Marriage Records Research Tips | Wisconsin Historical Society

Guide or Instruction

Marriage Records Research Tips

Marriage Records Research Tips | Wisconsin Historical Society

Marriage records provide information on two generations of a family covering both the maternal and paternal lines.

Work From the Present Back into the Past

Gather all the information that you can from your family members about your relatives. Find out full names, maiden names, when and where born, and so on. Document who told you each piece of information.

Search the Marriage Records Index on the Society's Website

The index is searchable from any computer with internet access. Search the index from the Research Your Family History page.

Ways to Search the Index
  • By last name. Enter the full last name in the Last Name field. If you are not sure of the exact spelling, enter at least three letters with the wildcard character (*) at the end. For example, if you enter Roger*, you will get Roger, Rogers, Rogerson, etc. This field is not case sensitive. Do not use apostrophes. 
  • By first name. Enter the first name in the First Name field. You can use the wildcard character (*) in this field to find names that begin with the letters entered. For example, if you enter Ed*, you will get Edith, Edmund, Edward, etc.
  • By event year: Entering the exact year of the event can be helpful when searching for possible name variations or when you have a date but an unclear name.

Visit the Society to View the Full Record on Microfilm

Once you find your ancestor, write down the index information to find and view the full record on microfilm in person at the Wisconsin Historical Society's Library; or at any other institution with microfilm for pre-1907 Wisconsin marriages. You can also buy a copy of the full record now through the Wisconsin Historical Society. You may purchase individual records by clicking the orange "Buy" button on any record page.

Purchasing Copies

You can buy vital records through the Wisconsin Historical Society.  On the individual record, click the orange "Buy" button and proceed through the Online Store purchasing process.

Due to Wisconsin state law, we can only issue uncertified copies of the records.

Each record costs $15.  Orders are usually mailed or emailed within two weeks of receipt.  Wisconsin Historical Society Members receive a 10-percent discount.  Learn how to become a member.

Information That May Be Included on a Marriage Record

  • Husband's full name, birthplace, occupation, residence, race
  • Husband's father's name
  • Husband's mother's maiden or married name
  • Bride's full name before marriage, birthplace, race
  • Bride's father's name
  • Bride's mother's maiden or married name
  • Marriage certificate date
  • Marriage registration date
  • Wedding date, place, town or township, and county
  • By what ceremony it was contracted
  • Name of person pronouncing the marriage and his residence
  • Names of subscribing witnesses

If There Is No Marriage Record

Check census records

The U.S. Federal Census (1790-1930) can help identify a spouse or narrow down the year of marriage. The U.S. Federal Censuses, 1880-1920, note if each individual is single, married, widowed or divorced. The 1900 and 1910 Federal Censuses also note how many years an individual has been married to their present spouse.

Check death records

Wisconsin death records asked for the name of the spouse at the time of death. Even if the spouse was deceased, a name may still be listed.

Locate obituaries for the deceased or spouse

These may reveal the date and place of their marriage. Search our website for your Wisconsin ancestor's obituary. Write down the location information for the obituary, then view it in the newspaper on microfilm in the Society's Library.

Check for the record at the county level

Some records were never forwarded to state officials and are therefore not included in the Pre-1907 Vital Records indexes created from state copies.

Check other states

Consider the possibility that they were married in a neighboring state, or the bride's native state.

More Tips

  • Because information was provided firsthand by the participants, marriage records are generally considered quite reliable.
  • Some marriage records may be indexed in unexpected ways, perhaps under a name variation.

About Our Marriage Records

The Society has approximately 1 million names from Wisconsin marriage records. There are generally entries for both the bride and groom.

After a marriage was recorded at the county level, local officials normally forwarded that information to the state. Wisconsin law required counties to register marriage events with state officials starting in 1852, but the law was not strictly enforced until roughly 1880.  Most records date from 1880 or later.

We do not have marriage records after September 30, 1907. No single statewide index exists for vital records created after September 30, 1907.

Learn More

See more articles about researching your family history.

Have Questions?

Contact our Library and Archives staff by email.