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Marriage Records (1820-1970)
These records contain marriage licenses of contracting parties showing: license date, license number, date of marriage ceremony, marriage return number, groom, maiden name of bride. Records after 1899, but not included in this index show for both bride and groom: date of birth, current residence, place of birth (city, state or province, and nation, if other than the United States), occupation, father, mother’s maiden name, whether previously married, and person performing the ceremony.
These records originate from the probate court and are maintained through that office. Probate courts existed in the Northwest Territory prior to Ohio’s statehood. They had authority in probate, testamentary, and guardianship cases, although the probate judge and two common pleas court judges issued all final judgments. In 1802, Ohio’s first constitution abolished separate probate courts and transferred their authority to the common pleas courts. Separate probate courts reappeared in 1851, when Ohio drafted a new constitution. This gave the probate court the power to grant marriage licenses and control land sales by appointed executors, administrators, and guardians along with powers in probate, testamentary, guardianship, adoption, mental illness, and naturalization. Authorities the court still maintains today, except in regards to naturalization, which power was transferred to the federal government in 1906.
The first marriage law was enacted in 1788, which allowed “male persons of the age of seventeen years, and female persons of the age of fourteen years, and not prohibited by the laws of God, [to] be joined in marriage.” Males under the age of twenty-one and females under the age of eighteen had to first obtain consent of their fathers or guardians before marrying. Judges, ministers, and from 1792 onwards, justices of the peace could solemnize marriages. After Ohio statehood, the Ohio General Assembly passed a law in 1803 “regulating marriages,” which raised the marriage age of males to eighteen, required the marrying parties to not be “nearer of kin than first cousins” and empowered the clerks of court to grant marriage licenses. This law was replaced in 1810 and further amended in 1822, but the basic parameters remained the same.
On January 6, 1824, the Ohio legislature enacted a new law “regulating marriages,” which repealed all previous laws and combined all existing statutes on marriage into a single act. There were no fundamental differences between this new marriage law and the original 1803 law in regards to who may marry and by whom. This statute would, however, remain on the books unamended or unaltered until 1869. The only event, which happened in this interim, was that probate courts were given the “exclusive authority” in “issuing marriage licenses,” upon the adoption of the new Ohio Constitution in 1852, from the common pleas courts.
In 1869, the General Assembly changed the marrying age of females from fourteen to sixteen and provided that the couple could not be “nearer of kin than second cousins.” An 1870 amendment reaffirmed the 1824 statute that consent had to be granted by a father or guardian to males under the age of twenty-one and females under the age of eighteen. The biggest change, for genealogical purposes, came in 1898, when marriage licenses were regulated. This act required a marrying couple to state their “name, age, residence, place of birth, occupation, father’s name, if known, and the mother’s maiden name…and…the number of times either party ha[d] been previously married, and in case the bride [was] a widow, or a divorced woman, her married name.” This law went into effect January 1, 1899.
The age of consent for females was raised to twenty-one in 1923. In 1945, this provision was repealed and anyone who was no longer a minor could marry without consent. Hence, only females between the ages of sixteen and eighteen needed the consent of their father, guardian, or, beginning in 1915, the judge of the juvenile court. This is how the marriage statutes stood until the introduction of the Ohio Revised Code in 1953.