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Branches, Twigs, & Roots, Issue #012 -- Finding a Marriage Record
August 07, 2012

Hello, and welcome to the latest edition of Branches, Twigs, and Roots!

Genealogy Tip of the Month

When estimating an approximate marriage date for parents
based on their child's date of birth,
search within the thirty years
before the child's birth.

Your Brick Walls

This month’s brick wall deals with finding a marriage record which seems rather elusive. Here's what our contributor wrote:

"I am looking for any information on Benjamin Harrod, born circa 1800 in Virgina. He was married to Elizabeth "Betsy" Blair. I have hit a brick wall."

In this situation, in the usual course, I would ask for further information before searching for this couple.

My first question would be, what are your grounds for believing that Benjamin was born around 1800?

Often, when researching, we tend to look at the age of the child that we already know about, and then calculate an approximate age of 20 or 25 years earlier for the parents' birth dates, and within a year or two of the birth date for the parents' marriage record.

As a general rule, that works fairly well. However, we need to keep in mind that this is just a guideline. If, as was the case in so many families a century or more ago, there was a child every two years for approximately 30 years, it is quite possible that the child for whom you have birth information was one of the younger family members.

This, of course, means that the parents could be up to 30 years older than the original estimate (and in some cases more for a man, if he married a much younger woman), and their marriage could have occurred considerably earlier than originally estimated.

In this particular case, I was fortunate to find the answer to the riddle in very short order. A quick search on Ancestry revealed the following entry:

Virginia Marriages to 1800 about Blair, Betty

Spouse 1: Blair, Betty
Spouse 2: Harrod, Benj.
Marriage Date: 20 Apr 1796
Marriage Location: Virginia
Orange County

Source Information:
Dodd, Jordan. Virginia Marriages to 1800 [database on-line].
Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 1997.
Original data: Electronic transcription of marriage records held by the individual counties in Virginia.
Database of Virginia marriages to 1800

Here, while everything else matches up (in terms of the names and the state of Virginia), the marriage date of 1796 seems a little early for someone presumed born about 1800! ;)

If I am correct, that the birth year of approximately 1800 was a "guesstimate" based on the birth year of a child born, say, around 1822, then moving the parents' approximate birth dates back to accommodate the marriage date would yield birth dates somewhere around 1775 (assuming a marriage at approximately 21 years of age in 1796, and that the parents were approximately the same age).

That would make the parents about 46 at the time of this child's birth, which was not unusual in those days, and certainly possible from the standpoint of human fertility.

If only all brick walls were so easily resolved! (I guess they are, if you happen upon the appropriate records; but usually, it's like looking for the proverbial 'needle in a haystack'!)

News, Stories, Contests, etc.

Many gravestones tell stories about the deceased, and manage to say a lot in only a few words. Here's one from some of my relatives, which never fails to bring a smile to people's faces:

Steele headstone.
New Liskeard Pioneer Cemetery,
New Liskeard, Ontario, Canada
Owner: Sue Fenn
Steele family Headstone

Click here for a bit of gravestone humour. Apparently, these are actual gravestone inscriptions!

If you have any similar contributions of your own, I'd love to hear them / add them to the FamilyHistoryAlive site! Click here , and scroll down to the invitation at the bottom of the page, to upload them!

New Records Released Today! The Irish Republican State’s Military Archives have been digitized, and the Bureau of Military History 1913-1921 is included! Records relating to the War of Independence and the Easter Rising are now available to the public for the first time, free of charge!

Read the article here

To access this month's webinars, click here

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