I have a real mystery. The first item I had on my “to do” list at the Family History Library was obtaining an image of the marriage of Mary A. Coleman an David Moran on 31 March 1858 in Boston, Massachusetts.
FamilySearch Indexed Record
Why is this marriage so important to find? I literally stumbled on it while looking for other Coleman marriages in Massachusetts. What caught my eye was the bride’s birthplace – Calais, Maine – and her birth year – 1837. It also gives her father’s name as Daniel and her father-in-law’s name as Thomas. I know from extensive research that there is not now nor ever has been a Daniel Coleman/Colman living in Calais, which even in its Victorian era heyday was not a big place.
Thomas, though, is another story. My 3X great grandfather was Thomas Coleman and the family lived in Calais. Furthermore, take a look at the 1840 census of Calais:
Thomas was 40 years old that year and his son, my ancestor William, was six years old. That accounts for the males. Mary Elizabeth, Thomas’s wife, was actually 20 years old in 1840, going on 21, so the enumerator ticked the wrong box (15-19) instead of 20-30. However, there are also two more females, one under five and the other 5-9 years old.
Now look at 1850:
Thomas Coleman, 1850
There are no girls in the age range of the 1840 census. (An aside – Margaret was an adopted child, from where I don’t know, but she married Henry Day and they had no children. My grandmother remembered Henry visiting with the family. ) I had thought that the older girl might have been married and out of the house. Thomas and Mary married in 1830, so children born in 1832, 1834 (William) and 1836 would fit perfectly with the census pattern.
Maine marriage records are somewhat spotty for that time period. They weren’t quite as meticulous as Massachusetts when it came to vital records. There is also the distinct possibility that a marriage might have taken place in Canada. Both of my maternal grandparents had relatives living on both sides of the border. They were also fisherman, boat builders and master mariners so they sailed the seas often.
As for the younger female, she should have been at home in 1850 and was too young to be married. I just assumed that she had died. (Death records in that time period aren’t any better than marriage records.) The census taker arrived at Thomas’s house on 16 August 1850. This young lady could easily have been visiting family in Canada for the summer.
Yet here was a marriage record for a Coleman young lady, born in Calais at exactly the right time period to be a missing Coleman child. (The census taker arrived at Thomas’s house on 16 August 1850. This young lady could easily have been visiting family in Canada for the summer.)
I thought that the indexer of the FamilySearch record (or maybe even the person who entered the marriage into the city records) might have transposed the fathers’ names of the bride and groom in the Massachusetts marriage record. I wanted to view the record for myself.
Notice in the FamilySearch image above that there is a FHL film number: 1,994,569. I headed to the film drawers in the library, pulled the film and started reading. A good part of the film consisted of delayed filing marriage records in Boston, which fit what I needed.
Hmmmm. There was no Moran-Coleman marriage to be found in 1858. I read the records for that year a second time and even a third time. NO MARRIAGE RECORD! I expanded my search from 1853-1863. NO MARRIAGE RECORD!
Next, I went to ask a volunteer for help. A very helpful gentleman came over and I explained my dilemma. First, he checked the FamilySearch index and the film number. Correct! Then he sat down and read the 1858 marriages and read it a second time. No record. Correct! He also expanded the years back and ahead a couple of years in each direction. No record. Correct!
We couldn’t even blame the lack of record on a poor quality film. Not only were the images about as good as they possibly have been, but the clerk’s handwriting could have been used in a penmanship lesson book. There was absolutely no record of this marriage on this film. He had no idea where the indexed record came from.
Neither American Ancestors, My Heritage nor Find My Past seem to have this marriage record and I found no online member trees with an entry for this couple.
As a last resort, I did something that I haven’t done for years – I actually wrote a letter to the Massachusetts State Archives requesting a copy of this marriage record. I haven’t heard back yet from them. The way this search has gone, I am fully expecting to read “no record found.” If that happens, I will start to think that this was really an alien visit!