Monday, September 13, 2010

Methodology Monday with multiple records

Midwestern newspapers in the 1850s were a sorry lot, genealogically speaking: weekly, four pages, half ads (few of which changed from week to week), the other half mostly boilerplate copied from other newspapers or the federal government. Local news was mainly court-required publications of notice of pending cases.

Thus the Niles (Michigan) Enquirer for November and December 1856, which I had occasion to read last week. In its last eight issues of that year, it took note of a grand total of six marriages. One involved a former resident who got married in Tennessee; another involved a couple from Racine, Wisconsin. The other four marriages were local:

16 November, R. J. H. Beall and Eleanor A. Weever (27 November issue, p. 3 col. 2)
23 November, Alfred L. Wood and Rhoda J. Fowler (27 November issue, p. 3 col. 2)
7 December, E. R. Griswold and C. Chapman (18 December issue, p. 3 col. 1)
16 December, Francis J. Hadlock and Mary Snorf (18 December issue, p. 3 col. 1)

Of course, the marriage I was actually looking for wasn't there, even though I had obtained the original record of it from the holdings of the Berrien County Historical Association a while back. How about these folks?

To my amazement, not one of these four marriages is in the BCHA collection, and only one of them (Beall-Weaver) is in the Family History Library's microfilm of the records of the County Clerk. Unless they appear in ministerial or church records, this scrap of ancient newspaper looks to be the only record of these marriages. I never would have found them at all without some sleuthing help from Sharon Carlson, director of the Western Michigan University Archives and Regional History collection in Kalamazoo. She found two years of the Enquirer, unlabeled, at the back of a microfilm there.

Don't imagine, as I did, that those newspaper marriage notes are merely a subset of the official marriage records that might contain an extra tidbit of information. They may just be your last best hope.

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