Source Information

Ancestry.com. Tennessee, Marriage Records, 1780-2002 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008.
Original data: Tennessee State Marriages, 1780-2002. Nashville, TN, USA: Tennessee State Library and Archives. Microfilm.

About Tennessee, Marriage Records, 1780-2002

This database contains marriage records from the state of Tennessee from 1780-2002. Information that may be found in this database for each entry includes:

  • Groom’s name

  • Bride’s name

  • Marriage date (or date of record)

  • Marriage county

Additional information about the bride and groom may be listed on the actual record and can be found by viewing the corresponding image.

Marriage records found in this database include marriage licenses, applications, bonds, and certificates. Sometimes there will be two of these records for one marriage. When there are two records for one marriage, the second record can be found on the image immediately following the first. Most often the second record will be the marriage certificate. To learn more about these various marriage records, see below.

Note: There are currently several pre-1787 records for Sumner County, even though Sumner County was not created until 1787. These dates are in error and occur on records that used pre-printed forms containing “17___” already printed. The original recorder did not always change the pre-printed year to the correct marriage date. However, there are many records that were changed and these records show that the dates are simply 100 years off. Therefore, any marriages occurring before 1787 in Sumner County can be assumed to actually have taken place in the 1800s.

Marriage Licenses:

Marriage licenses are the most common marriage records in the United States. They are issued by the appropriate authority prior to the marriage ceremony, and they have come to replace the posting of banns and intentions. Marriage licenses, which grant permission for a marriage to be performed, are returned to civil authorities after the ceremony.

Marriage Applications:

Applications for marriage licenses have been required in some jurisdictions in addition to or in place of bonds. Applications are often filled out by both the bride and groom and typically contain a large amount of genealogical information. They may list the full names of the bride and groom, their residences, races, ages, dates and places of birth, previous marriages, occupations, and their parents’ names, places of birth (state or country), and occupations. Recent laws require health certificates attesting to the absence of diseases that could be passed on to children. The application form does not include the marriage date.

Marriage Certificates:

Marriage certificates are given to the couple after the ceremony is completed and are thus usually found among family records. There are exceptions, however. These certificates are similar to marriage licenses issued in other places. The bride and groom usually receive a marriage certificate for their family records containing similar historical information, signatures of witnesses, and so on.

Marriage Bonds:

Bonds were posted prior to the issuing of the required marriage licenses in some states and were the sole documents required in others. Bonds were posted by the groom alone or with a second person, usually the father or the brother of the bride, to defray the costs of litigation in the event that the marriage was nullified.

Bonds were posted in the jurisdiction where the marriage was to take place, often the bride’s home county. These bonds, the only marriage records maintained in some jurisdictions, were usually annotated with the marriage date after ceremony. It was rare for a marriage not to take place within a few days of the posting of the bonds, even though many bonds do not bear the annotation.

Taken from Johni Cerny, "Vital Records," in The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy, ed. Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking (Provo, Utah: Ancestry, 2006).

About Marriages in Tennessee:

Marriages were recorded in counties prior to statehood, a few as early as 1778, such as those for Green (1780), Washington (1787), Hawkins (1789), Carter (1790), Jefferson and Knox (1792), and Blount (1795). However, a state law requiring the registration of marriages did not pass until 1815. A subsequent state law in 1838 required marriages to be registered in “well-bound books.” Between 1838 and 1919 both marriage licenses and bonds were recorded.

Taken from Wendy Bebout Elliott, "Tennessee," in Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources, 3d ed., ed. Alice Eichholz. (Provo, Utah: Ancestry, 2004).