not finding ancestors” thing an art form. They hide old boxes of ancestor documents and photos in their garages and attics and claim to have no time to look through them. So don’t even bother trying to find them and contact them. Keep your not finding ancestors streak alive.

FULL DISCLOSURE – everything written above is intended to be a joke. PLEASE do NOT do any of these things like I said. Meet with your older relatives NOW; don’t rely on exact searches; get out of the house and to libraries and archives – that is where you will find some really great stuff; please write down your sources – if not for future generations but for yourself – so you don’t have to ask yourself where you found it; be very careful with existing online family trees – use them as clues only and VERIFY!; and yes – try to find other “cousins” – not only will you expand your tree but you will meet some great people who may indeed help you.

27 Ways to Find Ancestor Birth Information

When researching our ancestors, one of the most important events is obviously their birth (otherwise they wouldn’t be ancestors – but I digress). Determining the date and location of birth is important as we document the major events in their lives.

Most folks limit their search to the obvious repositories, whether online or not. But there are many ways to determine specifics about someone’s birth, as well as finding clues that help you narrow their birth date to at least a single year or two.

Most of these listed source types should not stand alone as evidence of the actual date and location of an ancestor’s’ birth – so you might want to check many of these sources to provide corroborating evidence.

  • State Birth and Death Indexes – whether online or in a book at a library/archive – these provide dates and sometimes the location of birth. But since they are indexes that are most likely entered from birth certificates, hospital reports, or death indexes, you always have to keep in mind that transcription and typing errors can occur.
  • Birth Certificates – this is the best document for establishing the date and location of birth. Usually, they are signed by an attending physician who was there when the baby was born. At least for those in the last several decades.
  • Cemetery Records – there are lots of ways to find this information. There are several online sites that have information and photos of gravestones, where the date of birth (often only the year) is inscribed. And you can visit individual cemeteries where records sometimes are made available. But again these are only as good as the information that the purchaser of the gravestone has provided. Mistakes can be made.
  • Draft Cards – the applicant must enter their exact birth date.
  • Naturalization and Citizenship Records – Exact birth dates are included.
  • Military Records – the military is quite good at keeping lots of information regarding service members – so you should have lots of places where the birth information is recorded, especially in enlistment papers.
  • Social Security Applications – the birth date is always requested in the SS-5 application.
  • Birth Announcements in Newspapers – often the older ones in the Vitals section say “To the wife of John Smith, a son, in Marysville on Wednesday” or something like that. You can calculate based on the date of the newspaper the exact birth date. And you will have to perform some analysis to tie that to a child in the family. This is not always easy when there are 7 or 8 children and you only have dates for some. There are also birth announcements in the local news and society page sections.
  • Census Records – well you won’t find anyone’s birth dates in most census records (except you can get the birth month and year in the 1900 U.S. Census). But you do get the age stated and that could lead you to a possible birth year within 1, 2, or 3 years.
  • Immigration Records – although the exact birth date is not often included – the age is, so simple math, similar to census records, can get you within a year or so for the birth year.
  • Travel Records – although these are sometimes called immigration records – many in the 1900’s indeed do have the actual birth date of the traveler.
  • Death Certificates – often the date of birth is included in the death certificate, if not the actual date but at least the age at the person’s passing so the year can be calculated. But again – the information is only as good as the memory of the informant.
  • Church Records – baptism and christening records and similar records for other faiths may include birth dates or the date of the event, from which you might be able to calculate the birth date. You might want to keep track of what churches, synagogues, etc. that your ancestors and their families worshiped. And then try to find their early life church event records.
  • Personal Bibles – many families recorded birth and death date information in the family Bible.
  • Marriage Licenses and Announcements – usually the age of the applicant is listed in the newspaper and on the license itself, so again simple math can lead you to the birth year.
  • Funeral and Memorial Records/Books – often the deceased’s birth date is included in the memorial cards or books. And also the records from the funeral home.
  • Passport Applications – the date of birth is included in many variations of applications for passports.
  • Social Security Death Index (SSDI) – the date of birth is included in the SSDI.
  • Great Registers – used for voting primarily in the 1800s, the age of the voter is included – so you will have to use your math and subtraction skills to ascertain the approximate birth year.
  • Employment and Union Records – hard to find but may include the date of birth
  • Newsletters and Minutes – organizations, clubs, churches, and other types of organizations often publish or recognize birthdays for members, which sometimes may include the year of birth as well.
  • School Records – enrollment records
  • Employment Records – job applications and other employment files
  • Membership Organizations – unions, fraternities/sororities, lodges, clubs, etc.
  • Divorce Records – at least the age is included if not the birth info
  • Wills and Estate Files – age and possibly birth information are included. Probate court documents may provide fruitful.
  • Pension Records – whether military or civilian, birth date and location may be included.

