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Contributed: pre-2006


Contributed by Ken Tessendorff

The purpose of this article is to provide a guide to the type of personal information that a researcher might find in marriage records recorded in California starting in 1850. Through the years, many different laws were passed to control the type of personal information that was recorded before and after a couple was married. In the early years very little personal information was recorded. As time passed, more was required.

The laws of the State of California and the records of the County of San Mateo were used to assemble this guide. It must be remembered that records kept by other counties may vary from what was recorded in San Mateo County, but there should be some resemblance from one the county to the next. In the following paragraphs, the applicable laws are cited, followed by a typical example of what was recorded in San Mateo County with respect to those laws.

I am not an attorney and am unfamiliar with laws, codes, etc., so it is possible that some important changes in the law may have been overlooked, but every effort has been made to include all important and pertinent information. The important sections of each law pertaining to the required personal information that was to be gathered by the county recorders has been included. Also included are a few sections that specified some unique requirements or exceptions to the law that may be of interest to people researching individuals during a certain period in our history Anyone interested in reading the laws and codes in their entirety should consult the appropriate statute books.

The first Act passed in California was:
AN ACT regulating Marriages
Passed April 22, 1850

Appropriate Sections were:
7. No Judge, Justice of the Peace Clergyman, Preacher of the Gospel, or other person , shall join in marriage any male under the age of twenty-one years, or female under the age of eighteen years without the consent of the parent or guardian, or other person under whose care and government such minor may be.
8. Every person having authority to join others in marriage, shall keep a record of all marriages solemnized before him, and within three months transmit a certificate of every marriage (containing both Christian names and surnames) to the Recorder of the county in which the marriage took place.......
9. The Recorder shall record all such returns of marriages in a book to be kept for the purpose within one month after receiving the same.....
10. The books of marriages to be kept by the respective Recorders and copies of entries therein, certified by under his official seal, shall be evidence in all court.


State of California
San Mateo County This day personally came before me Andrew Ballard and Martha Catherine Shoults and were by me united in Marriage according to the Statute of the State
      Given under my hand this 8th day of January A D 1857
            Austin Hogard
            Minister of the Gospel


Recorded April 10th 1857 at 11 A.M.
            B. G. Lathrop
            County Recorder


Marriage Certificate
I the undersigned do hereby certify that Mr. Joseph Bizano aged 37 from the Kingdom of Naples was duly married before me to Miss Marie Sacramento Miramontez 16 year old daughter to Vincent Miramontez and Maria Jesus Hernandez residing at Half Moon Bay her parents consent having been previously obtained. Stood as witnesses at the Marriage Jose Maria Miramontez and Frances Rosana Vargus.
Given under my hand at Half Moon By this day 4 June 1858
                  D. Salari
            Pastor of the Catholic Church


A true copy of an original recorded at request of P. J. Keely, June 6th 1858.
                  B. G. Lathrop
                  County Recorder


Note that the amount of personal information given about the individuals depended on the person who performed the ceremony.

Apparently a book for recording marriages was not available during the early years in San Mateo County, so the above marriages were recorded in the Book of Estrays.

An Act providing for the Registration of Marriages, Births, Divorces and Deaths, in California.
Approved April 26, 1858

1. That the Governor of the state be, and is hereby authorized to appoint, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, A State Registrar... He shall prepare and furnish to the county recorders of each county suitable blanks and books, prepared according to the following forms: For Marriages--Entries of the date, locality, name, surname, residence and age of the respective parties, the place of nativity of the same, when the record was made, together with the name, place of residence and official station of the person performing the marriage ceremony.
2. The State Registrar shall keep a record of all such returns as shall be made to him by the county recorders, as hereinafter provided, and shall file, or cause to be bound together, all such returns, for safe-keeping.
3. It shall be the duty of all persons performing the ceremony of marriage, to enter in the office of the recorder of the county in which such marriage takes place, a record of every such marriage, in accordance with the provisions of the first section of this act...
5. Every county recorder is hereby required to enter every record of marriage....according to instructions he may receive from the State Registrar, in books furnished him, to be retained as books of record in his office; and further, to prepare and transmit a duplicate of the same every three months, to the State Registrar, according to the provisions of this act.

