Even If There Is No Record, There Still Might Be A Marriage
Another issue for genealogists to consider is that of “confidential marriage.” In California, a couple who have lived together may obtain a so-called “confidential” marriage. They need only apply at the county clerk’s office or before a notary specially trained in confidential marriage procedures and claim that they have lived together prior to being married. The California Family Code has no time provisions for the cohabitation. The couple then will receive a confidential marriage license. Once the marriage is solemnized, the couple may apply for a copy of their confidential marriage certificate.
Confidential marriage records are not open to tje public. Only the parties to the marriage may obtain these records, except by order of a court.
The question has been asked why, in this era where many, perhaps most, couples have cohabited prior to marriage, would someone want a “confidential marriage”? The answers vary. Some say certain people just want the privacy. Others say that in some cases where pregnancy has resulted before marriage, the couple can keep that fact away from their children later on. On a California notaries website, I found the story of a couple who had been married in another country in a manner that California did not recognize (this would be a very rare and unusual situation since California law provides that ” A marriage contracted outside this state that would be valid by the laws of the jurisdiction in which the marriage was contracted is valid in this state.”) So this couple needing to be legally married some time later, opted for a confidential marriage.
There was a time in California and many other states that a “waiting period” was required between the issuance of a marriage license and the marriage ceremony. California and many of the other such states also required blood tests of one or both of the parties, most usually for rubella, or in some states, venereal diseases. These tests generally are no longer required, but in the day, the confidential marriage was a way around them. (The District of Columbia and Mississippi still require blood test for both partners; Montana requires a test for the bride only; New York requires sickle-cell test of all African-American and Hispanic couples).
A California notary opined on the above-mentioned notaries chat forum that confidential marriages seem to occur most frequently in resort areas that have wedding chapels used by people who elope. I think that’s probably correct. My first encounter with the concept came when I (as a former judge) performed a marriage ceremony at Lake Tahoe, California.
There’s another reason for a confidential marriage–not indulged in by the vast majority of people, but it occurred to one particular woman. According to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Sacramento, Janet Manser-LaMont purchased a confidential marriage license in 1991 and for the next fifteen years, fraudulently received more than $130,000 in Social Security benefits by claiming she was unmarried.
California is the only state that presently permits confidential marriage. Other states may have authorized it in the past, but I don’t know specifically. Readers may recall having seen reference in this earlier post to a marriage license of a certain well-known individual who got married in Missouri; the handwritten words “Please do not publish” appear on the face of the document. Below, presented for what I believe is the first time publicly, is that marriage license.
Marriage License issued to Paul Harvey Aurandt (aka “Paul Harvey”) and Evelyn Betts (aka Lyn “Angel” Cooper)
Ste Genevieve County, Missouri, August 1940
(click to enlarge)
October 6, 2009 Tuesday at 6:37 pm