While researching Mexican marriage records, have you ever wondered, “Why is there more than one marriage record, and why do they have different dates?”
Early Mexican marriages are primarily found in Catholic church records. Civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths began in the 1860s.
Many marriages in Mexico in the 1860s and later are found in both civil and church records, but typically with different dates.
Civil registration records will sometimes include more then one record for a couple. The first is usually a declaration of intention to marry followed, though not immediately, by the marriage contract.
Mexican Marriage Records as a Civil Contract
In Mexico, marriage is a civil contract and is not recognized legally when performed by a person acting in a religious office. While the 1917 Constitution of Mexico states that the sole authority of marriage was the government, it was established in the law of civil marriage (ley de matrimonio civil) dated 23 July 1859. This 1859 law outlines the marriage process as follows:
- The couple presents themselves and declares their desire, intention, and ability to marry.
- Notice of their intent to marry – including their names, ages, residences, and the names of their parents and grandparents – is posted in public places for 15 days so that anyone knowing of any reason they cannot marry can come forward.
- If someone comes forward, their claim is investigated, and if legitimate, the marriage does not take place. If no legitimate reason is given or a reason is found fraudulent, then the marriage proceeds.
- The couple meets with the civil authority to set the marriage’s place, date, and time.
- On the day of the marriage, the bride and groom are again asked if they want to marry; if both do, the wedding occurs.
- The couple and witnesses sign, which is recorded in the civil register.
- After the marriage, the couple is free to be married in a church.
Although the law was made in the summer of 1859, it would only take effect in any given place once a local civil registration office was established. When the law was not in effect, marriages performed by religious authorities were recognized legally. It was not until the restoration of the republic in Mexico in 1867 that civil registration was enforced.
Typically, one will find both civil and church marriage records for a couple. The civil record will often be dated earlier than the church record, but the church record will occasionally be dated earlier.
Sometimes a marriage will not be found in civil records but will be found in church records. There are a couple of possible reasons for this. The civil registrar might not have made a record of the civil marriage. Particularly during the earlier years of civil registration, some civil registrars appeared to have accepted the church marriage and did not require the civil contract.
The Marriage of Gerónimo Garcia and Dolores Cantú
One ideal example of a Mexican marriage is that of Gerónimo Garcia and Dolores Cantú, which took place in Monclova, Coahuila, Mexico. Records concerning their marriage are found in three entries in civil registration and one entry in the Catholic church.
On Saturday, 5 April 1890, Gerónimo Garcia and Dolores Cantú went to the civil registrar of Monclova, Octaviano Blanco, to declare their intention to marry. Gerónimo and Dolores each provided two witnesses who testified there was no reason they could not marry. Mauricio de Luna and Manuel Cárdenas were witnesses for the groom, and Jesús Jiménez and Leocadio Ramos were witnesses for the bride.
This record (Act no. 79) indicated that Gerónimo Garcia was single, lived in Monclova, was 23 years old, and was the legitimate son of Antonio Garcia and Rosalia Calderon. Dolores Cantú was widowed, lived in Sabinas Hidalgo, was 22 years old, and was the legitimate daughter of Manuel Cantú and Isabel Olivares. This information would have then been copied and posted publicly for fifteen days.
No one provided any reason Gerónimo and Dolores could not marry. On Monday, 28 April 1890, Gerónimo Garcia met with the civil registrar of Monclova, Octaviano Blanco, and made an appointment to marry Dolores Cantú the following day (Act no. 105).
Accordingly, Gerónimo Garcia and Dolores Cantú were married civilly by Octaviano Blanco on Tuesday, 29 April 1890 (Act no. 106).
The following Sunday, 3 May 1890, Gerónimo Garcia and Dolores Cantú were married in Santiago Apóstol, the Catholic church in Monclova, by Adolfo Guichon. This record of their marriage in the church outlined the process taken by the priest.
On Sunday, 6 April 1890, the day after Gerónimo and Dolores went to the civil registrar to announce their intent and ability to marry, the Catholic priest announced in the church their intention to marry, providing anyone with knowledge of any reason they could not marry the opportunity to object.
This announcement was repeated the next two Sundays, 13 and 20 April 1890. They were given no reason they could not marry, and the couple was first married by the civil authority, so they were married in the Catholic church.
While not every marriage will follow this format perfectly, looking for both the civil and church marriage records for each wedding in Mexican genealogy research can be helpful. You never know what new clues you might find!
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