There are several kinds of official records of marriages (see this earlier post), but many unofficial sources can also be useful to family historians trying to learn the name of an ancestor’s spouse or the date of a marriage. Whether or not an unofficial source’s information about a marriage is precise or complete, it can provide useful clues.
Some of these unofficial records may provide information which is not recorded in official sources. For example, a 1960 Idaho State Journal article about my aunt’s wedding reports that her sister – my mother – came from Salt Lake City, Utah, for the wedding. The article also describes the bride’s wedding dress, which may be of little genealogical consequence, but nonetheless interests some of her offspring more than half a century later.
Here are some sources to consider:
- Personal records of officiators or other participants or family members
- Family Bibles
- Newspaper announcements of engagements, weddings, and anniversaries
- Children’s birth records or announcements
- Census records
- Tax records (at least as to marital status)
- Occupational records (marital status and spouse name)
- Death records
- Military records
- Pension records
- Living relatives, within the limits of memory
- Old wedding announcements kept in that box in the attic.
Don’t neglect the World Wide Web; some of this information is now searchable online, and more recent marriages may be noted in online newsletters or web sites of towns and churches.
Marriage records are one of the oldest types of records kept by churches and governments. Their form and content vary widely from place to place and over time. They tend to be issued locally, though it is now common for them to be archived at the state or national level. In the United States weddings are performed and documented according to state law; elsewhere these matters are often regulated at the national level.
Marriage records usually contain the full names of the bride and groom, though some early official records of marriages in some places named only the husband. They may include several dates, of which the wedding date — the date the ceremony was performed — is preferred for genealogical purposes. Lacking that date, you may have to settle for the license date, bond date, recording date, or another relevant date. (Tip: In many marriage record formats, it’s easy to mistake one of these dates for another, and the actual wedding date is not the most obvious date. Use caution!)
Official marriage records may also contain:
The holiday season provides excellent opportunities to commit small acts of family history. With just a little effort, we can learn new things about people in our family trees.
People we know, even family members with whom we’ve lived, have sides we may not see or consider. These are facets of their personalities or experience which enrich our sense of who they are or were, if we can discover them through some act of family history.
Consider, for example, my first grade teacher, Miss Keller. (The name is changed to protect her, in case she’s more innocent than we thought at the time.) Miss Keller was mean. She yelled at us. She punished the whole class for the minor offenses of one or two students, which is as quick a way to pique a child’s sense of injustice as any. She also taught us to count in German.
Tags: family history, Genealogy, holidays, memories, Newspapers, reunions
Posted in Feature Article, Genealogical Tips, Genealogy News, Tips, Tricks, Genealogy in 15 Minutes, Holiday, Interviews, Newsletter, Success Story, Tips, Youth doing family history | 3 Comments »
I have been trying to think of how best to get my children excited about genealogy for a while now. I long assumed they were much too young, and I would worry about it when they were older. Teenagers, maybe? I have since realized they are more than ready now.
I first realized it two years ago, when my three year old brought home a family tree he had made in preschool. It started with him and included me, my husband, his brother and “the baby.” At the time, I was pregnant but hadn’t announced it outside the family. The family tree project forced an announcement, since the preschool teacher was also my next-door neighbor.
This week I decided to make another family tree with my boys. To make it more interesting, we would mostly focus on my sons’ namesakes. My older son, now seven, is named after his father and grandfather. My five year old is named for two of his great-grandfathers.
My goal is to help my boys understand why their names are special. I want them to know something about the men they are named after and take a little pride in their names. My older son doesn’t like to be called by his given name. He even gets angry, when we remind him that his real name is Nathan, not Trey. This is a bit of a sore spot for him and his grandfather. Maybe making our tree will help that situation too.
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Tags: children, family history, Family Tree, Genealogy, namesake, youth
Posted in Feature Article, Genealogical Tips, Genealogy News, Tips, Tricks, Newsletter, Success Story, This is Us, Tips, Youth doing family history | 2 Comments »
My four siblings and I were born in Boulder, Colorado, back in a previous century. My older brother, Alan, died the day he was born. Do the math; I never met him. One of my younger brothers, Douglas, died three days after he was born, but I never met him, either. My older sister recalls seeing him and attending the small funeral. One of the ironies of life in the modern world is that both died of complications of an Rh-factor problem. Less than two decades later, this problem was quite manageable and reliably survivable.
My only related memory is of visiting my brothers’ graves at a small cemetery near the Boulder airport. I remember cards in plastic, marking the graves until gravestones would be installed.
We left Boulder for southeastern Idaho when I was ten. I was the first to return, and that was more that 30 years later. My parents’ recollection was that they never bought gravestones. There has been talk for some years of needing to go back to Boulder and take care of that.
My family and I were vacationing in the Denver and Colorado Springs areas several years ago, and we decided to spend a day in Boulder. I took them on a short tour of landmarks, including the home where I spent my first decade; the nearby park through which I was not supposed to walk on my way home from school, but often did; and my first elementary school, now renamed. I took some photos, then managed to lose the memory card containing them before returning home.