Basically – any document that contains the age of the person, and is dated – can lead you to the year of the person’s birth; and depending on who completed the document, the evidence can be quite good, or sometimes misleading.

For 1000’s of links to Free Online Birth Collections online, check out the BMD Records page on this site!

Are there other specific source types that I have missed that have the exact birth date or age information? Please include these in the comments!

21 Ways to Find Ancestors Death Information


​When researching our ancestors, one of the most important events is obviously their death. Determining the date and location of death is important as we document the major events in their lives. Most folks limit their search to the obvious repositories, whether online or not.

That would include online or offline death indexes (such as the SSDI and State Death Indexes), death certificates, obituaries, and burial/cemetery records.

But there are many more ways to determine specifics about someone’s death, as well as finding clues that help you narrow their death date to a decade, a year, or even less.

Most of these cannot stand alone as evidence of the actual date and location of an ancestor’s’ death – so you might want to check many of these sources to provide corroborating evidence.

  • SSDI – the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is probably the most frequently researched collection of death information. Unfortunately there are many instances of errors and omissions evident in this collection. Often only the month of last benefit is entered rather than the death date. And the location is the location where benefits were received – not always the actual death location. The Social Security NUMIDENT Files from the U.S. National Archive are also quite useful.
  • State Death Indexes – whether online or in a book at a library – these provide dates and sometimes locations of death. But since they are indexes that are most likely entered from death certificates, you always have to keep in mind that transcription and typing errors can occur.
  • Death Records and Certificates – this is the best document for establishing date and location of death. Usually they are signed by an attending physician (at least in the last 100 years or so) who was there when the ancestor patient died. But other information on the certificate is only as good as the information known and memory of the informant, usually a family member.
  • Cemetery Records – there are lots of ways to find this information. There are several online sites that have information and photos of gravestones, where the date (or at least year) of death is inscribed. And you can visit individual cemeteries where records sometimes are made available. But again these are only as good as the information that the purchaser of the gravestone has provided. Mistakes can be made.
  • Mortuary Records – this is a resource that I have personally used. Often they are hard to get to, but they often provide a great deal of information regarding the decedent and his or her burial and funeral, including date of death.  And some of the mortuary records have the obituary attached.
  • Coroner’s Reports – although a coroner’s report often states the date the deceased person was found, which may have been different than when he or she died – the reports are quite detailed and can provide quite useful information.
  • Probate, Wills and Estates – these legal documents will likely have the death information for your ancestor who has passed, as well as the legal proceedings and will information.
  • Military Records – the military is quite good in keeping lots of information regarding service members – so you should have lots of places where the death information is recorded, in the case of an ancestor who died while on active duty. 
  • Pension Records – whether military or civilian, birth date and location may be included.
  • Immigration Records – in the oft chance where an ancestor died while immigrating, make sure that you check all the pages of a recorded voyage. Many times there are notes, should the immigrant have passed while in transit. 
  • Obituaries, Obituary Indexes and Newspaper Death Notices – another very frequently used piece of information. But these are only as good as the memory of the person providing the information – as well as the person working at the newspaper and their skill and attention to detail. Many mistakes are made in obituaries.
  • Census Records  – well you won’t find anyone’s death dates in a census record. But you might find some clues. Say Mr. Smith and his family showed up in the 1930 census. But in the 1940 census, the same family is there but he isn’t. If he had died, likely Mrs. Smith would be denoted with a “W” or Wd” in the Marital Status column indicating that she was a widow. This would most likely mean that Mr. Smith had died sometime between 1930 and the next census. So you could then perform further research centering on his demise for the decade between 1930 and 1940. Now if Mrs. Smith and Mr. Smith had divorced in that same decade and then she married a NEW Mr. Smith who then died, then the original Mr. Smith might still be around. One could come up with all kinds of interesting scenarios – but generally the first case that I mentioned would hold true. Remember to search the Census Mortality schedules if available.
  • City Directories –  you won’t find death dates in City Directories either, but if Mr. Smith showed up in a 1922 City Directory with his wife’s name in parentheses, e.g. “(Polly)” and then the 1923 City Directory has no Mr. Smith and a Polly Smith (widow) at the same address, then you might conclude that Mr. Smith died in 1922 or 1923 – again providing a narrower next area of research for you to perform.
  • Church Newsletters – I have found ancestor death dates in newsletters for the Church that they attended. So for more recent deaths for churches that write and distribute newsletters – this is a source of death date clues. You might want to keep track of what churches, synagogues, etc. that your ancestors worshipped.
  • Personal Bibles –  many families recorded birth and death date information in the family Bible.
  • Land Records – sales of land or transfers of ownership from the deceased to the living spouse can sometimes give you an estimated death date, from which you might be able to ascertain exact information from other records.
  • Family Histories and Biographies – many times the deceased and/or family may donate family records and possibly biographies to the local library.  Finding these can be a gold mine.
  • Newspaper Legal Notices – about the estate, disposition of the estate, etc.
  • Alumni Directories and Newsletters – for both high school and college graduates may contain a notice about the death of a former student.
  • Private Death Records – includes insurance papers, medical records, etc.
  • Newspaper Local Interest Articles –  in smaller, local newspapers, often the goings on from residents and guests were recorded.  If someone traveled to or from the town to attend a funeral, often the deceased’s name was mentioned. From the date of the article, one might have a clue as to the death date and location of the deceased.

