Friday, March 6, 2009

Problems with reading old records

Having success in locating an old record is an exciting event for anyone doing genealogical research. But one must guard against letting their exuberance cloud their use of good judgment in utilizing the information found in the document. Old records are not always easy to understand and interpret.

For example, a county marriage register included the following language for a specific marriage record:

“I do hereby certify that I have solemnized the bonds of Matrimony between xxxxx and xxxxx, agreeable to license issued from the office of said County.

Given under my hand this 15th day of April 1828.”

For years the date of 15 April 1828 has been interpreted as the date of marriage for the particular individuals involved. It is identified as such in materials available from Family Search and books publishing county marriage records.

In reality, the couple was married 31 January 1828 -- as noted in the Family Bible. The above certification is believed to be only a statement that the marriage was performed by the individual signing the certification and the date, 15 April 1828, is the date when he made the certification. Giving further credence to this belief is the fact that the same individual made similar statements in a series of adjacent entries - all dated 15 April 1828.

For a fairly comprehensive treatment of problems to watch out for when examining old records, look at’s “Problems with reading old records: what to watch for.” You can access by copying and pasting the following URL into your web browser: <>.

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