We went to one — or maybe it’s a hundred — of Boulder’s main attractions, the Pearl Street pedestrian mall. I left the family there and went to find the nearest cemetery to the airport, according to an online map. It was as I remembered it, including the airport’s landing pattern. My mission was to get information which would help us finally to place gravestones at my brothers’ graves and, if possible, to find the graves themselves.
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Tags: Boulder, cemetery, Colorado, family history, Genealogy, gravestone, Mountain View Memorial Park
Posted in Feature Article, Genealogical Tips, Genealogy News, Tips, Tricks, My Family, Newsletter, Success Story | 4 Comments »
Last month, I listed 28 places to find birth information, and the number could have been higher. Death records are less ubiquitous, probably because documents with birth dates accumulate for a lifetime. But there are still several excellent places to find death records, and some of them have a wealth of other information.
The official record in modern times is a death certificate. Depending on the time and place, it may be issued by a doctor or other medical practitioner who attended the deceased, or by an official registrar of vital records. Besides providing the name of the deceased and the time and place of death, it may include various details. In fact, death certificates can be interesting reading. (Sorry, is that too grim?) You may find:
- cause of death (sometimes in grisly detail)
- last place of residence
- age at death
- birth information
- marriage data, including marital status and spouse’s name
- burial information
- parents of the deceased and their birthplaces
As with birth certificates, every jurisdiction has its own rules about when death certificates become publicly available, who can obtain them in the meantime, and the processes for obtaining them. The Internet is your best friend, when you need to find where and how to obtain an official copy of a death certificate. For example, if I were searching for my brother’s death certificate, I’d start with this search term: “Colorado death certificate.”
For genealogical purposes, WorldVitalRecords itself could prove to be your best friend. We have indexed hundreds of millions of death records from around the world, and many of our one billion family tree records also contain death information.
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Tags: death certificate, death records, family history, Genealogy, gravestone, obituaries, obituary, tombstone
Posted in Feature Article, Genealogical Tips, Genealogy News, Tips, Tricks, Newsletter | 10 Comments »
So you went to the family reunion this summer — maybe more than one. You spent enough time with people there to remember why we have family reunions, and why we have them only once every year or two. Now what?
Now I’m in trouble, that’s what, because you think I just insulted my family — and they might agree with you. Allow me to explain.
I don’t mean to suggest that I dislike my relatives. I like them. I enjoy them. They’re good, interesting people. Just as important, the reunion pot-luck fare is always abundant and superb. But, even though the reunion I attend almost every year lasts only a few hours, with preparations and travel it occupies two or three days, because it’s 275 miles away. For some who attend regularly, it’s much further and longer. That’s a significant chunk of summer.
I actually enjoy the travel, and the reunion itself is fun. But I don’t think the reunion’s only purpose is itself. If it doesn’t help knit the family together during the year, then it’s just a long way to drive for a great meal, plus some chatter that could as easily be had on Facebook (if we could get most of the family on Facebook).
When you explore your genealogy, one of the first things you need to know about a person is the birth date. The birthplace helps too, of course. There are many places to find this information, and most of them have additional useful data. We’ll look at some of the possibilities here.
In the modern world the official birth record is the birth certificate or “certificate of live birth.” As such, it is a “primary source,” usually created near the time of the birth, by someone who was present. It may come in a different forms, such as a short form for public information and a long form with more details. Its availability and the information it contains vary widely from place to place and in different times, but it’s common to find much more than the name, date, and place. Here’s a partial list of what else you might see:
- the baby’s gender
- parents’ names, including the mother’s maiden name
- parents’ ages or birth dates (or approximate years of birth)
- parents’ birthplaces
- parents’ address (which can lead you to census records)
- information about the baby’s siblings
- parents’ occupations
- grandparents’ names
- the baby’s race
- the family’s religious affiliation
In some cases, birth certificates may be corrected or amended years later to show legal name changes or even, in some jurisdictions, gender changes. Sooner or later, you’ll also encounter “delayed registrations,” which are birth certificates created long after the birth and on the basis of other evidence.
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I have five grandchildren now; the fifth just arrived. They’re a little cuter than yours, and adorable, amazing, and brilliant. I find myself drawn to write stories for them – my stories, my parents’ stories, and stories I recall hearing about generations I never even met. These stories must be preserved, but I’ve never before taken the time to do it.
I’m learning where I came from, and I want my grandchildren to understand where they came from, too. In the process I’m coming to understand something about my grandchildren that I didn’t know when my own children were young. They need to be taught genealogy when they are young, so that it becomes a natural part of their daily experience.
Some people explore their family history for religious or medical reasons, or simply because they want to understand who they are. But recent research suggests another good reason for doing it – and for starting young. Unfortunately, it’s also a good reason for me to feel a little more guilty for not getting as much done as soon as I might have.
For a decade I’ve practiced as a mental health therapist. This means I need to keep up on the research in my field, which is how I recently discovered an article in the European Journal of Social Psychology about “the ancestor effect.”