By far, the most standard record of a marriage is the marriage license. The purpose of the license is to insure that the law is upheld with regard to who may marry (i.e., persons of lawful age and persons not related to one another). The license is issued by an official authorizing the justice or minister to perform the ceremony. In addition to the names of the prospective bride and groom, the date of the license, as well as the name of the County Ordinary or other official granting the license is included. Marriage licenses are on record roughly from the 1790s to the present. In 1805, Georgia law required that the judge, justice, or minister who married a couple record on the license that the marriage was performed and the date. (In essence, certify the marriage.) It also required that the license be returned to the Ordinary and that the Ordinary records this information. Interpretations of this law vary from county to county. In many cases, a country’s earliest marriage record book begins in 1805 or 1806. In other cases, where marriages were already being recorded, an Ordinary may make no change in his record keeping: one may not find the marriage certificate information recorded until a new marriage book is begun, or a new Ordinary takes office. In a few cases, a County Ordinary’s method of recording the information from unbound marriage licenses into a book was to arrange the information in register or chart form. In these cases, each marriage is allotted one line in the book, citing names of bride, groom, and date, and if after 1805 — date married and by whom. One county utilized this system from 1807-1896; another from 1794-1814. In most counties, however, the information on marriage licenses is recorded word-for-word in the marriage book. Most extant marriage records consist of the recorded copy of the marriage license, which also contains the minister’s or justice’s statement of certification.
In 1924, Georgia law called for a prospective bride and groom to apply for a marriage license, and for the County Ordinary to post and file such application.
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