09 May 2011

Matrilineal Monday: Finding All of Our Grandmothers

It is nearly certain that if you have been researching for more than a years, you have one or more female ancestors who belong to one of those two great matrilineal families, Lnu or Unk; or maybe yours is just ???? It is no great mystery as to why this is true.Women have traditionally given up their maiden names when they marry. And even here in America - the land of the free - it took centuries for women to achieve the right to enter into contracts in their own name or to own or sell property without the husband's permission. As a result, many of the women in our lineages have left precariously small footprints in the traditional records that we genealogists pursue. But a small footprint is not the same as not footprint and this post begins a series that addresses some of the places where those precious tracks might be found.

Part 1 - The "Duh" Tip - Marriage & Divorce Records
Okay, you probably thought of marriage records before. But not everyone will think of all of the possible marriage records that may be available in any given jurisdiction.Depending on the location and time period, one or more of the following marriage records may be found:
  • Marriage Registers - These are the "Marriage Books" found at the county level (and town level in some jurisdictions).
  • Marriage Licenses - The original went with the folks receiving the license, but copies often exist in court records.
  • Marriage Bonds - Counties required protection from legal actions in the event that the marriage that they were licensing proved illegal. Bonds were posted for this purpose - often by the groom and a relative or friend acting as security. They are usually found at the County Courthouse, but may be found in other repositories. Early North Carolina marriage bonds, for example, were handled by the Department of State and can be found at the State Archives.
  • Marriage Returns - also called Minister's Returns. Most jurisdictions required the official performing the marriage to return to the agency issuing the license a statement that the marriage had occurred.
  • Parental Permissions. They are usually found among the records in the county courthouse. Marriage records are also usually indexed and are frequently published.
Divorce - Some folks have the notion that divorce did not happen, or very rarely happened in earlier times. Sadly, this is just not true. This ad was published in the Floridian and Advocate for 3 months beginning the last week of June, 1832 because Zachariah Jerkins was divorcing his wife in a Tallahassee Court, and she did not live within the Territory of Florida. This ad does not give Martha Jerkins surname, but the divorce records connected to the ad did - as well as the location of the marriage and the birth of the couple's children. Divorce records can usually be found at the local courthouse or held by an appropriate department of vital statistics. Some states, such as Florida, have an index that provides the necessary details for ordering a case file. 

Good Hunting!

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