Posted by Paul Rawlins on February 24, 2011 in Collections

The Consular Reports of Marriage, 1910–1949, database that went live this month is a fun one if you happen to have an ancestor among the certificates and correspondence contained in the files. I say these reports are fun because, while there’s a story behind any record, these stories come with the extra flair of a foreign locale…and a wedding.

These records document overseas marriages in which at least one party was an American citizen. They were created by American embassies and consulates and include both certificates documenting and correspondence regarding marriages that people were trying to arrange or that had taken place.

Why China?

That’s all pretty straightforward. Now on to the story part. Here is the certificate for Elaine Strang and Frederick Donaldson, who married on 27 July 1916.

Ms. Strang, of Dowagiac, Michigan, and Mr. Donaldson of Oberlin, Ohio, were joined in matrimony by Reverend Lewis Hodous, whose authority comes via “the laws of the State of Ohio.”  The bride and groom’s hometowns are, maybe, 250 miles apart. So what are they all doing in Foochow, China?  And did they bring their own minister along?

On a Mission

My first thought: a Wolverine marrying a Buckeye might be reason enough to tie the knot on neutral ground far from home.

Google said otherwise. Mrs. Elaine Strang Donaldson is listed in the Annual Report of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions amongst the missionaries in the Foochow Mission. Here’s her 1912 passport application, which tells us she’s a teacher and plans on returning to the States within seven years:

The M.A.C Record (Michigan Agricultural College) of 23 May 1916 reported Fred Donaldson’s leaving to take up his own post in China—and marry Miss Strang, whose father was an M.A.C. alum.

The   November 1916 issue of Mission Studies “Published monthly by the Woman’s Board of Missions of the Interior of the Congregational Church” even provides details of the wedding:

Coming Home

By 1930, the Donaldsons were back in the States, now with a family in tow.

Working back a step, we find the Donaldsons leaving Hong Kong aboard the S.S. President Grant, sailing via Yokohama, Japan, and arriving in Los Angeles in April 1927, on their way to a new home in Massachusetts.

A change of calling? A new chapter in any event. And if you have missionaries, merchants, or mercenaries in your family tree who traveled abroad, a look at the Consular Reports of Marriages could be the first page in your own foreign family love story.


  1. Dana

    Interesting collection.

    What I want to know is when you’re going to add more Italian Civil Registrations. Those collections are really, just amazing. I know people who signed up for just because of your new Caserta records (a large part of my ancestry is from that town, so I would have, too).

    Also, I want to know why you’re wasting time keying records for Pavia and Varese?? Those will take forever to complete, and the indexes aren’t needed for them. They would be helpful, but I think most people interested in those collections would rather have them now and browse the images than wait for the indexes.

  2. Richard

    As I have an aunt who was a missionary in China and was married there around 1938, I was immediately attracted by the word “China” in this post. I clicked the link to the database and entered only the last name in the search box. Presto, at the top of the list was the marriage certificate for them in Hankow! I forwarded this on to my six cousins, some of whom were also born in China. Thanks for announcing this addition. I realize that many databases contribute to only a few people, but for them, it can mean a lot

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