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Monday, July 18, 2016

Where a Marriage Record Can Lead

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Mt. Greenwood Cemetery, Thornton Illinois, Historic African American Cemetery
By Robin Foster, August 2014

As a good researcher, you will want to document various events in your ancestor’s life like birth, marriage and death. At first, you may not realize the importance of looking for historical records to prove the dates and places for events. Resist the temptation to copy unsourced information. Search for original documentation no matter how much more effort it requires you to make. 

Records in different areas and at different time periods differ in the content contained. The 1919 marriage record for Thaddeus Wyatt and Marguerite Covan in Battle Creek, Calhoun County, Michigan provided several details that linked them to more records and family members.

When you discover a record, extract all the details even the ones that do not seem very important at the time. Here are some of the details that you learn from Thaddeus and Marguerite’s marriage record found in Michigan County Marriages 1820-1935:
  • Maiden name of Marguerite
  • Birth place
  • Age
  • Color
  • Residence
  • Occupation
  • Name of father
  • Maiden name of mother of each
  • Names of each father
  • Date of marriage
  • Place of marriage
  • Times previously married
According to the record, Thaddeus was born in Brooklyn, Illinois, and his parents were David and Ellen Tucker Wyatt. Knowing this information makes it easier to locate Thaddeus prior to his marriage. Many times, some records are harder to find than others. Misspellings in recording and indexing the census play a big part in not being able to locate a record in an online search.

The 1900 Census has not yet been found for the Wyatt family, but the following records documenting Thaddeus were uncovered:

1917-1918
Just before his marriage in 1919, he registered in Chicago for the WWI Draft. He lists as dependents his mother and brother. This would probably mean that his father, David Wyatt is no longer home or deceased.

1910 Census
In 1910, Thaddeus is living with his widowed mother, Ellen Wyatt, and his siblings in St. Louis, Missouri. The household looks like this:
Ellen Wyatt, 41
Grace Wyatt, 22
Pearl Wyatt, 18
Thaddeus Wyatt, 14
Booker Wyatt, 8
Grace Scott, 17

1920 Census
Never be too surprised at what you see or do not see on a record. You would think Marguerite would be listed in the household with Thaddeus in 1920, one year after their marriage, but she does not appear on the 1920 Census with him or his family. He is listed as married and is living with his mother and brother, Booker, and other roomers.

1936 Death Record
Even though Thaddeus was married in Michigan, most records that document him are located in Illinois including his death record. Mt. Greenwood, where Thaddeus is buried is an historic African American cemetery.

Thaddeus’ marriage record states that he was born in Brooklyn, Illinois, but his death certificates says Lovejoy, Illinois. This illustrates the importance of checking records that were generated when your ancestor actually provided the details. Lots of times death records are inaccurate because the informant was not sure about the answers provided.

This marriage record provided enough information to search for more records to identify each of the siblings of Thaddeus listed on the censuses above. Most family historians would jump to researching the parents, David and Ellen, next. Doing this means you would and miss other valuable references to the parents which appear on children’s records.

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