51-21. Issuance of delayed marriage certificates.

In all those cases where a minister or other person authorized by law to perform marriage ceremonies has failed to file his return thereof in the office of the register of deeds who issued the license for such marriage, the register of deeds of such county is authorized to issue a delayed marriage certificate upon being furnished with one or more of the following:

(1) The affidavit of at least two witnesses to the marriage ceremony;

(2) The affidavit of one or both parties to the marriage, accompanied by the affidavit of at least one witness to the marriage ceremony;

(3) The affidavit of the minister or other person authorized by law who performed the marriage ceremony, accompanied by the affidavit of one or more witnesses to the ceremony or one of the parties thereto.

(4) When proof as required by the three methods set forth in subdivisions (1), (2), and (3) above is not available with respect to any marriage alleged to have been performed prior to January 1, 1935, the register of deeds is authorized to accept the affidavit of any one of the persons named in subdivisions (1), (2), and (3) and in addition thereto such other proof in writing as he may deem sufficient to establish the marriage and any facts relating thereto; provided, however, that if the evidence offered under this paragraph is insufficient to convince the register of deeds that the marriage ceremony took place, or any of the pertinent facts relating thereto, the applicants may bring a special proceeding before the clerk of superior court of the county in which the purported marriage ceremony took place. The said clerk of the superior court is authorized to hear the evidence and make findings as to whether or not the purported ceremony took place and as to any pertinent facts relating thereto. If the clerk finds that the marriage did take place as alleged, he is to certify such findings to the register of deeds who is to then issue a delayed marriage certificate in accordance with the provisions of this section.

The certificate issued by the register of deeds under authority of this section shall contain the date of the delayed filing, the date the marriage ceremony was actually performed, and all such certificates issued pursuant to this section shall have the same evidentiary value as any other marriage certificates issued pursuant to law. (1951, c. 1224; 1955, c. 246; 1967, c. 957, s. 10; 1969, c. 80, s. 12.)