Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Question About a Marriage Record

Question from Ron:
"Are the "statistics" that are sometimes included on a marriage license a valid source of information? I recently obtained a copy of my Great Grandparents marriage license. On the back, there is a statistical section that was returned to the county after the marriage took place. I've attached a copy to this email so that you have an idea of what information I am questioning. I have most of the information on both the Groom and the Bride. However, there are two pieces of information I've seen never seen documented before. First, where she was born. Second, and more important, the name of her father. I know that both of these are starting points for further research. Since the information is contained on an official document, and that document is signed by the Bride, can I consider the marriage license a valid source and list these two items as facts?"

Jackpot! Marriage records can look totally different depending on the state and the county where the marriage took place. I have never seen this information on the back of a license like this before but I have certainly seen this information given in other ways. In several of the Mississippi counties I work with, all of this information is right on the front of the marriage license (around 1900 and later, early records don’t have this). Here in Columbia County, Georgia where I live they have the regular marriage books (licenses and certificates) and then they have marriage application books. In the marriage application books you will find exactly what you have on the back of your license. This is definitely a valid source of information. The information was given to the clerk by the bride and groom themselves so it is assumed to be correct.

Here is the document that Ron sent me:


Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis

8 comments:

  1. I found lines #4 and #11 particularly interesting. It would seem that "Age at last birthday" is a more common usage.

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  2. Excellent observation! I didn't even really think about it when I looked at the document but you are right, that is a little unusual.

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  3. Great records. However I have a couple that did not marry in their home state which required them to be age 21. They eloped and aged greatly when they crossed the boundary into the next state! Again, the information is only as good as the informant's knowledge and honesty.

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  4. Tis true! That is why you do exhaustive searches so that you can evaluate all of the records you find. If this was the only record where they lied about their age it would be pretty easy to figure it out :)

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  5. In the few counties in Indiana and South Dakota where I have been able to obtain copies of marriage records, this information is provided by the bride and groom in the Application for a Marriage License. If you can get copies of those, they are golden!

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  6. That is how it is here in Georgia. The problem is, some courthouse restrict access to the applications though the licenses/certificates are public record. I am not sure if they are allowed to do this or not. In the courthouses I have been in they tell you that the applications are off limits but the application books are right next to the regular marriage books and...

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  7. A happy find! I've just been reading Chapter 2 of Rising's "The Family Tree Problem Solver," and she often mentions that vital records (like the birth, here) can be found in many, many places before they were systematically kept . . . some places are logical, and some seem almost accidental. Happy accidents.

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