For 1000’s of links to Free Online Death Record Collections online, check out the BMD Records page on this site!

Obituaries and Obituary Indexes:

For online Obituary Indexes, transcriptions, and other death/obituary information from historic newspapers, please check out the Obituaries Page ​​on this website.

I imagine that there may be some other sources of death information. What are they?

22 Ways to Find Ancestors Marriage Information

When researching our ancestors, one of the most important events is their marriage – in some cases, there are none, or just one, and I have some who had six. Determining the date and location of marriage is important as we document major events in their lives.

Most of these should not stand alone as evidence of the date and location of an ancestor’s’ marriage(s) – so you might want to check many different sources to provide corroborating evidence. Also, some of these only indicate that the person was married and may include the spouse’s married name, but does not include the date or location of marriage. But at least knowing that they indeed were married (and to whom) may provide clues for further research.

  • Marriage Indexes – whether online or in a book at a library/archive – these provide dates and the location of marriage. But since they are indexes that are most likely entered from marriage certificates, you always have to keep in mind that transcription and typing errors can occur.
  • Marriage Certificates – this is the best document for establishing date and location of the marriage. Usually they are completed and signed by the person performing the ceremony.
  • Marriage Licenses – these are tricky because they do not evidence that a wedding actually occurred – so further research is required to ascertain that fact. Please notice that on many licenses it indicates the number of previous marriages for the individual. On several occasions I have found that ancestors had previously been married, which was a total surprise to me.
  • Cemetery Records – although dates and location of marriage are not included – many times husband and wife are buried next to each other, so if you did not know a person was married – look at the person next to them – if they are the same name they might have been married to that person, so at least you can get more clues. This may seem obvious, but depending on how the naming was engraved – it may have been a son or brother. Also, interment cards and plot deeds may reference a married couple.
  • Draft Cards – the applicant enters a contact person and often parenthetically enters the word “wife.” No marriage dates or locations but at least an indication that they were married, and the given name of his wife will be helpful for further research,
  • Naturalization Records – Exact marriage dates are included.
  • Military Records – For next of kin information, the spouse’s name and contact information is included, if not the actual dates and location of marriage.
  • Pension Applications – military or not, evidence of marriage is required for beneficiary certification, so a copy of the marriage certificate is required.
  • Census Records – well you won’t find anyone’s marriage dates in census records. But that “M” or “S” will indicate if they are married or single. And even a “W” for widowed, or “D” for divorced will tell you if they were married. Often an “M1″ or M2” will indicate whether they are on their first or second marriage. Questions such as “years married” or “age at first marriage” are helpful for tracking down marriage dates.
  • Immigration and Travel Records – often the “Married or Single” question is included so at least their marital status is indicated..
  • Death Certificates – the marital status is included as well as the name of the surviving spouse, but not the date of marriage or how many years they were married.
  • Church Records – just as churches maintain birth and christening records, marriage records are also often available.
  • Personal Bibles – many families recorded marriage date information in the family Bible.
  • Marriage Licenses and Other Announcements in the Newspaper – marriage license announcements, as well as weddings and engagements abound in newspapers. Tons of marriage related information can be found in newspapers, in the vitals section, society pages, women’s sections as well as the local interest sections.
  • Passport Applications – the name of a married woman’s husband is included for early 20th century passports. And sometimes, place and date of marriage is included.
  • Divorce Records – dates and locations of marriage are included in divorce records. Divorce indexes are usually not as detailed, as they often do not include the actual marriage date, but only the number of years married.
  • Wills and Probate Documents – although dates and location of marriages are not often included, at least the name of the spouse is available.
  • Dowry and Pre-nuptial Documents – the name of the spouse and often date and location of marriage is included. I have a dowry document from the 1800’s that includes this information.
  • Cohabitation Registers – for marriages and children born to those in slavery.
  • Personal Collections – wedding invitations, wedding programs, and personal letters citing a family wedding.
  • Land Deeds –  may identify spouse if both parties names are on the deed.
  • Court Records –  may include spouses names, and possibly widow or widower’s name.

What other documents have you researched that could be added to the list?

For 1000’s of links to Free Online Marriage Collections online, check out the BMD Records page on this site!