Marriage Intentions

Engaged couples are required in many jurisdictions to file marriage intentions in their towns, cities, or counties of residence.  After a waiting-period prescribed by law, the intentions may be certified—i.e. a marriage certificate may be issued—and a religious or civil ceremony may legally occur.  Intentions were once published in a very public way, by placing notices of impending nuptials on the walls of stores, post offices, schoolhouses, or taverns.  Intentions could also be taken down or forbidden—perhaps by the parents of an underaged girl, or a previous spouse alleging bigamy.

For genealogists, historical records of intentions often prove more reliable than records of marriage ceremonies, as intentions were generally recorded contemporaneous with the event, and are usually arranged chronologically.  The International Genealogical Index includes many records of marriage intentions, but fails to distinguish them from actual marriage records.  Genealogists should always mark the distinction.

A record of intentions is often considered the poor cousin of a marriage record, but should not be neglected by researchers.  It may include information on the marrying parties (middle initials, places of residence, etc.) omitted in the marriage record, and can corroborate or cast doubt on the marriage date.  Indeed, in some cases only marriage intentions exist to prove a union occurred.

See also Banns and Declaration of Intention