Pennsylvania Marriage Records
Frequently Asked Questions
In Pennsylvania copies of marriage records were required to be filed starting in 1885. Copies of these early marriages may be obtained from the clerk of the courthouse in the county where the marriage license was issued. After 1906, all birth and death records are stored in the PA Department of Health.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q. When did Pennsylvania start recording marriages?
A. There is no central repository for marriage records in the state of Pennsylvania. The dates that records were officially mandated varies by county. Pennsylvania was first settled in the mid 1600's and became a state in 1787. Marriage licenses became a requirement in 1885. Prior to this, it was not obligatory and licenses were in place for those to whom banns were not issued.
Q. How do I verify a Pennsylvania marriage record?
A. Marriage records are kept in the courthouse of the town/ county where the event took place. The Pennsylvania State Archives also has some historical records.
Q. Are there restrictions on getting copies of Pennsylvania vital records?
A. No, Pennsylvania marriage records are open to the public and can be viewed by anyone.
Q. How is Pennsylvania different than other states?
A. Pennsylvania was founded in 1681 by William Penn, a wealthy Englishman looking for a home for his fellow Quakers (a persecuted religion in England). Today Pennsylvania is still know as the Quaker State. Also Pennsylvania is home to Hershey (the chocolate capital of the US), the first baseball stadium (Pittsburgh), first automobile service station, the first computer, and the first presidential mansion. The US flag was first sewn by Betsy Ross in Philadelphia, which is also where the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution were written. The Battle at Gettysburg and the Gettysburg Address also happened in PA. The longest stone arch bridge in the world is located in Harrisburg. Pennsylvania is also one of only a few states that are commonwealths. Under Pennsylvania law, there are four types of incorporated municipalities: cities, boroughs, townships, and, in two cases, towns.
Q. What are the requirements to get married in Pennsylvania?
A. Legal age to marry is 18. Under 18 requires written parental consent; Anyone under 16 years of age needs parental consent and the approval of a Judge of the Orphans Court.
- Cousins - no
- Proxy - no
- Covenant - yes. There is a self uniting marriage license available, but this will need to be confirmed with the individual county prior to planning this path.
- Common Law - only if it started before 2005
- Applicants seeking a marriage license must appear together in person at the Marriage License Bureau of the Wills/Orphans' Court Division. The license is valid for 60 days from the date it is issued and may be used anywhere within the state of Pennsylvania.
- Waiting period- 3 days
- State residency requirement - no
- Proof of divorce or dissolution must be shown where one or more party has a previous marriage.
- Blood tests/ other tests - none
- Same sex - Yes
The officiant performing the marriage ceremony must file the Marriage Return with the Marriage License Bureau which issued the license, within ten (10) days of the date of the ceremony. A marriage record will not exist if the officiant who performs the marriage fails to file this document. Upon request, the Marriage License Bureau will inform the couples whether their marriage return has been filed and recorded.
PA does not have a dedicated database yet but there are contributed marriages here:
PA - Statehood - December 12, 1787. Capital= Harrisburg
There were originally 3 counties, Bucks, Chester, Philadelphia Counties. Today there are 67 counties in Pennsylvania. Look in old newspaper archives for wedding announcements, anniversaries, and other family related articles. Copies of marriage (and divorce) records may be ordered from the court clerk nearest the wedding. Clerks addresses are included in each county.
Statewide Genealogy Resources:
- Pennsylvania Census Records -CensusFinder
- Pennsylvania Census Project
- Pennsylvania Genealogy Forum
- Pennsylvania Genealogy Searches
- RootsWeb General Search
- Surname Community Search
- Search the Social Security Death Index
- Surname Community Search
- Surname Search - GenForum Message Boards
To add a genealogy website link to this page, please email me using the Contact page and put "PA County Genealogy Resources" in the subject box. Only legitimate genealogy websites will be considered.