In the third quarter of the nineteenth century, municipal authorities began to hand out “trouwboekjes” [marriage booklets] to the bride and groom at the time of their marriage. This booklet would contain the names of the spouses, date and place of their marriage, and had room for the names, birth places and birth dates of any children born to this couple. These booklets can be hard to find, as they are personal documents rather than government documents. The place to find them is in your family, not at an archive. Still, even if you do not have these documents, they can be important for your research.
Information in the marriage booklet
A marriage booklet provided at the minimum the following information:
- Full names of the spouses
- Date and place of their marriage
- Full names, and places and dates of birth of their children
Since the end of the 19th century, marriage booklets have become more informative and often also include:
- Place and date of birth of both spouses
- Place and date of death of both spouses
- Place and date of death of any children who died before reaching adulthood
Example: marriage booklet of Cornelis Flooren and Catharina van der Sanden
- Marriage booklet of Cornelis Flooren and Catharina van der Zanden (p. 1)
In the year one thousand eight hundred seventy two the
fourteenth [in margin: fifteenth] November, were joined in matrimony the persons of:
Cornelis Flooren and
Catharina van der Sanden
For exact extract,
Teteringen, 14 November 1874,
The clerk of the Civil Registration in Teteringen,
- Marriage booklet of Cornelis Flooren and Catharina van der Zanden (p. 2)
Petrus, born in Breda on 5 February 1873
Johannes, [born in Breda on] 7 May 1875, died [in Breda] 1876
Maria Catharina, born in ‘s Princenhage 31 March 1877
Adrianus [born in 's Princenhage] 7 June 1880
Hendrikus Cornelis [born in 's Princenhage] 9 May 1884
Maria Johanna [born in 's Princenhage] 22 June 1887
Johannes Hendrikus [born in 's Princenhage] 27 March 1890.
Use of the marriage booklet
Until World War II, the marriage booklet was the closest thing many people had to an official ID. It was the document they referred to when they wanted to check some vital information about themselves or their children. The father would take the booklet with him when he went to register the birth of a new addition to the family and the child would be recorded in the book. Likewise, if either spouse died, the person registering that death would borrow the marriage booklet. Sometimes the death was recorded in the marriage booklet.
How is this relevant for your research?
As genealogists, we always try to find multiple pieces of evidence for our conclusions. When we find a birth, marriage and death record that all provide consistent information about the birth date of a person, we may think we are done: we have three original documents, created by government officials who had no stake in the matter, with different informants, that all agree.
However, these records may not be independent. The information in the death record may have been copied from the marriage booklet, which in turn is based on the information in the marriage record. The marriage record would have gotten the information about the age of the spouses from the extracts of their birth records. The informants may not be the same, but the source of the information is: the information about the birth date and age is derived from the birth record in all these cases. Instead of three pieces of the puzzle, we have three copies of the same piece.
When we analyze records for their value as evidence, it’s important to realize that the marriage booklet may be the underlying document for many of the records. To find independent evidence of information about births and parentage, we may need to go beyond the convenient civil registration records and verify the information using population registers, death duties files and other sources.
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