The above Act was repealed in 1862 and there is no evidence in San Mateo County records that special forms were used to record marriage information between 1858 and 1862.
An Act to amend an Act Regulating Marriages, passed April twenty-second, eighteen hundred and fifty.
Approved April 26, 1862

7. No persons shall be joined in marriage, unless such persons shall have first obtained a license therefor from the Clerk of the County Court of the county where such marriage is to take place, which license shall authorize any Judge, Justice of the Peace... to celebrate and certify such marriage; but no such license shall be granted for the marriage of any male under twenty-one years of age, or for any female under the age of eighteen years, without the consent of his or her father, or, if he be dead or incapable, of his or her mother, or guardian, to be noted in such license, or unless the party or parties under said ages respectively shall have been previously married....
8. Any judge, Justice of the Peace...who shall celebrate any marriage, shall make a certificate of such marriage, and file the same, together with the license therefor, within thirty days thereafter, in the office of the County Recorder in and for the county in which said marriage was celebrated...
9. The Recorder shall record all such certificates of marriage, together with the license, in a book to be kept for that purpose within one month after receiving the same...

From 1862 until 1878, all records continued to be handwritten and included both an entry for the license and for the certificate of marriage.


Marriage License
State of California
County of San Mateo
I do hereby authorize any Judge, Justice of the peace. Clergyman or Preacher of the Gospel to celebrate & certify the marriage of Jose de la C. Soto to Maria Louisa Buelna. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and official seal this 19th day of January 1865
            Thomas H. Noble
            County Clerk


Marriage Certificate

I certify that in pursuance of the above license Jose de la C. Soto and Maria Louise Buelna were by me this day united in matrimony
      18th day of January 1865
            D. T. Dempsey
            Pastor of St Matthews Church
            San Mateo

A true copy of an original recorded at request of Jose de la C. Soto February 4th 1865 at 9 am
            Thomas H. Noble
            County Recorder
            by John Ames Deputy


An Act to amend an Act entitled an Act to amend an Act regulating Marriages, passed April twenty second eighteen hundred and fifty.
Approved April 9, 1863

7. No persons shall be joined in marriage unless such persons shall have first obtained a license therefor from the Clerk of the County Court of the county in which the marriage is to be celebrated......provided, unmarried persons living and cohabiting together as husband and wife, may be married without license or public record thereof; provided, the Clergyman performing the ceremony shall make a record thereof in the church register.

No significant changes were made in this 1863 amendment to the law. The above information was included to explain why some marriages may have taken place, but no record is available at the county.

In 1872, the Civil Code was created. Section 69 pertained to Marriage licenses. No changes were made regarding the type of information required to be recorded for people being married.

From 1878 through 1920, preprinted forms were used to record both the license and the certificate. No law was found that required the use of these forms. It appears that the county just started to use the preprinted forms, because they took less time.



State of California, County of San Mateo.

These Presents are to authorize and license any Justice of the Supreme Court, District or County Judge, Justice of the peace, Mayor, Priest or Minister of the Gospel of any denomination, to solemnize within said County the marriage of Daniel Mullen, a native of New York aged 27 years, resident of Redwood City, County of San Mateo, State of California: and Ann Heiner native of Denmark, aged 17 years, resident of Redwood City, County of San Mateo State of California. Said parties being of sufficient age to be capable of contracting marriage
H E Heiner father of Anna Heiner has signed affidavit consenting to marriage of his daughter. Said affidavit is filed in this office.
In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and affixed the seal of the County Court of said County this 30th day of Sept A. D. 1879
Merl Rohner
County Clerk and ex-officio Clerk of the County Court in and for said San Mateo county/


State of California, County of San Mateo, ss.

I hereby Certify that I believe the facts stated in the above license to be true, and that upon due inquiry, there appears to be no legal impediment to the marriage of said Daniel Mullen and Ann Heiner that said parties were joined in marriage by me, on the thirtieth day of September A. D. 1879, in Redwood City said County and State: that Nicholas Huson a resident of Woodside County of San Mateo, State of California, was present as witness of said ceremony.
The parents of Daniel Mullen were born in United States those of Ann Heiner in Denmark. Neither party has been before married.
In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, this Thirtieth day of Sept A. D. 1879
C N Shaulding
Rector of St. Peters Episcopal Ch
Redwood City

Daniel Mullen and Ann Heiner     A true copy of an original Recorded at request of C N Shaulding this Twenty Seventh day of October A. D. 1879 at 2 o'clock, P. M.
           Merl Rohner, County Recorder

From 1901 through 1926, additional preprinted forms titled Affidavit for Marriage License were also used in San Mateo County. Following is a typical form:
State of California,
     County of San Mateo ss. Thomas M. Donovan being duly sworn, says:
My name is Thomas M. Donovan, I reside at New York Landing, Calif. I desire a license to authorize my marriage with Minnie M Brown. The age of myself is 30 years and that of Minnie M. Brown is 37 years and she is a resident of New York Landing, Calif. There are no legal objections whatever to the marriage, nor to the issuance of this license to authorize the same.
Neither of the above-named parties heretofore has been a party in any action for divorce in which the decree of divorce has been rendered and made within one year prior to this date. Subscribed and sworn to before me this     Thomas M. Donoven
17th day of March, 1903
H. W. Schaberg Deputy County Clerk.


