Marriage records refer to all of the records relating to a person’s history of marriage. These records include marriage licenses and marriage certificates. However, marriage records do not contain divorce records or annulments, so they can confirm that a person has been married but not whether a person is still married.
The first component of a marriage record is the marriage license. A marriage license is a document issued by the country or church, which grants permission for a couple to marry. Different jurisdictions have different rules and regulations for marriage licenses. These rules and regulations refer not only to the rules regarding who can marry, but also to any applicable waiting periods. On its own, all that a marriage license says is that the state gave permission for two people to marry. This permission implies that the couple was found to comply with any applicable regulations. These regulations can include age, the marital status of both parties (in the United States, people can only be legally married to one person at a time), and how long a person who has previously been married has been divorced.
The second component of the marriage record is the marriage certificate. The marriage certificate is a piece of paper that is usually signed by both partners and an officiant, indicating an official marriage. It is the marriage certificate that indicates a marriage was completed.
However, even a search of marriage records may not reveal all marriages. Many jurisdictions in the United States recognize common law marriage. State laws vary, but the basic concept of common law marriage is that a cohabitating couple who has held themselves out as married for a statutory period of time is recognized as legally married. Therefore, a marriage record search should also include a routine search for cohabitants.