How to find and request City Clerk Marriage Licenses from New York, between 1908 and 1929
Learn how to find and request copies of New York City (NYC) Clerk Marriage Licenses using free online indexes from 1908 to 1929.
For marriages in NYC between 1908 and 1929, there is a rich source of more detailed genealogical information than those certificates issued by the Department of Health: the "Application, Affidavit, and License" records issued by the Clerk's office in each borough.
Not given in regular certificates, this additional information can be found in clerk's licenses:
- Bride’s occupation (sometimes includes employer name and address for both spouses, too)
- Specific town of birth for bride and groom
- Country of birth for each spouse's parents
- Addresses of Witnesses (possible family members)
- Names of former spouses, living or dead
- If divorced, lists when and where divorce or divorces were granted
- 3 different sets of handwriting (helps with legibility or creative spelling issues)
A typical Clerk's License includes three parts:
- Affidavit for License to Marry. If they could write, the bride and groom usually filled out this form — an exciting primary source document in their handwriting. The form contains the unique information described above. On the reverse side of the affidavit is the Certificate of Consent, signed by parents or guardians of minors who wished to marry.
- License. The information is similar to that of the affidavit. The City Clerk signed this form, empowering authorized persons to marry the applicants. Attachments, such as the divorce decree for the first marriage, birth certificate, and baptismal certificate, can sometimes be found with licenses. (Attachments will be photocopied with licenses found at the NYC Municipal Archives. However, it is not the policy of the City Clerk to photocopy attachments or otherwise provide them to researchers.)
- Certificate. This is the City Clerk's marriage certificate, not the Health Department's marriage certificate. The person who performed the marriage was instructed to return the signed license and certificate to the City Clerk for filing.
In the NYG&B Newsletter, Leslie Corn recommends this search process:
- If possible, determine the exact marriage date and location/borough. Searching the Health department certificate indexes is a good first step, although you may not always find a certificate to match to a clerk's license.
- Determine the borough(s) to search: licenses were supposed to be filed in bride's county of residence, but may be in a different county (such as where the marriage certificate was registered). Also, Bronx licenses were issued in Manhattan until 1914 (when Bronx county was created).
- Determine the year and month(s) to search: licenses were usually filed immediately before the marriage certificate date, but could sometimes be weeks or months ahead.
- Determine a volume: each volume in the free online index is for both a specific year and specific borough.
- Search within a volume: each volume is organized in increments of 2-4 months and then, within that increment, by the first two letters of the surname (groom on the left side of a page, bride on the right side).
Thanks to Reclaim the Records for making these valuable genealogical records easier to find! In a similar concern for free genealogy knowledge sharing, I have also copied my helpful how to guide from this post into the FamilySearch wiki.
Request a copy
Currently microfilm copies of New York City marriage licenses are not available at any library nor are they online. All requests for copies must be made to the NYC Municipal Archives (for licenses between 1908 and 1929) or the Office of the City Clerk (1930 and later).
Do NOT use the online form for requesting a marriage certificate at http://www.nyc.gov/html/records/html/archives/genealogy.shtml. Instead, send regular postal mail to:
NYC Municipal Archives, 31 Chambers Street, New York, NY 10007
Include the following:
- Indicate that you require the CITY CLERK LICENSE record
- Give the license number if you have it (read previous search instructions).
- Include a payment check for $15 USD (for each record), payable to "NYC Dept. of Records".