Recently, I have read several family stories where the writer commented that he/she has been unable to find a marriage record, but that the couple in question married “before (whatever year), when their first child was born.”
I’d like to share three examples of having to spread the parameters far and wide when searching for marriage records in my own family history journey.
1. FamilySearch has now indexed baptismal and marriage records for Copenhagen, Denmark, but just a few years ago, I had to do the same search by hand, reading rolls of microfilm for the various parishes. Johannes Jensen, my long time brick wall, was married to Johanne Elisabeth Molin and was the head of a household with the two adults plus three young children. The oldest, Wilhelmine Amalie, was born in July 1840 in Copenhagen.
I had no marriage date or record for Johannes and Johanne so I searched parish records through 1840, looking for their marriage. Nothing was found. However, there was a gap in births between Wilhelmine and Emilie, born in May 1843, also in Copenhagen.
The neighborhood in which they lived was in the old section of Copenhagen and records for this family were found both at Trinitatis Church and Garnison’s Church. I decided to search baptismal records at both churches for an infant who might have died young between 1840 and 1843. There was a record for another child found in the records at Trinitatis Church:
The last line of this cropped page is dated 8 May 1842. In the commentary to the right, it identifies mother Johanne Elisabeth Molin and the REPUTED father, Johannes Jensen!
I then searched up to 1845 for a marriage record. None was found at Trinitatis, but Garnisons Church, where their other children were all baptized, had their marriage record. This couple didn’t marry until 31 August 1842. Lesson learned to keep searching for the record in a date range that is after the birth of the first child.
2. Dave’s Abraham Dulworth has been a bit difficult to pin down in many records, too. His eldest child, Matilda Jane, was born about 1867 probably in Cumberland County, Kentucky. It took a while before I found her living with her mother and grandmother in 1870 – not with her father. Mary Jane Adams was her mother. She and Abraham apparently had somewhat of an up and down relationship through the years. They had ten children born between 1867 and 1894, but, again, for the longest time I could find no marriage record.
When I searched anew many years later, I found a marriage record for them in Clay County, Tennessee, where they had sometimes lived. They married on 1 February 1883, after the births of at least four of their children.
3. A collateral line includes Helen Marr Blyther born in Calais, Washington, Maine in 1842. I found a marriage record for her to Charles Henry Wright in Providence Rhode Island on 17 June 1887. However, this seemed odd because Charles was the father of her two children, born in 1877 and 1884, both in Boston, Massachusetts. They were both born in Maine, so they moved around a fair number of times. I knew very little about Helen Blyther, aside from the census records in Maine. I knew the family had ties to New Brunswick so I turned to one of my favorite websites, the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick (PANB).
Blyther is an uncommon name in that area of Maine and Canada and I soon found there was a bit more to this story. Helen had apparently married a Mr. Merrill sometime between 1870 and 1875, when a legal notice was published announcing that she was reverting to her former name of Helen Blyther. There was also a marriage announcement in the St. John newspaper in May 1876, when Helen married Charles Wright there. Now I had two marriages for Helen, both to the same man. The puzzle was quickly solved when the next newspaper notice, filed by Mrs. Charles Wright (not Helen!), announced that he was a bigamist and legally married to her!
I found no other resolution to this problem, but Charles and Helen remained together, as far as I can tell. I’ve wondered if Charles was never divorced from the first Mrs. Wright and that the 1887 marriage in Providence was triggered by the death of that Mrs. Wright. I have not been able to determine exactly who wife #1 was or when she died.
The moral of the story here is to think outside the box when looking for elusive marriage records. You never know what you might find.