[reposted from 10 July 2012 with updated links and a few additional comments in brackets]
Ancestry.com recently updated their “U.S. and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900.” The title of this database is somewhat misleading–the “marriage records” in this database are from family group charts compiled mainly by researchers in the 1970s and 1980s. While some of the information in this database may have been obtained from actual records, some of it likely was based upon speculation and tradition.
Consequently any information obtained in this source should be validated with other records where possible. The charts will frequently contain the name of the compiler. Some may contain information on sources, but many likely do not.
I know that entries for a few of my families were submitted by me in the mid-1980s and I know that my charts created during that time did not have any documentation attached to them. Most of the information I put on my charts did come from actual records or sources, but I didn’t keep track of where I obtained information. In a few cases I probably submitted information that was not documented at all [and probably only “knew” there was a marriage because the individuals had a child. That’s not quite proof]. I was about fifteen when I submitted information from my files to the company whose charts were used to create “U.S. and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900.”
I’m not totally negative about this database. At the time, sharing and exchanging these charts was a great way to contact potential relatives in the days before email, web pages, blogs, etc. Keep in mind that for many of the compilers, submitting information was done as a way to connect with potential researchers–and in some cases people might have compiled charts that were not as accurate as they could have been.
Keep in mind though, that these records are not marriage records. Marriage records are those records created by an agency or group charged with that task–typically local civil or religious authorities.
There are always concerns about the accuracy of any compiled information and genealogists are advised to use this database with the typical caveats regarding compiled databases.
My one real criticism of this database is it’s name. The materials used to create this database arenot marriage records.