Okay, what gives with this? Why would there be duplicate marriage records a few days, weeks or months apart for the same bride and groom? Really, they are the same couple – no mistaking this – their parents’ names are the same, ages, occupations, birth places and addresses all match on BOTH certificates. The certificates of course all have different numbers. Today I spent time looking at the marriage certificates/records of 5 different couples in the New York City Municipal archives. Their marriages were recorded between 1903 and 1937, the last year that marriage records are publicly available in New York City.
The answer proved to be very simple. Perhaps this is not always the reason for these duplicate certificates and records, but it was clearly the same reason for these 5 couples. In each case, one certificate represented a civil marriage, often but not always, conducted in a municipal office. The second certificate represented a religious marriage and was conducted by a Rabbi or Cantor – a person designated by one of those titles or by the title “Reverend” which is a generic, non-specific title designating clergymen (in those days it was all men).
I don’t know if this situation exists today outside the United States, or if we are even still likely to find this occurring today. These are examples of the separation of civil and religious ceremonies both designed to unite a couple in what we refer to as “marriage” – a category which does not distinguish between the civil and religious union.
In Eastern Europe, when there were religious marriages in the Jewish community, those marriages were not always recorded with the civil authority, and outside religious boundaries, that couple was not considered to be married, and the children of that union were generally given the mother’s surname, not the father’s. If and when that marriage was registered (often years after the birth of their children) the record was frequently amended and a note was inserted about the paternity, often with a surname added to the one given at birth.
So a person’s name might be Name X v Name Y where “v” coming from the Latin word vel, which means “also known as.” This person might then be known by both names, where the person might sometimes be known by the mother’s name and, at other times, by the father’s name. Or Name X r Name Y where “r” coming from the word recte means “legally” and would mean that this surname was the ‘legal’ name. There is a 3rd way a name might appear and that is with an “f” between the names standing for “false” which might mean that the person was not legally supposed to be using that surname which was the father’s surname and the parents’ did not have a civilly recorded marriage.