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Making sense of old handwriting

Church Records: Marriages





The process of marrying in French societies potentially generated several different records:

  • Pre-marriage investigation (l'information, la diligence, ou certificat de mariage)
  • Parish marriage register entry (certificat de mariage)
  • Marriage dispensation (exemption maritale)
  • Church and civil court records relating to marital relations
  • Dowry inventories and pre-nuptial/post-nuptial contracts

The first two record types on the above list relate to the marriage performed by the parish priest. The third one refers to the application by a future bride and groom to the bishop and subsequent investigation to waive an impediment to the proposed marriage. The fourth category generally refers to broken promises to marry—lawsuits and prosecutions relating to marital conflicts and annulments found in the diocesan and civil courts. The last items are contracts defining property contributions to and ultimate property distributions from the marriage, often not only involving the bride and groom but their respective parents as well.

Livre de mariages or Marriage Entries

Marriage records for most French countries may include the following information, depending on the time period when they were created:

  • Date of the marriage
  • Given name and surname of the bride and groom
  • Marital status of the bride and groom
  • Age of the bride and groom
  • The profession of the bride and groom
  • Given names, surnames, residences, and birthplaces of the parents
  • Note regarding the reading of the banns
  • Note as to impediments dispensed with
  • Names of witnesses
  • Name or signature of the officiating priest

The information included in these records usually follows a specific order; however, it is not uncommon to find the same information in a different order. For this reason, it is important to familiarize oneself with the format of the document being worked on.


Paleography Introduction