In much of Germany during the first six decades of the 19th century there were laws preventing poor people from marrying. In September 1850 the United States Consul in Bremen began marrying people who were about to immigrate to the United States and continued to do so until August 1853 when the United States State Department informed him that he had no authority to do so. The consul at Hamburg began as well in February 1852 until August 1853.
A few years later it was decided that it would not be illegal to issue "marriage contracts" or written pledges to marry to the emigrants from Germany. These contracts read just like a modern marriage ceremony except that they contain a statement that the parties involved promise to marry as soon as they arrive in the United States or anyplace that they could legally marry. The consulates at Bremen and Hamburg began issuing contracts in 1857, and Altona began in 1862. By the late 1860's most of Germany abolished the laws restricting marriage.
The actual copies of the contracts include the names of witnesses, but this information was not included in the database because often the witnesses were employees of the consulate or one groom would act as a witness for the next one in line. Unlike the Bremen and Hamburg contracts, the Altona contracts often did not include the exact place of origin or residence of the couple. The handwriting was difficult to read.
In addition to the information included in these volumes, this researcher attempted to find the arrival of these individuals in the United States using the Hamburg Emigration Lists and passenger arrival lists available on Ancestry.com. If both the arrival and departure of the couple or family were found, the information before the semi-colon is from the arrival list and information from the Hamburg departure list follows the semi-colon. "Not found" means that in the short time allotted to each person in the database this researcher did not find the arrival or departure, but someone devoting more time and using more name variations might find the information. The information prior to the semi-colon in the arrival information section is from he arrival record and that after the semi-colon is the departure information. This researcher attempted to transcribe the entries using the spelling used in the record with the exception that occupations listed in the Hamburg emigration lists were translated to English. It should be noted that all of the found departures were from the port of Hamburg.
NARA Record Group 84, Records of US Foreign Service Posts: Records of the US Consulate at Altona
Vol. 2: Marriage Contracts Oct 1862 - Aug 1866 [NARA ID #1323291]
NARA Record Group 84, Records of US Foreign Service Posts: Records of the US Consulate at Bremen
Vol. 230: Record of Marriages Sep 12. 1850 - Sep 6, 1851 [NARA ID #1280197]
Vol. 231: Record of Marriages Sep 12, 1851 - Jun 30, 1852 [NARA ID #1280198]
Vol. 234: Record of Marriages Jun 30, 1852 - Jul 20, 1853 [NARA ID #1280201]
Vol. 236: Record of Marriages Jul 1853 - Sep 1870 [NARA ID #1280203]
(contains 30 Jul 1853 - 7 Aug 1853 & 27 Aug 1857- Sep 1870)
NARA Record Group 84, Records of US Foreign Service Posts: Records of the US Consulate at Hamburg
Vol. 378: Marriages 28 Feb 1852 - 10 Aug 1853 [NARA ID #1326578]
Vol. 159: Marriage Contracts 27 Mar 1857- 29 Nov 1858 [NARA ID #1326358]
Vol. 377: Marriage Contracts 15 Mar 1859 - 16 May 1866 [NARA ID #1326577]