Elaine Strang (of Michigan) and Frederick Donaldson (of Ohio) were married on 27 July 1916 by Reverend Lewis Hodous, authorized to join the couple by the laws of the state of Ohio.
So why did the marriage take place in Foochow, China?
Documenting the marriage of an American citizen (or citizens) overseas fell to US consulates and embassies. In this case, Albert Pontius, the US consul at Foochow, provided a certificate of marriage bearing the seal of the consulate and recording the facts surrounding the marriage. The bride, groom, and minister were all involved in Congregationalist missionary and educational efforts, but you’ll find soldiers, travellers, and other assorted American ex-pats in these records as well.
Contained in this database are reports of US citizens’ marriages abroad submitted by US Consulates between the years 1910 and 1949. Marriage ceremonies conducted outside the US are subject to the laws of the country in which the individuals are married by civil or religious officials. Once the marriage has taken place, officers at the U.S. Consulate authenticate the foreign marriage document and report it, hence the collection of forms in this database. If the spouse is a foreign national they can then apply for U.S. citizenship. Some of the records are also accompanied by a letter regarding the status of the spouse’s passport application (whether it has been granted or denied).
Marriage certificates in the form of marriage licenses have existed far longer than either birth or death certificates in the US, which became standard on a national level in the early 1900s. Licenses were legally required as early as the 1500s in countries like England to document that neither of the individuals was married to someone else and that they were of age.
Information in these records includes:
- Consulate location
- Birth place
- Spouse’s name
- Local residence
- Witness’s name
- Marriage officiator