A Very Short, But Well Learned Lesson

Many years ago, pretty much before the internet was born, I was working on my husband’s 4x great grandparents, Martin Miller and Catherine Whitmer, who settled in Muhlenberg County, KY about 1812. There are many, many descendants of the Whitmers in Muhlenberg County, including some who worked on the family history for the Bicentennial in 1976.  There was a lot of excellent information on the Millers and the Whitmers in Kentucky, but no one had really done anything about tracing the family back to the east coast. The census indicated that Martin was born in Pennsylvania and Catherine in Maryland. A county history included an article on Valentine Whitmer, a son of John and Catherine Whitmer, who were the parents of Catherine Whitmer Miller. It said he was born in Rockingham County, Virginia in 1788.

It seemed reasonable to conclude that Martin Miller and Catherine Whitmer had probably married somewhere in Virginia, likely between 1805-1810.  I pulled out the old AIS census index for 1810 Virginia and I found Martin Miller enumerated in Botetourt County, VA. I mailed off my letter to the county clerk requesting the cost for a copy of their marriage record.

It so happened that I had a chance to go to the Los Angeles LDS family history center the weekend after I mailed my request to Botetourt County. I was more than thrilled to find Botetourt County Marriages 1770-1853 by Kethley on the shelf in the library:

I eagerly opened it up and looked for the marriage entry and found NOTHING! There was no marriage entry recorded for Martin and Catherine in Botetourt County. That meant I had to try surrounding counties and hope that it turned up.

I forgot about it for the moment and pursued other research leads for the rest of that day. Later in the week, I pulled the mail out of our mailbox and found a very prompt reply from the Botetourt County clerk. I expected to find a “sorry, there is no record” answer.

Along with a cover letter, the following information was enclosed:

Martin Miller and Catherine Whitmer married in Botetourt County, Virginia on 6 January 1808. Valentine Whitmer, her brother, was a witness.

When the marriage records of Botetourt County were compiled by Kethley, somehow, the marriage of Martin and Catherine was overlooked and omitted. If I had first gone to the library and found no marriage noted in the book, I wouldn’t have bothered to have written to the county clerk.

Moral of the story: It is still better to do your own research than to rely on the work of others.

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