_____________________being duly sworn, says: I am the __________ of said________________, a minor and hereby give my consent to the issuance of a license authorizing _________ marriage
     Subscribed and sworn to before me this
     __________day of ___________190_______
___________________________Deputy County Clerk


An Act to amend sections 3074 through 3083, and to repeal section 3084 of the Political Code of the State of California, relating to the state board of health and the registration of births, marriages and deaths, and providing for the compensation of a state statistician and assistants.
Approved March 18, 1905.

3076. All persons who perform the marriage ceremony in this state shall within three days after the ceremony file with the county recorder a certificate of registry of the marriage performed by them in such form as may be prescribed by the state registrar which shall contain among other matters as near as can be ascertained, the place and date of marriage, sex, race, color, age, name and surname, birthplace, residence of the parties married, number of marriage and condition of each, whether single, widowed, or divorced, the occupation of the parties, maiden name of the female, if previously married, the names and birthplace of the parents of each and the maiden name of the mother of each.

3078. It shall be the duty of every county recorder to receive without fee or charge each certificate of registry of marriage....provided, however, that in cities having freeholders charter the health officer shall act as local registrar....and shall receive, without fee or charge each certificate....and enter the same in the manner as provided for the county recorder; to enter the same in a separate register to be known as the "Register of Marriages," in separate columns, properly headed, the various facts contained in the certificates and the name and official or clerical position of the person making the report....The certificates shall be numbered by him and entered in the order in which they are reported to him. On or before the fifth day of each month each recorder, or health officer, shall transmit by United States mail, carefully inclosed in appropriate envelopes or wrappers, addressed to the state registrar at Sacramento, or shall personally deliver to him at his office in Sacramento, on or before the fifth day of each month, the original certificates of marriages filed with him during the preceding month, and shall accompany said certificate with a brief statement of the number such certificates, and the dates of their receipt. The state registrar shall thereupon file the original certificates of marriage and cause the same to be separately and systematically indexed.

The above Act created the Bureau of Vital Statistics, a division of the State Board of Health. At the County of San Mateo, another set of books was started in 1905 named Register of Marriages. These were used to record the Certificates of Registry

California State Board of Health
Bureau of Vital Statistics
Duplicate Certificate of Marriage

County of San Mateo State Index No. _______ 
Town of San Mateo Local Registered No. 169 
Personal and Statistical Particulars
Groom  Bride 
Full Name  L Wade Bridjmun Phyllis E. White
Residence  San Francisco Alameda
Color or race  White White
Age at last birthday  33 26
Birthplace  Missouri Alameda
Occupation  Clerk Bookkeeper
Name of Father  N. C. Bridjmun Ezra Whyte
Birthplace of Father  Illinois Mass.
Maiden name of Mother  A. M. Carr Cora Smith
Birthplace of Mother  N. Y. N. Y. 
We, the groom and bride named in this certificate, hereby certify that the information given therein is correct to the best of our knowledge and belief.
L. Wade Bridjmun Groom    Phyllis E. Whyte Bride.


Certificate of Person Performing Ceremony

I hereby certify that L. Wade Bridjmun and Phyliss E. Whyte were joined in Marriage by me in accordance with the laws of the State of California, at San Mateo this 14th day of August 1907. Signature of Witness to the Marriage Mrs. J. H. Kimball
Signature of person performing the Ceremony Rev. J. N. Kimball,
Official Position Pastor Congregational Ch. Residence San Mateo
Filed Aug 26, 1907 J. L Johnson Registrar (County Recorder.)

After March 18, 1905 copies of all documents were sent to the California State Board of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics and information about any marriages after this date should be available from that office.

From 1905 to the present, the County of San Mateo continued to use a variety of different forms to record the information necessary to satisfy additional changes in the marriage law in California, but most of the information on these forms was the same as what eventually ended up at Sacramento. Forms titled Application for License to Marry and Affidavit for Marriage License were used during this period to obtain the necessary information that was later transcribed to the forms that went to the Bureau of Vital Statistics. Since these forms contain all the information that would be of value to genealogists, it might be less expensive to obtain copies of these documents from San Mateo County than to send to the State of California for copies of their documents. However, the waiting period to get these copies might be much longer than obtaining them from Sacramento. Similar documents may exist in other counties in California. All documents recorded in San Mateo County between 1856 and the present are still on file at the county Recorder's Office.