Vital records (birth, marriage, death) have always been a valuable source of family information and sought after by genealogists. The Jewish Marriage Contract (Ketubah) is no exception. The information in Jewish protocol actually complements the information in civil proceedings: Civil protocol usually identifies the bride and groom by providing their surname, whereas Jewish protocol provides their father's name instead.
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There is a major difference between civil and religious marriage registers where one focuses on marriage and the other on the termination of the marriage. This article examines the content of the Jewish marriage contract, explains what it actually means, and provides information that may be useful to family historians.
Religion versus tradition
There are many customs associated with Jewish marriage, some of which are traditions, and others are dictated by religious law. The bride and groom usually stand under a canopy during the ceremony (pause). Is chuppah necessary? No, it's a tradition. The groom usually breaks a glass at the end of the ceremony.
English versus Hebrew
Jewish marriage contracts usually have two parts – one in Hebrew and one in English. Only the Jewish part is required. English section is optional.
The Jewish share is the same for every Jewish marriage contract, and the basic wording has remained unchanged for thousands of years. Words can be added to the base word order (see Lieberman clause below), but none can be omitted.
The Ketubah is a Pre-Nup
Basically, the contract is the marriage contract of the groom. It shows how much he will give the bride if the marriage fails. However, he never said this directly, but in a formulation that needed to be interpreted.