Marriage Records Help

Newbie here...Well, I was feeling good about creating citations until recently. Now I'm second guessing myself. I started citing marriage records. Here is my citation: 

Indiana, "Marriage Records," 1882-1890, Volumes 15-17, certificate or registration image, August Gruber and Mary Nichter, 27 May 1886, no. 586; "Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007," database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 19 March 2020), Allen County, 1884-1886, Volume 16, image 298 of 323, citing Allen County, Clerk; Indiana Commission on Public Records, Indianapolis.

I feel like there are several issues with this citation. 

  1. There isn't a title at the beginning of this book. The generic title given by FamilySearch is "Marriage Records." Does this work or do I need to say in the citation that this is a generic title?
  2. I believe that this is a marriage registration (also stated that way by FamilySearch). Although it says "certificate" on document, it looks like the same handwriting throughout the document and it is part of a book (not a loose paper). Does that assessment seem correct?
  3. I'm trying to understand the use of ">." I believe EE book said that it represents a nesting of webpages, but I'm not entirely sure. So should I be using ">" in the second part of my citation instead of commas? Example: Allen County > 1884-1886 > Volume 16 > image 298 of 323. I thought I read in the EE book that this symbol can be confusing, but now I can't find the information any longer. I also see this symbol used in some examples on this website platform.
  4. All marriage records prior to 1958 were collected at the county level only (this one from 1886). Later, Allen county marriage records were moved to the state of Indiana. Therefore, since this is a local record moved to a state repository I ended my citation as: citing Allen County, Clerk; Indiana Commission on Public Records, Indianapolis. Is that correct? I'm thrown off by the extra ";"

I would love any input. Thanks in advance! 

Submitted byEEon Sat, 02/13/2021 - 11:05

Amyheemy, I’ll answer the questions first, then cover a couple of broader issues.

Question 1: It’s a handicap when a filmer does not film the cover of a courthouse register. In those cases, we do use a generic title, but we do not put it in quotation marks. Our readers (and we, too, at a later date after our recollection of the source has gone cold), would assume from the quotation marks that we are actually quoting the  title of the register. While you would be quoting a label FamilySearch created, FamilySearch did not create the register; and the repository that holds the register now will identify it by the title on the spine rather than FamilySearch’s catalog label. Anyone seeking the register at the repository that holds it could be misled.  (For “untitled items,” see EE 2.22 ( unpublished manuscript, register, etc.), 2.62 (capitalization) and 2.72 (use of quotation marks).

From another perspective: Whatever details we record for the original register in Layer 1, should be the information we are able to draw from the images we are using. Information provided by the publisher of the images should be cited in the layer in which we cite the website that publishes the images.

Question 2: Yes, the volume is a marriage register. The printing house that sold those pre-printed books to the courthouses in that era “fancied up” the pages of the marriage registers, but the record you are using is not the same as a “marriage certificate” given to the couples of that era; and it is not the same as the “marriage certificate” we would get if we ordered a “certificate” today. 

Question 3:  Angle brackets have two principle usages by researchers today.  

  • EE 2.58 Braces & Brackets, discusses the non-tech use of the matched pair as a substitute for parentheses, braces, or brackets—typically used around URLs—and advises against it because the tech world has conflicting uses for a pair of  angle brackets.
  • The symbols, individually, are also mathematical symbols that mean “less than”(<) and “greater than” (>).  The greater-than symbol is used today to indicate the path one follows through a string of menus at a website, starting with the largest waypoint on the path and working down to the smallest.

Question 4:  The “citing ….” layer of our citation reports whatever our own source cites as its source. It does not cite anything that is not provided by our source. If we do contextual research to learn more about the source, we add sentences after the citation to discuss whatever context we feel is useful.

Two broader issues


The basic pattern for citing a courthouse register of any type is shown in the QuickStart Guide:

Author-Creator, “Document Title,” specific page and/or date; [details saying where the document now is]. 

As the example below that shows,

  • the author/creator is the county that created the record book.
  • The “Title” would be the name of the register—which, in this case, you have to ID generically, without quotation marks.
  • Then we cite the specific page, etc.

You’ll notice that the first layer of your draft citation, the layer in which you ID the document, deviates from this pattern considerably.


A fundamental rule when creating a layered citation for a complex source is this: Details from one layer should not be mixed into the other. Details relating to the original record should not be mixed into our ID of the website and database. (QuickLesson 19: Layered Citations Work Like Layered Clothing).  If we choose to identify the original document in Layer 1, then everything in Layer 1 should be a part of that original document.


Bottom Line:

Using your draft citation, if we remove from Layer 1 the details created by the website, we would end up with this:

        1. Wayne County, Indiana, Marriage Register [16], page 586, marriage license and return, August Gruber and Mary Nichter, 27 May 1886, No. 586; imaged in "Indiana Marriages, 1811–2007," database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 19 March 2020), Allen County, > 1884-1886 Volume 16 > image 298 of 323; citing Allen County, Clerk; Indiana Commission on Public Records, Indianapolis.

Without the editorial markings, it would be this:

        1. Wayne County, Indiana, Marriage Register [16], page 586, August Gruber and Mary Nichter, 27 May 1886; imaged in "Indiana Marriages, 1811–2007," database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 19 March 2020), Allen > 1884-1886 Volume 16 > image 298 of 323; citing Indiana Commission on Public Records, Indianapolis.

