Archive for November, 2012

In the past few weeks I have very successfully added several more files to my blog drafts file while not publishing any actual finished posts. So I thought I would provide a bit of an update to a post from last November, “In defense of going down the chipmunk tunnel.”

As I noted in that post, the cause of the research that I turned into the post was my intent to mail off an order for a marriage record, and wanting to check to see if there was a second marriage amongst the siblings in the same city before sending it off, so that I could pool my order. In the end I discovered the other couple married in Ohio, and sent off the single request as originally planned.

But I never did hear back from the city. In my years of long-distance research, I’ve learned that there can be any number of reasons why a repository’s response never reaches me, from banal ones like a piece of mail getting lost to, as happened to me last year, the new archivist at an archive determining that as far as discernible, the previous archivist had cashed my check and never done the promised research. So after a while longer has passed than the estimated time for a response, I like to politely follow up with the repository to try to determine what happened. In this case, my second letter was answered with a letter from the city vital records stating that they could find no record of the marriage in their archive.

This provides an interesting research problem.

The marriage information I had was obtained from alumni listings. Those are generally provided by the alumni themselves, and then compiled into a listing by someone else. So a few of the major reasons I can see for this outcome are:

  1. The staff missed the marriage, possibly because a surname is misspelled. Unlikely but always possible.
  2.  The couple married there but had obtained their license elsewhere and/or went on to register their marriage elsewhere. I’m not sure yet of the law on this in this place and time, so I don’t know how likely it is that there would be no record at all of the marriage in the location where they were married.
  3. The alumni listings are wrong. Always possible as well since it is secondary information (which in this case specifically means after-the-fact information provided by one of the parties who was there) that has probably been compiled from alumni information by a third party, leaving additional room for error.

First next steps:

  1. Check on marriage laws at this time and place. Start with searches at Google Books and Internet Archive, as they have a lot of governmental publications and writings on the law (and not just for the US), including a number of past published state statutes.
  2. Depending on outcome of (1), widen search for marriage record and/or marriage license, and/or do further research on the couple aiming to find further marriage clues.

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