Was Your Ancestor’s Marriage Certificate Filed Late?

Everyone is familiar with the regulations that couples wanting to be married need to register and obtain a marriage certificate. This document permits them to be wed by a justice of the peace, minister or other authorized official.

Pastors Liable to Heavy Fines, Oregonian newspaper article 2 September 1906
Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), 2 September 1906, page 36

Perhaps less well known is the question: Who returns the signed and completed marriage certificate to the town hall or county registrar?

That was the responsibility of the minister or person performing the wedding.
But – sometimes they never filed the paperwork with the government, or filed it very late.

The Oregonian reported on this problem in 1906, reporting that: “In years gone by…many marriage certificates were never returned at all.”

The old news article went on to cite multiple examples of late filing of the documents.

article about Rev. Ghormley being fined for filing marriage certificates late, Oregonian newspaper article 2 September 1906
Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), 2 September 1906, page 36

For example, the Greenwood-Mitchell marriage certificate wasn’t filed until six years after their marriage. Cases like this can make it difficult for genealogists to locate their ancestors’ marriage certificate.

Genealogy Tip:

When you are searching for a birth, marriage or death certificate, remember: they are often filed in chronological order by the date that they are received in the clerk’s office, not necessarily the date of the event. Be sure to search for several years after you believe the event occurred to make sure you find the certificate. Registrars often received “Delayed Registrations” years after the event occurred.

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