Sunday, July 17, 2005

Common Law Marriage, Different Fathers & Audit Trails

-- Common law marriage
-- Known siblings may have different fathers
-- Myrt's comments & audit trails
Just to add my point of view : ) As mentioned before, sometimes it was that there was no preacher around for marriage. Also, back long ago if they lived together for 7 or more years they were considered married. I think the term used was common law marriage.

My Father in law lost his father when he was very young, on one of the census he was listed as the son of his step father - on the other he was listed as step son.

As for the placement of marriage or non marriage information: Put what information you know in the [ancestors'] notes and leave it at that. Who are we to be the judge of our ancesters? Let by gones, be by gones.

From: Allison Ryall
I had to jump in with my two cents...
I had a family friend who knowing of my genealogy interest asked me to help find his father whom he had never met. I went through the typical genealogical records search and found the marriage record for his mother and father, found my friend's birth certificate listing his father, etc..

Through a complete stroke of luck I was able to locate the father who fortunately was still alive. The father was so excited to hear from my friend as he never even knew that he had a son. hen my friend and his father sat down to talk and compared dates they determined that there was NO way that he was the biological father. He was the biological father of my friend's sister but not of my friend. Apparently, the mother and father had split up two years before my friend was born although the divorce didn't take place until many years later. My friend's supposed father was stationed in Vietnam during those two years and had absolutely no contact with my friend's mother during that time. He simply was not the father. My friend will probably never know who is his real biological father.

Moral of the story is just because all genealogical evidence puts to something being so doesn't necessarily mean that it is (or was.) One hundred years from now genealogy research will link my friend to his supposed father as every piece of genealogical evidence leads to that conclusion. However, that wasn't the case at all.

Just something to think about.

There are a number of states that still recognize "common law" marriages. According to: the list includes:
Georgia (if created before 1/1/97)
Idaho (if created before 1/1/96)
New Hampshire (for inheritance purposes only)
Ohio (if created before 10/10/91)
Oklahoma (possibly only if created before 11/1/98. Oklahoma's laws and court decisions may be in conflict about whether common law marriages formed in that state after 11/1/98 will be recognized.)
Rhode Island
South Carolina
Washington, D.C.

Try as we might, we're not going to be experts on state, province, colonial, federal or international laws. All we can do is report the information about an ancestor as we uncover it, explaining in detail the source of the information. DOCUMENT EVERYTHING by typing the full explanation in notes for each ancestor. Current genealogy programs allow for unlimited notes (based on the size of our computers' hard drives.) Include references to documents that you've found as well as collections you have searched where NO REFERENCE to your ancestor is listed. This demonstrates that you have been doing your "homework" and provides that clear audit trail for those that follow.

Ol' Myrt here refers to "leaving an audit trail" frequently. It is an old accounting term. When I worked at the old BankWest Mortgage Company in Bellevue, Washington, I was taught never to write in the checkbook register in pencil, but to use pen. If I had to change something, I was to cross it out. All supporting bills must be kept to explain an entry in the general ledger. This way there would be no question what happened during the accounting period. Genealogists need to develop the same attention to detail, so there will be no question which documents were discovered, and which ones need to be found to piece together what happened during an ancestor's life.

Evidence of our pedigrees does not just drop in our laps out of the blue. These documents are uncovered through painstaking research in courthouses, libraries, churches and archives. Since each governing body created it's own rules about the need for written documents, we quickly find that these documents were created and stored in a variety of formats. Handwriting, language, legal terms and even the necessity of keeping a type of record vary greatly from one place to another. Coming to terms with a greater understanding of these processes is the challenge of genealogists. Just because they kept a record in Ohio where column "A" is the first name of the bride or groom, doesn't mean the first name appears in the same position in all marriage records during the same time period. Other places may have decided to make entries with the surname/maiden name or the date of application or "???" appearing in column "A."

It’s a good thing we love playing Nancy Drew & the Hardy Boys. We need our secret decoder rings, don't we?

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
6023 26th Street West PMB 352
Bradenton, FL 34207

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