In the suggested draft above, you’ll notice that

  • The ID of the register is a generic “Marriage Register.” That much we can vouch for from eyeballing the images.
  • The register number 16 is placed in square editorial brackets because we cannot verify that number from what we see on the images. It’s information we add from elsewhere. (EE 2.58 Square editorial brackets)
  • Rather than “no. 586,” I’ve explicitly said “page.” When we cite a register, if we say “number,” a reader will not know what that number represents. It could be a page number or an entry number in the register. Today, some would also confuse it with image number. (EE 7.5 Citing entry vs. page number)
  • The page number appears before the ID of the couple whose names appear on that page. In citing the register, we are citing from largest element to smallest—i.e., creator > book > page > specific item on page.
  • After citing the page, in a case such as this one, to specify exactly what type of marriage record(s) appear(s) on that page.  In this case, we have the register copy of both the license and the return.
  • The path citation uses the exact words that FamilySearch assigns to the path, as shown at the top of the image.
  • The “citing ….” layer eliminates “Allen County, Clerk” because the citation information supplied for the image does not include that. What FS’s citation identifies as its source (the last layer of its citation) is “Indiana Commission on Public Records, Indianapolis.”  It is good for us to also backtrack a digital collection to the catalog entry to learn additional information about the source, as you have done. However, if we bring in information from a catalog entry into this citation, then we also need to cite that catalog entry, so others will know where that data came from. We would do that in a separate sentence.



Submitted byyhoitinkon Sat, 02/13/2021 - 17:32
I have a follow-up question, if that's OK. Let's say the cover was scanned and we can see no. 16 on the spine, so no need for the editorial brackets. Would it then be OK to say: Wayne County, Indiana, Marriage Register, 16:586 or should we say: Wayne County, Indiana, Marriage Register 16, page 586 ? I have seen both. I like how tight the first is but think the second may be clearer. I have been using the second in my research notes and the first in my final products.

Submitted byEEon Sun, 02/14/2021 - 08:05

Hello, Yvette.

You have a sharp eye. I debated including a discussion of that issue but then decided to let it go, given the length of what I had already written.

The simplest way to cite a numbered register, when we can eyeball the spine/cover and see exactly what is there, would be Marriage Register 16:586. (Or 16: 586, if one prefers.) It's the traditional form—more cryptic and less explanatory. In Amy's case above, because of the complication of putting "16" in brackets, and because of the page number vs. entry number issue that was also involved, I felt that EE's editing of the citation would be clearer if I used the "..., page 586" format.

Consistency is an ideal. Clarity is a must.

Submitted byamyheemyon Sun, 02/14/2021 - 12:55

I'm sure that I will get a lot of eye rolls for this post, so I apologize in advance. Wow! I feel like I just flunked a test. I think that I need to reread the EE book again and take better notes. I was definitely unsure about my original citation (not one above), so I looked for examples in the forum. I think that confused me even further. On that note, everything that you said makes perfect sense to me, so I must be grasping something. 

I was trying to use (not very successfully), the Chapter 9 QuickCheck Model for Local Records: Files Moved to State Archives. Is this the wrong QuickCheck Model and/or chapter? Perhaps one of my problems is understanding the source of these documents.

In regards to the example above, would you keep the "marriage license and return" in the citation? It seems like that is useful information to keep.

Once it is safe to go to libraries and other places where these records are kept, I plan on looking for "missing" information in my research. Let's say that I find the marriage register book (from this example) and it has a title with more complete information. When I find this information, it seems to me that I would write a new citation (not correct the current one). Is that correct? If this is the case, when writing a book, should I keep both the former and new citation in my writing? In my own reasoning, I would keep both citations because this offers the reader more locations to find the record. 

Thanks again for all of your help! Time to study the EE book again. 


Submitted byEEon Sun, 02/14/2021 - 19:27

Amy, to address the issue in your first paragraph re choosing the appropriate model: I wish I had a drawing program here in this message box. In lieu of that, envision a flow chart or a family tree, with Courthouse Marriage Register at top center.  Below that are two offspring:

  • Microfilmed Copy, which has to be identified with details for both parents: the mother copy and the other parent, the microfilm.
  • Published Abstract, which has to be identified with details for both parents: the mother copy and the creator/publisher of the abstracts

Now Microfilmed Copy has one offspring:

  • Digital Image, which needs to be identified by its lineage: the mother copy, the microfilmed copy, and the digital image.

Meanwhile, Courthouse Marriage Register, who is now a grandmother, has been moved to an “old folks home,” the State Archives, where she is cataloged into a different archival system and has to be identified and located by that system.

This is why EE offers different examples for citing something as seemingly simple as a marriage register. Every version of that record would require some special details that would not be appropriate for another version.

You are now using the digital image. Couched in terms of the mental graphic above: would you consider the mother copy at the state archives to be the appropriate iteration to cite?   I think you’ll say, “No, I need a model for the digital image.”  (This is also why the QuickStart Guide features the originals and the digital images, rather than more esoteric scenarios. Most records being used today, arguably, are digital images. If we memorize those basic patterns in the QuickStart Guide, it’s easier to adapt everything else we encounter.

Given all these variations, it’s also tempting to just say To heck with this! I’ll just cite the book at the courthouse and be done with it!   But the specific iteration of that record that we have consulted can make a difference in the quality—and reliability—of the information we take from the register. Many times, microfilm copies have been made under poor lighting with many pages too dark to read. The digital images, on the other hand, may be enhanced and may actually be more legible than the courthouse original.  Or, either of the “processing” methods could have omitted pages that would be found in the original.

Your para. 2:


Your para. 3:

Yes, if we later consult the original and find more or better data, then we cite the original. There would no need, in that case, to also cite the imaged copy—unless you wanted to cite a more accessible copy for others to use.