Marriage License Applications, 1866-present
In 1866, the Legislative Assembly of Washington Territory passed the Act to Regulate Marriages. This is the earliest year that any records related to marriage licensing exist in King County. Although there were legal marriage requirements prior to this year, there were no official forms or recordkeeping to document that the laws were upheld. These records were kept by the County Auditor from 1866 to 1969 and by the Recorder's Office since 1969.
Originally, applying for a license consisted of submitting a witness affidavit. This form was signed by a credible person other than the parties seeking the license, swearing that there were no legal impediments to the marriage. If either of the parties were under legal age, the parent or guardian also signed an affidavit giving consent for the marriage. The couple then took the form(s) to the Auditor to apply for the license. The Auditor kept and filed the forms (a. Marriage License Affidavits) and also recorded them by transcribing them in volumes (d. Marriage License Register). Sometime between 1880 and 1895, the witness affidavit was standardized and replaced by the License Application (b. & c. Marriage License Applications). The longstanding presumption was that these records did not have enduring historical value, and for this reason many years of these records have been legally destroyed. This idea was challenged by the King County Archives, which began keeping these records dated since 1989. Original applications from 1896 to 1988 no longer exist, but basic information gathered from the applications are available from 1896 to 1917 in the Marriage License Register and from 1983 to 1988 in the online index.
Originally, no official limit regulated the time between license application and license issuance. Since 1939, marriage licenses have been issued no earlier than three days after the license application has been filed. This 3-day waiting period was put in place to give couples time to reconsider a hasty marriage.
a. Marriage License Affidavits, 1866-1894
This series includes two types of affidavits that were submitted in application for a license: the witness affidavit and the consent affidavit. The witness affidavit was required for all marriages and includes the names of the couple, the date of the affidavit and the signature of a credible witness acquainted with the couple. The consent affidavit was only required in situations where either party was under age, and was signed by the parent or guardian giving consent to the marriage. Witness affidavits exist from 1866 to 1879 and correspond to nearly all recorded marriages for those years. Parental consent affidavits exist from 1866 to 1894. Records from 1880 to 1894 are few in number because they only represent marriages with underage parties.
The King County Archives holds the original forms and maintains a searchable name index in the Archives' electronic database. Transcriptions of the forms and a corresponding index are also duplicated in (d. Marriage License Register).
Search online for affidavits that resulted in marriages in King County.
Search online (PDF, 17KB) for affidavits that did not result in marriages in King County (these individuals were either not married, or they were married in another county).
b. Marriage License Applications, 1895
|These include the name, age and residence of each party, as well as the name of a credible witness acquainted with them and the date of the application. These records are only available from June 1895 to December 1895.
The King County Archives holds the forms and a corresponding electronic index.
Search online for applications that resulted in marriages in King County.
Search online (PDF, 11KB) for applications that did not result in marriages in King County.
Sample License Application
c. Marriage License Applications, 1989-present
Applications include the name, age, signature, birthplace, mailing address and marital status of each party. They also include the signature and seal of a notary public. The signature of the parent or guardian was also included in situations where either party was under legal age. These records are indexed using the online index
referenced below (e
). Please provide the 12-digit instrument number when requesting a license application.
The King County Archives holds applications from 1989-2006.
The King County Recorder's Office holds applications from 2007-present.
d. Marriage License Register, 1866-1917
These volumes contain transcriptions of required license affidavits/applications. The volumes have self-contained name indexes through 1889 and can be accessed using supplemental indexes through 1917.
The Puget Sound Regional Archives holds the volumes.
e. Index to Marriage License Applications, 1983-present
Includes the names of the couple, the date of the license application and the license application number. The index can be accessed online at King County Recorder's website.
Note: the index does not include entries for 1985 or 1986.