Monday, November 1, 2010

It Looks So Obvious Now ~

I've admitted it before - I'm the family historian. I'd like to be the family genealogist, but don't always have the time to research as much or as thoroughly as I'd like.  So, as I can, I'm going through my database and looking at ancestors where I think I know everything (all the bmd dates/places) and checking on how and why I think I know.  I've started ordering copies of certificates if I don't have them and I if find they are available.  

I found that the Massachusetts Archives had a searchable index for vital records covering the years 1841 - 1910 so I thought I'd see what they had for the marriage of my great-grandparents, Mary BENZIE and Thomas RITCHIE.  Of course I already KNEW when they were married.  I have this great wedding booklet signed by both of them as well as the minister.  I have always recorded their wedding at 17-Oct-1900.  Their first child, William, was born on 24-Apr-1902.  Very respectable!

It took me a few tries, but finally I found a listing in 1901.  I thought, "Well obviously a well-meaning indexer just has a slip of the finger there!" Anyway, off went my check and request.  On Friday in the mail I received a copy of that marriage record.  Not only did I receive a nicely typed out "official" copy, but for my $3.00 (!!) I also received a photocopy of the page in the register showing the original information.  Big as life it is 1901.

So, let's take another look inside the wedding booklet with the date of 1900:

It now appears that the last zero in the date might have started life as a one!  It gives a somewhat different spin on the wedding in October.  There was Mary, already 3 months pregnant, with her male cousin as witness at her wedding.  Was the couple already planning their move to Ohio?  Certainly by the time their son is born, six months later, they lived in Cleveland, Ohio.  In Cleveland who's to know which year they actually DID get married!

I've looked as several other documents I have - Thomas's petition for citizenship where he give the 17-Oct-1900 date, the 1930 census that asks for age at first marriage.  Both Tom and Mary give ages that would be consistent with a marriage in 1900.  So, I guess I thought I had every reason to use that date - every reason but the best a primary source!


  1. This is a great example of why we can't always accept everything at face value! I have a friend who always said, "Most children take nine months, but the first one can come at any time." :-)

  2. Wow! You have good eyes and some very thorough research habits. This is a great lesson for us all to check for primary documents even if we don't think we need to.

  3. Hi Ladies!

    Susan - I love that comment about first children! So true in many parts of my family - not just this couple.

    Michelle - I don't think I have either good eyes or good research's only taken me about 15 years to figure this out! But hey, better late than never ;-)

  4. Good detective work! Very interesting. Those ancestors are always surprising us, aren't they?


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