Marriage Information in U.S. Census Records

If you are having trouble finding marriage data about your ancestors, consider using census records to help narrow your search.  You may save valuable time! 

Marriage Information in the 1850-1930 Censuses

  • 1850, 1860, 1880, 1890 – A column is checked if married within the year.
  • 1870 – If married within the year, the month of marriage is given.
  • 1880-1930 – Marital status is given (single, married, widowed or divorced.)
    • A status change over the years helps narrow down the date of an event.
  • 1900, 1910 – Lists the number of years married to the present spouse.
  • 1910 – Reports for married persons, whether the marriage is the first (M1) or more than first (M2 – used for any number over 1 marriage).
  • 1930 – States the individual’s age at their first marriage.    
    • Narrows the date of the present marriage.
    • Provides evidence of previous marriage(s).

 Other Clues to Marriage

  • 1890 – 1910 – Women are asked how many children they have given birth to and the number of children still living.
    • Could be a clue to previous marriages.
  • 1790 – 1840 – The head of household is named with others in age and/or gender categories.
    • Helps build a family profile.
    • Track categorized individuals to help determine if they may have left the family unit through marriage or death.
    • Examining adult female age categories can help determine if a man remarried.

Find out what census resources are available in the Grosvenor Room for New York State by reading our Census Guide.


Dollarhide, William. The Census Book: A Genealogist’s Guide to Federal Census Facts, Schedules and Indexes. Bountiful, Utah: HeritageQuest, 1999. GRO REF HA 214 .D63 1999

Hinckley, Kathleen W. Your Guide to the Federal Census. Cincinnati: Betterway Books, 2002.  GRO REF HA 37 .U6 H556 2002

Minnesota Population Center. Enumerator Instructions. In Integrated Public Use Microdata Series: Census Microdata for Social and Economic Research. .

The National Archives.  Clues in Census Records, 1850-1930 and Clues in Census Records, 1790-1840. In Census Records. .

U.S. Department of Commerce. Measuring America: The Decennial Censuses From 1790 to 2000.  United States: U.S. Department of Commerce, 2002.

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