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Marriage Returns, 1891-1947  |  Register of Marriage Returns, 1891-1927  |  Marriage Return Statistics, 1891-1908

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In 1891, Washington state law required county governments to begin recording birth and death records. At the same time, most counties also began a corresponding effort to collect additional information on marriages. King County did this by collecting additional statistical and personal information on marriages beyond what was required by law. The instrument utilized was the marriage return (a. Marriage Returns). The return form was filled out by the ceremony officiator and filed with the County Auditor after the marriage ceremony. It included detailed personal and statistical information on the couple and on the ceremony itself. The bulk of the records comprise the years 1891 to 1915 and correspond to most marriages for those years. Few returns are present between 1916 and 1947 and account for less than 1% of marriages for each year.

As part of the task of keeping marriage returns, Washington counties also kept corresponding registers of marriages. The King County marriage registers also serve as indexes to and transcriptions of the original forms (b. Register of Marriage Returns).

Between 1891 and 1908, the County Auditor also kept quarterly summaries of marriage statistics as gathered from the returns (c. Marriage Return Statistics).

Thanks to the Washington State Digital Archives, all marriage returns have been indexed and are online (external link).

a. Marriage Returns, 1891-1947

Of all marriage records, these contain the most information of interest to genealogists. The forms include the date of the marriage, the place of the marriage, the date of the license, the name and official station of the officiator, the names and residences of the witnesses and the following information on both the bride and groom: name, age, race, number of marriage, residence, birthplace (state or foreign country), occupation and names of parents. Forms from 1909 to 1927 also include the license number, the parents’ places of birth, and the signature of the bride, groom, witnesses and officiator. Series is extensive from 1891 to 1915, but very incomplete from 1916 to 1947.

Sample Return

b. Register of Marriage Returns, 1891-1927

These volumes function as indexes to the original marriage returns. For records from 1891-1909, they also serve as exact transcriptions of the returns. For 1909-1927, the original returns are more extensive. These records are indexed by male’s name only.

    The King County Archives holds the original volumes as well as copies on microfilm and microfiche.

c. Marriage Return Statistics

These are quarterly reports listing marriage statistics per month and quarter as gathered from the marriage returns. Statistics included are number of marriages, races, nationalities, and age ranges. Although they may be useful to someone researching marriage trends, they contain no names or dates.

TTY Relay 711

The King County Archives building is currently closed, but our remote customer service hours are 9am-4pm, Monday through Friday.