Love & Marriage: Newspaper Engagement & Wedding Announcements

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this blog article, Gena shows how engagement, wedding and anniversary announcements in old newspapers provide a wealth of genealogical information to help with your family history research.

What should you be searching for when conducting family history research in newspapers? Vital record events are some of the most common newspaper articles about our ancestors, such as birth notices and obituaries. There’s another broad category of newspaper articles that is extremely helpful to genealogists: engagement, wedding and anniversary announcements. Falling in love and getting married can result in multiple articles rich in genealogical data.

Whether you are tracing an ancestor’s courtship, marriage, or wedding anniversary, you can find it in the newspaper. And once you find these news articles, make sure to carefully note mentions of family members, dates, places and other information that you can follow up with additional research in newspapers and other ancestry records.

Researching Courtship & Engagement

Engagement notices are a good example of newspaper articles with surprising information in addition to the names of the happy betrothed couple. Street addresses, former city residences, parents’ and other relatives’ names, occupations, alumni information, and pending nuptial dates can be found in these announcements. This engagement notice titled “News of Engagement Interests Society Folk” from 1914 would interest present-day descendants of these couples.

engagement announcements, Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper article 3 May 1914

Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 3 May 1914, page 14

20th century engagement announcements often included a photo of the bride-to-be. One good weekend project would be to find the engagement notices for more recent generations in your family to include in your genealogy.

engagement announcements, Dallas Morning News newspaper article 4 October 1931

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 4 October 1931, section III, page 3

A bridal shower for one friend may also be the perfect place to announce another’s wedding engagement. This unique event provides the researcher with information about those closest to their ancestor.

engagement announcement for Elizabeth Metzger, Plain Dealer newspaper article 28 August 1932

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 28 August 1932, page 33

Genealogy Tip: If you know the marriage date for an ancestor, don’t narrow your search to that date. You may miss an engagement notice printed months or even a year prior to the big day.

Tracing Marriage Licenses & Weddings

Don’t forget that you may be able to use newspapers to follow your ancestral couple from engagement to marriage license, and then from wedding to milestone anniversaries. In this 1927 San Francisco newspaper article listing vital record events, names of those applying for marriage licenses as well as those being issued licenses span San Francisco and nearby cities.

marriage license announcements, San Francisco Chronicle newspaper article 28 September 1927

San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco, California), 28 September 1927, page 10

Genealogy Tip: Don’t assume that a marriage license means the couple went through with a wedding.

Newspaper articles about weddings can be full of surprises. They may include not only the names of the couple, their respective families, and details of the day – but they can also provide information about occupations and future residences. In this 1900 recounting of the wedding of Edmond Hughes and Edith Wakeman in Bismarck, North Dakota, we not only learn about the wedding but the character of the bride (“charming, accomplished and worthy”) and groom (“a young man of integrity and ability”), as well as where they will honeymoon, and then reside.

wedding announcement for Edmond Hughes and Edith Wakeman, Bismarck Tribune newspaper article 13 June 1900

Bismarck Tribune (Bismarck, North Dakota), 13 June 1900, page 3

Your Ancestors’ Wedding Anniversaries

How long was your ancestor married? If they stuck it out for the long ride, that accomplishment might be found in the newspaper. Typically, milestone wedding anniversaries like 25th, 50th or even beyond can be found.

What’s interesting about the following historical newspaper article is that it not only marks the occasion of the 25th wedding anniversary of Rev. E. N. Maynard, but notes that it’s the second time he’s been married 25 years. His first marriage “nearly 60 years ago” lasted 25 years and ended with the death of his wife. The Reverend then married again to Susan Paine “considerably his junior” and that marriage was now at the 25-year mark. What I love most about this article is all the great genealogical information found for both wives – including their names and who their fathers were – as well as the age for Rev. E. N. Maynard. Notice too that the article mentions that Maynard had no children from his first wife, but now has two daughters, a son and a grandson.

wedding anniversary announcement for E. N. Maynard and Susan Maynard, Worcester Daily Spy newspaper article 29 May 1895

Worcester Daily Spy (Worcester, Massachusetts), 29 May 1895, page 5

Genealogy Tip: Newspapers may include articles about parties given to honor a couple for their milestone wedding anniversary. Search for these news articles to find mentions of out-of-town family members in attendance.

Some couples make 25 years of marriage look like child’s play. Consider this couple, Mr. and Mrs. Henry G. Lay, who were 100 and 99 years old at their 75th wedding anniversary in 1924.

wedding anniversary announcement for Mr. and Mrs. Henry Lay, Repository newspaper article 20 January 1924

Repository (Canton, Ohio), 20 January 1924, page 68

And of course once you’ve successfully been married for such a long time, people are going to wonder what your secret to marital bliss is. This anniversary notice from a 1938 Kentucky newspaper may sum it up best.

wedding anniversary announcement, Lexington Herald newspaper article 13 June 1938

Lexington Herald (Lexington, Kentucky), 13 June 1938, page 4

Be sure to search old newspapers for engagement, wedding and anniversary announcements when researching your ancestors – one more reason why newspapers are an essential genealogy resource for finding your family’s stories.

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How to deal with heirloom, oversize portraits

This weekend’s Wall Street Journal (February 14-15, 2009 pp. R6) has a terrific article by Kathleen A. Hughes – “The Person over the Mantle”.

Hughes tells the experiences of families in preserving and displaying their old family portraits and her own change of heart in displaying the image of her 3rd Great Grandmother, Mary Plumb Fairchild.
Early on she was offered Mary’s portrait but decided that she didn’t want that “stern” looking woman over the mantle of her fireplace. Thirty years later she had a change of heart and looked into her genealogy and remembered that old family heirloom. Turns out that Mary Plumb Fairchild was “one of the first women to attend Oberlin College, and an early abolitionist. She died at 29 after giving birth to her fourth child”. Now not accepting the offer of the family portrait is one of her regrets – but the portrait is preserved and hangs in the home of a cousin across the country. (Portrait of Mary Plumb Fairchild is from the article).

We have a wall of old family portraits in our home along the landing at the top of the stairs – much like the walls at Hogwarts in a Harry Potter movie – they are hard to miss. The really oversize family portraits still hang at my uncle’s home in New Hampshire.

If you have early family portraits – be sure to make a digital copy of each one – identify them and post them online. eMail copies to members of your family. You could post them for free at; on or similar sites …. and you can join online genealogy sites like and post the digital images there.

But – what do you do if you don’t have a portrait of any of your ancestors?

You could scour the Internet looking to see if a historic image of your relative is already online. You could also search sites like GenealogyToday – a terrific site that regularly posts funeral cards, early printed items and photographs etc.
Another source is old newspapers. I have found thousands of images – photos, etchings of people in 19th & 20th Century newspapers. GenealogyBank is a great source for tracking down old family photos that the family lost track of decades ago.

This image of Daniel Freeman is from the Omaha (NE) Sunday World Herald 26 June 1899.