Friday, January 9, 2009

The 19th Century Itawamba County Marriage Record Deconstructed

Marriage records are an important resource in family history studies. As this is the record connecting two families, it is important to get the date correct. In Itawamba County during the 19th century, most marriage records recorded in the Itawamba County Courthouse are composed of three separate dates – the date the license was issued by the court clerk, the date of the actual marriage, and the date the actual marriage was recorded in the clerk’s office. There can be a wide discrepancy in these dates as many of the marriages were performed out in remote areas of the county. I have noticed many ministers and justices would bring the actual completed license to the courthouse at a much later date after the marriage took place (within six months), bringing several licenses at one time performed over a period of time.

I have also seen instances where a researcher will incorrectly record the application date or the recording date as the actual marriage date. It is always important to record the date the actual marriage was solemnized. Below is a transcript of a sample marriage record (click illustration for larger resolution view of digital image) from the courthouse in Itawamba County, with the three different dates being highlighted in red.

Wm. E. Long to Nancy Ann Cook
The State of Mississippi
Itawamba County

To any regular ordained minister of the Gospel, Judge, Justice of the Police Court or acting Justice of the Peace, in and for said county – Greeting – You or either of you are hereby authorized to solemnize the rites of matrimony between Wm. E. Long and Nancy Ann Cook and join them together as man and wife in holy estate of Wedlock. Your official certificate whereof you are to return together with the License unto the office of the Clerk of the Probate Court of said county within the time prescribed by law.

Witness M.C. Cummings, Judge of Probate of said county, this 31st day of August 1841.
Attest J. Robins, Clerk by his dept. L.J. Copeland

I do hereby certify that the rites of matrimony was solemnized between the within named Wm. E. Long and Nancy Ann Cook on the 3rd Sept. 1841
James Bromley
Minister of the Gospel

The State of Mississippi
Itawamba County
I Jeptha Robins, clerk of the Probate Court of said county hereby certify that the above is a true record.
11th June 1841 (note: more than likely this should have been 1842, rather than 1841)
Attest J. Robins, Clerk

The first red date is the application date, the second red date is the actual marriage date and the third red date is the recording date.

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