UPDATE: The Alien Marriage Visit and Derivative Source Records

Last Wednesday, February 17, I published It Must Be an Alien Visit! Coleman-Moran Marriage 1858.

I have some updated information, thanks to Jackie, who left a comment saying she found the actual marriage record on Ancestry AND was kind enough to email me the images.

I’ve been doing this a long time and knew enough to keep digging around because an indexed record on FamilySearch had to exist somewhere, even though it was NOT on the film that was cited.

This mystery has presented a great opportunity to mention derivative source records – a derived record is one that is created from the original (not a photo copy), but a transcription, abstraction or indexed record. In other words, there was a middleman (or two or three) involved in presenting the information in a new format.

Let’s look at the steps that I went through. First, I found this indexed marriage record on FamilySearch:

David Moran-Mary A. Coleman
married 31 March 1858, Boston, MA

Finding the actual marriage record was only one item on my quite long list of things to do in Salt Lake in a very limited amount of library time since I was there for RootsTech. I pretty much wasted almost two hours in a futile search. With other prospective items on my list, I didn’t want to spend any more time searching other databases while in the Family History Library so I moved on.

Why should derivative records not be your last stop on the research trail? Let’s take a closer look at the details on this indexed record. Names of the bride and groom are given along with their ages, places of birth and fathers’ names. The film number is cited on the right; the actual film included images of marriage records that were delayed in filing for whatever reason.

Now, take let’s examine the actual marriage record for David and Mary:

Highlighted Dates

First, look at the highlight in the top left corner. These marriages took place in 1856, NOT 1858! Now look at the highlight on the right middle side of the image. The marriage was indeed a delayed filing and was recorded on 21 January 1858.

Ancestry’s source citation doesn’t clear up the mystery of where this record was found, but since I read the marriage records on the Family History Library film, I am wondering if this marriage was written in a different volume and would actually appear on some other film.

There is one more real surprise about this marriage. Here is the crop of the actual entry:

Marriage Entry

Here is a further crop of just the bride and groom:

Who is the groom?

My first take on this record is that the groom is Daniel Moran, but I can see why someone might think it was David. Further searching is necessary. I’d love to find a word this clerk wrote that ended with D, besides this name. Luckily, the groom was born in Ireland:

Look at final D in Ireland

The clerk not only wrote a d with a closed loop, it looks like he didn’t continue the cursive line from the n to connect the dThis reinforces my interpretation that the groom was DANIEL, not DAVID, Moran. Ancestry, in fact, indexed this record as the marriage of Mary A. Coleman and DANIEL Moran.

What are the results then of following up on this derivative indexed record on FamilySearch? (I’m not picking on FamilySearch – indexers for any organization are human and mistakes are made.)

Not only is the year of marriage off by two years, the groom’s name is also incorrectly indexed! Needless to say, I’ve already updated my request to the Massachusetts State Archives.

There are two more important details found in the actual marriage record that were not included in the index – the place of residence of the couple and their occupations.

Daniel was a resident of New York City. An aside – my heart sank when I saw that because finding a Daniel and Mary Moran in Boston was hard enough and it wouldn’t be any easier in New York. Why was Daniel in New York and how did he and Mary meet? Daniel was a produce dealer, so perhaps he traveled to build up a client and source base. However, Mary had no occupation listed, so I have no idea how they came to meet and marry.

This is hard to believe, but I found a second indexed record on FamilySearch, citing a different film, but naming Daniel Moran as the groom:

Finding this couple isn’t/wouldn’t be easy. This time the marriage date is wrong – correct year of 1856, but it says 21 January. The record was FILED on 21 January, but in 1858.

My original quest for the record began because I wanted to see if the fathers’ names had been incorrectly indexed. Apparently not, but I still think a mistake was made and that the clerk mixed up their names because of the limited number of Colemans (and no Daniel) who have lived in Calais, Maine.

The lesson to be learned here? NEVER settle for a record from an index when the original record can be obtained. The only exception to this would be – and I have come across this situation in the burned counties of the South – when the actual record has burned and only the index has survived. In that case, there is no other option.

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