Every now and then, in researching those dull, dry public documents, you run across stray marks and enigmatic notes that make you wonder what the full story is behind those little slips of the pen.
In researching the Snider family heritage in Perry County, Ohio, I’ve now moved into the twentieth century, where government records are clear, detailed, and—thanks to the perseverance of organizations like FamilySearch—readily available.
It was a snap pursuing the relatively recent family history of our Snider line when I got to Bertha Metzger, my husband’s grandmother. Born in 1904, Bertha lived a long life that spanned nearly the entire century. Her wedding in 1926 was recent enough to be documented using a format that provided all the detail that a genealogist appreciates: information on date and place of birth, parents names—including mother’s maiden name—and sometimes even additional specifications on the parents of both bride and groom.
Not that that was a surprise to me, since we’ve already ascertained this information, but let me affirm that Bertha’s marriage record provided every single one of these items.
And then some.
For whatever reason, after the marriage license was fully completed in easily-readable ink, someone took a pencil and marked a note at the top of the file.
The license itself still retained that old-fashioned charm. A pre-printed format, it must have been drawn up in a more circumspect age. “In the matter of John Flowers and Bertha Metzger,” the document began, “To the Honorable Judge of the Probate Court of said County, The undersigned respectfully make application for a marriage license….”
The wedding did indeed occur as planned. The local paper of record, Zanesville’s The Times Recorder saw to it that it was duly noted in their Wednesday, May 19, 1926, issue:
John Flowers, coal miner, Clayton township, son of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Flowers, and Bertha Metzger, Jackson township, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Metzger, Rev. Fr. Caien, St. Joseph, officiated.
Unlike some other newspaper articles I know of, this little bit of reporting got it right: all the details that were supposed to be included were there. And all the details that were supposed to be omitted were absent.
The newspaper editor followed directions. For some reason, someone felt it would be the better part of discretion to leave off one customary detail in publication—for on the marriage license application, across the top of the page, someone had penciled in “Don’t Publish Ages.”
While Bertha was twenty one years of age—well within legal parameters for marrying—perhaps the issue was the age of her groom. Her intended, one John Ambrose Flowers, was nearly twenty years her senior. A rugged coal miner and farmer, John was a working man before Bertha was even born.
Perhaps it was the delicate sensibilities of the era—such times as preferred to “respectfully make application” for marriage—that required the discretion of bypassing customary notice in cases such as this.