MD State Vital Statistics Office
Difference Between Old and New Maryland Marriage Records
When you start researching your family history, one of the first things you'll notice is the difference that exists between family records from long ago and those from recent history. For example, census records from fifty years ago are very different from those that used now. Those from a few hundred years ago are even more extremely different than today's. What about marriage records? Marriage records can't be that different, can they? Actually, they can.
History of Marriage Records
In the 12th century, the church decided they wanted a means to ensure that people were getting married legally. They created banns to fulfill this need. When you wanted to be married, the banns had to be read in front of the entire congregation. Banns were a pronouncement made in front of the congregation that you were planning to wed, and by their very public nature presented a number of opportunities for anyone to speak up against the marriage. So if, for instance, you were already married, someone would have a chance of speaking up.
Later, in the 1400's, marriage licenses were created and instituted. Marriage licenses allowed church and state to determine very quickly if a couple was actually married or not. Prior to this, a couple could simply say they were married without actually being married. Marriage licenses made it easy to determine if a couple were actually legally married or not.
The most notable difference between older Maryland marriage records and today's is that there are actually two marriage records for the earlier marriages. Marriage records are generally nonexistent prior to the 1900's simply because the paper was never kept. However, in the 1920's and 1930's, two pieces of paper were utilized: one piece for the bride and one for the groom. Each had information about the family's background, including the name of their parents, as well as employment information. This format was used for many years, until the one page format was adopted.
Looking at newer Maryland marriage records, it is apparent that the one-page format is used currently. People are now able to put all of the information that was previously recorded on the two separate pieces onto one piece of paper. Now, researchers can more quickly locate information on the single-page records because it is all in one place.
It is interesting to look back at how things were done in the past, and you are sure to see grand examples of differing styles of paperwork if your research leads you far enough back. If you search through Maryland marriage records, you'll be able to spend a number of hours imagining how your family members used to live.
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