Friday, November 22, 2013

Conflicting evidence

This one is a bit different because the conflicting evidence is on a single document.

Garraway, William and Sarah Burt marriage certificate 1887

The above marriage document from Marion County, Mississippi shows that W. A. Garraway and W. L. Simmons posted a marriage bond on 22 March 1887.  The bond was for the impending marriage  of W. A. Garraway and Sarah J. Burt.

On that same date a marriage license was issued to W. A. Garraway and Miss Sarah J. Simmons.  The certificate portion was not completed.

William A. Garraway married Sarah Jane Burt, daughter of Christopher Burt and Almeda Watts.  I have several records to support this, no problem there. 

The question is, why is she referred to as Miss Sarah J. Simmons?  Who was W. L. Simmons that posted her bond?  My first guess was that Sarah had married someone name Simmons before marrying William and that person died shortly after their marriage.  There are a couple of problems with this theory. Sarah was only 16 when she married William so there isn’t much room for another marriage in there and the Marion County Circuit Court clerk can’t find a previous marriage for Sarah, at least not in Marion County.  She is also identified as Miss which puts her in the first marriage category.

The second theory is that it was a simple typo by the clerk.  The bondsman was W. L. Simmons and the clerk could have easily just wrote Simmons in as her surname.  That would be pretty careless though considering that the clerk had already written her name as Sarah J. Burt.  This leads us back to who was W. L. Simmons and why was he posting the bond?

Both of Sarah’s parents were dead by the time she married.  It wasn’t any of her brothers that posted the bond so how about a brother-in-law?  Older sister Serena married Colon J. Simmons.  Colon’s father was William Simmons.  (W. L.?).  One thing that leads me in this direction is that this particular William Simmons just might be the type to sign a marriage bond.  Why?  He was the sheriff.  He was a well-respected member of the community and a public servant.  The only thing is, I have never seen his name as W. L.  I have him as William Simmons or W. Simmons. 

I will be doing more research on this.  The whole point of this post is to tell you that when you have conflicting evidence you have to reconcile it.  I can’t just leave things they way they are.  I have to try and figure it out. 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

10 comments:

  1. As she was not an adult when her parents died, Michele, could Sarah have been a ward, and looked after by some guardian? Putting her surname down as Simmons may have simply been a clerical error based on the fact that W. L. Simmons was part of her adopted family.

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  2. I just found an error in my data. Sarah's mother Almeda died in 1881 but I misread her father Christopher's death date. He didn't die until 06 May 1887 which was less than 2 months after Sarah married. So, maybe Christopher was already incapacitated by this time. Sarah did have an older brother but he was only about 2 years older than she was. Her other two older siblings were sisters. Marion County has good records so it is worth a shot to see if there were official guardianship papers drawn up. Again, the William Simmons I know about would have been a good candidate. I would like to show some other connection between Christopher Burt and William Simmons though and I might find that in land records. I wonder how close they lived to each other. Marion is a decent size county so land placement would be important. I guess that too will go on my To-Do list :)

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  3. Maybe her brother-in-law was her guardian and that is the reason that he signed the marriage bond. On the marriage license of my great grandfather Howard and his second wife, there is a mistake with her last name. Her last name was Fain and they have it Finley on the court record.
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    1. William would have been her brother-in-law's father but the principle is the same.

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  4. I will add that W. L. did not have to have been a legal guardian to have posted the bond.

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  5. Could Sarah have been indentured? Usually a condition was that the indentured person could not marry during the term of service (though late in the 19th century married adults could indenture themselves) -- so had to have special permission from the 'master' to marry. Being the bride's surety to the Bond sure does suggest a particular relationship between them. Her father's possibly being ill also is a factor -- did any of Sarah's siblings still live at home? Was the father living with an already-married child? Did he need someone to take care of him?

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  6. I think you have reasoned this out very well. Human error looks to be the answer on the part of the clerk's entry in the Marriage License. Would be a coup to find info on guardianship but it would not have been legally necessary. Maybe, besides being father-in-law to her sister, William was a close friend of Christopher's, making him the next plausible father figure to sign the documents. You could pursue a little cluster genealogy to see if that pans out. Sometimes we have to make a few assumptions. Your other option would be to Time Travel back to the day...

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    1. Time travel might be an option. Today happens to be the Dr. Who 50th Anniversary Special. I will be glued to the tube. Maybe I will luck out and Dr. Who will take me with him :)

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  7. Thanks for the heads up, fellow Whovian! New DVR would never have caught the special episode and I have not been watching much TV, lately.

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  8. Michele, there is a Dr. Who game on the Google Doodle. Had to play it.

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