Newspaper Marriage Announcements: Using the Language of Love to Break Down Genealogical Walls

Have you found a marriage announcement on Newspapers.com that led to a genealogy breakthrough? For some of us (like me), uncovering long sought after information is like opening a gift on Christmas morning! Marriage announcements can be short and succinct or long and rich in detail. As a genealogist, I’ve spent hours poring through marriage records on Newspapers.com. I have some tips that might help you read between the lines of your marriage announcements and might help you make new personal discoveries within your family tree.

The Bride’s Maiden Name: A marriage announcement is often a great way to uncover the holy grail of genealogy for women – her birth name! A birth name can open the door to further research for the bride and her family. Here’s a marriage announcement from London revealing the bride’s birth name that dates back to 1701!

Parents’ Names: Marriage announcements often include the name of the parents for both the bride and groom. Now you can go back one more generation in your research!  

Photographs: The first photos started appearing in newspapers in the late 1800s, and by the 1900s, many papers included a picture of the bride. What a treasure to find a photo of your ancestor!

Address: It’s hard to imagine now, but it used to be common to give an address for the bride and/or groom, like in this announcement from 1875. An address allows you to search land records, census records, and nearby relatives – remember families often stuck together back then. (Pro tip: enter the address in Google Earth to see if the house still stands. If it does, you can explore the neighborhood virtually)!

Wedding Announcement 1933

The Wedding Party: I love a wedding announcement full of lots of juicy details like this one. I mean, who doesn’t want to know how many yards of silk it took to make the wedding gown? A detailed wedding announcement often mentions everyone in the bridal party, and sometimes even guests. Chances are, many of those named are relatives. I’ve gone so far as to build a tree for everyone mentioned, and each time, I have discovered new cousins and siblings. It takes effort, but if you’re up against a brick wall, it just might lead to a breakthrough. Pay special attention to those who have traveled from out-of-town to attend the wedding. They are probably family!

Who Performed the Wedding? Marriage announcements usually give the name of who officiated at the wedding. You aren’t likely to find church records in the newspapers, but if you have the name of the person who performed the wedding, you can research the congregation, and that can lead to church records. Church records often list the name of the bride and groom’s parents and sometimes the mother’s birth name. This can unlock new research possibilities.

The Seattle Star: January 18, 1917

Then and Now, Weddings Can be Full of Drama: While searching for family wedding announcements one day, I came across this dramatic clipping! It shares the story of a young immigrant who left Greece for an arranged marriage in America. The groom ended up rejecting her, and she sued him for $5,000 for breach of contract. The article is full of genealogical information for the family – both in Greece and in the United States. This article is more of an announcement for the wedding that didn’t happen!

One Final Tip: While searching for wedding announcements, we sometimes tend to search in a limited range of dates. You might be missing out on so much more. For example, I’ve come across dozens of clippings like this that describe women’s groups getting together to model old wedding dresses. These women modeled their mother’s, grandmother’s, and great-grandmother’s dresses. In many cases, they give the names of the original bride and the year she was married. Who would have thought to search for a wedding more than a hundred years after it happened? What a treasure trove of information!

Ready to dive in and find your ancestors’ marriage announcements? Start searching Newspapers.com today!

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24 thoughts on “Newspaper Marriage Announcements: Using the Language of Love to Break Down Genealogical Walls

  1. I love wedding announcements.In one, I found that it was the bride’s second marriage, so the name I had been searching for was from her first husband, and the announcement gave me the name of her parents (hence the birth name) and the name of her mother’s second husband. Almost as good and obituaries which list all the daughters with their husbands.

  2. Thank you for these good tips.
    While researching my husband’s grandparents I discovered a front page column of a truly remarkable story.
    It was found that, as a child, the grandmother was adopted by a friend of the mother, after the father was killed in the San Francisco earthquake in 1906. The mother had to seek work in LA area. The adopted girl’s name had been changed, and over the years mom and daughter lost touch and thought the other to have died.

    A friend, reading the society news in the Carson City, NV newspaper, discovered the young lady’s (my husband’s grandmother’s) wedding announcement. It listed her names, and that of her adopted parents. He took the newspaper to the mom, and they arranged a meeting.

    The Woodland, CA headline announced the anticipation of mother and daughter being reunited once again in a fanfare of the mother arriving on a train and the whole town wishing them well!

    What a treasure to discover!
    (My husband’s grandmother and parents never mentioned a word of this remarkable story.)

  3. I didn’t know, but also stumbled across quite a big story on a divorce proceeding in the 1940s. I had never thought to search for divorce info too, which in this case listed all sorts of family names.

  4. Hi I’m looking for any pictures or announcements of the marriage between Mary Catherine Murphy and
    William Hugh Mcleod in Miramichi New Brunswick ( Nelson)

  5. Been looking for birth or marriage records on Belinda Wimer and William Delany She was born about 1811 in butler county pa married about 1833. I was told preachers who baptized or marriage couples kept the records as they traveled town to town and held their sermons in houses. What happened to the records after the death of the preachers in unknown

    • If you know what church the minister was affiliated with you can check with that church (or one of same denomination near you) to see where they sent those types of records. Some of them end up at local historical societies, some go to the denomination’s seminary.

  6. I found one from my Aunt’s second husband… his first wedding which I believe was annulled because he could not father children. I also believe I may be the only one aware he was even married before.

  7. Have been trying to find my parents marriage license. They met during WW2 and married I believe in 1943. He was in the Army at the time. I have had no luck finding any record. I remember being told they married in San Antonio, TX but the county clerk has no record. I am in the Q for his service record and also for a search of military chaplains at Ft Sam Houston. Any suggestions would be appreciated! Thanks in advance.

    • You might check for the marriage license in the counties surrounding San Antonio. The county of a wedding isn’t necessarily where the license was issued.

  8. I have been fortunate enough to find many wedding and engagement announcements using Newspapers.com, including one for my parents that my mother had never seen! She speculated the announcement must have been posted thanks to a friend who served as witness; my parents left the US for a work assignment abroad right after the wedding.
    I was also able to get through a huge “brick wall”: I traced my great-grandmother using marriage announcements about her children.
    I would never have found these or scores of others without the resources available via Newspapers.com – it truly has been one of the most worthwhile and results-yielding sources of genealogical information for me!

  9. I am glad you used the non-sexist term “birth given” in your description however the heading of that section used the sexist term “maiden name.” Please refrain from using the term maiden name. Thanks

  10. This is incredable have found some in newspapers but cant find my grt uncle james murnaghan who was born in ireland. Found his marriage in worcester in the uk, does anybody know how i can access his birth cert. In ireland.

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