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Genealogy Gazette

Volume 2, Number 1
Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, Tennessee 37377, 1-423-886-6369
Jan 10


First Edition of 2010 - Genealogy Gazette

We want to take this opportunity to wish you a Happy New Year. We hope you will be able to find another piece or two of your genealogy "puzzle" as you continue your research this year. If you have an area that you would like discussed in a future edition, please email me at jimd@mountainpress.com.

Thank you,
James L. Douthat
Mountain Press

"I Pronounce You ..."

In our genealogical research, the marriage record is one of the most sought after items for the collection on our ancestors. Few realize that the recording of marriages has changed through the years. In the late 1600s in Virginia, the record consisted of just the name of the groom. The bride was not recorded, nor the date of the marriage itself. In later years, the Virginia marriage records were some of the most sought after because of all the information included in them. In the late 1800s, these records included the names of the parents, their occupation, location and sometimes the information on their being widow/widower.

Far too many states record only the name of the bride and groom with the date of the marriage. Behind the scene however, there is more information that should be in the recording of the marriage, but the researcher is not always allowed to see it. In Tennessee for example, there is the application for the marriage licenses that contains information on the past marital status, parent’s names and other vital information. Unfortunately, these applications are usually sent from the County to the State and destroyed. Since it is not public information, it is not readily available or not available at all for viewing.

What most counties and states allow for view is the Clerk’s Register of marriages which contains only the name of the bride/groom and the date. We find this type of information in most all states from the East to the West. If this is all that is recorded, then we have to take what is given and look for other sources.

Since many counties only contain minimal information, let’s examine the records of one of those rare states that have more. During the 19th century the Virginia records were multiple in scope. First, there are the county records that include an application for a license where a bond is posted with witnesses and co-signers. Frequently, there is a consent form written by the mother of the bride giving consent to the marriage when the bride is under age. Once the marriage license is returned, it is transcribed into the Clerk’s records. In addition, the ministers of the state were bonded and licensed to perform the ceremony and were considered members of the county court. This latter situation lasted up through the mid to late 20th century in Virginia. The same applied to Kentucky as well. As a member of the county court system, the ministers were required to return a listing annually of all of the marriages and deaths presided over during the past year.

Knowing what is available in a particular state will help in your research. In Virginia, all of the above items, except the Minister’s Returns, were kept in a “marriage packet or bundle” in the court house. To view the packet, one must travel or contact the county clerk directly. The state may or may not have it all on microfilm. Case in point, I was looking into the marriage of one of my great-great-grandfather’s sister’s wedding. When I went into the courthouse and was shown the files for the weddings, I found her packet. Upon opening this, the little scrap of paper containing her consent form fluttered out and dropped to the floor. I picked it up and almost fainted for her guardian wrote “I have known her since birth to be the daughter of [father] and [mother] and I know that she will be of age in a few days and does not need this consent, I give it anyway.” We had identified the woman as a sister to my grandfather, and knew she was under the guardianship of the man who signed the document, and therefore, knew that her parents were the parents of our grandfather as well. This piece of paper remains to this day the only document that gives this information. Going back years later to the courthouse, the assistant clerk said all of those records had been sent to Richmond to the Archives there. I had already been to the Archives and they did not have the records there. I never got a chance to photocopy the consent form, but I did copy it word for word originally.

The above is just one feature of the marriages that are hidden in the files of some counties around the country. Always try to look into the original records as much as possible. You will never know what little tidbit is hidden there in the files. Also, be sure and photocopy or copy word for word every piece of information on your family that you find, it may be a valuable piece of the puzzle later.

Look around and check out every source of information that you can to find more information contained in the original records. Keep in mind that an abstraction or a transcription can contain a mistake. I was looking into some West Virginia records and a clerk transcribed the original records found in Virginia, prior to the creation of the State of West Virginia. This clerk wrote the word “Knight” as the last name of a man and woman, but in looking into the originals found in the Virginia State Archives, the name is very clear - “Kite”. The transcriber was sent from the State of West Virginia probably in the mid-late 19th century to copy those records, so the family name of Knight has been around incorrectly for a long time.

Someone abstracting or transcribing a listing can make many mistakes in spelling due to the fact of handwriting. Much of the early handwriting is very readable since they took pride in the handwriting and penmanship was taught in school, but mistakes can still be made. As always, check the original source as much as possible when looking for a marriage record.

Good Luck with your research!

Mercer County, WV Marriage Book I 1854-1901

by Sallie Hayes, 196 Pages, Soft Cover, Full Name Index, WV-0041, $35.00

This publication contains the marriages of Mercer County, West Virginia from January of 1864 through December of 1901. There are over 5,300 entries listed with 33,600 names indexed. Some of the names are spelled differently from one page to the next, therefore, they have been copied as such. Information includes:

  • Name of Bride & Groom
  • Place of Birth: Bride & Groom
  • Parents of Bride Groom
  • Date of Marriage
  • Maritial States [Single, Widow, Etc.]
  • Occupation of Groom
  • Officiating Authority

Click here for examples and surnames.


Tazewell County, Virginia Marriage Book 3: 1854-1866

Compiled by Pauline Haga, 62 Pages, Soft Cover, Full Name Index, VA-0443, $10.00

This straight-forward publication contains the full-text transcription of Tazewell County, Virginia marriages from 1854-1866. Included are name of bride and groom, date of marriage, officiating authority, age of bride/groom*, occupation of groom *, place of birth for bride/groom *, parent's names *, and marital status (widow/widower)*. * Included When Available.

Click here for examples and surnames.


Burke County, North Carolina Marriages: 1781-1868

Compiled by Frances T. Ingmire, 58 Pages, Soft Cover, FI-1003, $12.50

This publication contains Burke County, North Carolina marriage records from 1781-1868. Included in each entry is the full name of bride/groom and date of marriage. Grooms are listed in alphabetical order with a cross index for the bride.

Click here for examples and surnames.



Hamilton County, Tennessee Marriages 1853-1870

James L. Douthat, 113 Pages, Surname Index, Soft Cover, TN-0069, $20.00

These early Marriage records were taken from records that survived the Civil War. Includes name of groom, name of bride, officiating authority and date.

Click here for examples and surnames.


If you have any questions or suggestions for future editions, please email us at jimd@mountainpress.com.


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