Monday, November 12, 2012

The Perfect Wedding

There is no day so anticipated in the life of a young woman as the day of her wedding. All hopes and energies are focused on creating the perfect occasion—that flawless day to be cherished and remembered forever by the blissful couple. When you are in love, how could anything go wrong?

I don’t suppose, when one is contemplating the execution of a wedding, that one would consider the earliest opportunity for things going wrong to be the marriage record. After all, the couple said, “I do.” What more is necessary?

And yet, we sometimes hear stories of marriage licenses someone failed to return to the proper civil authorities, or some other paperwork nightmare.

In the grand scheme of things, I don’t suppose what happened in the case of Simon Snider and his bride-to-be, Nancy Jackson, is entirely earth-shattering. Perhaps the newlyweds never even realized what became of their marriage record.

For us, though—the genealogy hunters par excellence who document every step of the family history trail—a little stutter in the marriage record for Simon and Nancy Snider does not go unnoticed.

Irish immigrant County Mayo cemetery records errors
Though we pursue thorough documentation, we need to keep in mind that not everything is set in stone—not even gravestones, for instance. I’ve seen our ancestors’ names carved in stone—complete with misspellings. Take my husband’s great-great grandfather, John Stevens, buried under a proud monument bearing the legend, “John Steavens.” What do you do with a typo like that?!

The matter is no different for those records kept on mere paper. For some reason, back in those days, mistakes were sometimes not corrected. Maybe it’s because the error predated White-Out. Or erasers.

Or perhaps, back in 1841 when the Snider record came through the in-box at the county courthouse, the clerk was suffering from some post-luncheon malaise, wishing it were closer to five o’clock so he could beat the commute rush home.

For whatever reason, the surnames for both Simon and Nancy were correctly labeled in the margin of the thick binder where such marriage details were recorded. When it came to the body of the record itself, though, Nancy was instantly transformed from a Jackson to a Johnson.

October 25th 1841.
            I do certify that I did on the 26th day of October A.D. 1841 solemnize the marriage of Simon Snider and Nancy Johnson.
            Given under my hand this 26th day of October 1841
                        N. D. Young.
Which will it be for us researchers one hundred seventy one years later? Nancy Jackson? Or Nancy Johnson? Both surnames are included in the entry. Upon which entry did the clerk suddenly get caught away in a daydream?

Not that transcriptions of original documents provide dependable assurance of correct data, but I did note that the record had it “right” in inserting Jackson in the Male Index to Marriages—Perry County (which you can see with your own eyes, if you care to scroll through the alphabetized entries here). However, I’d feel a bit more certain of this discovery if I could find another original source for confirmation.

Why would all this matter, you ask?

Simple: I have my eye on young Nancy Jackson. She, it turns out, carries a double bonus for this roots hunter.

Remember my family’s whirlwind trip to the genealogy section of the Allen County Public Library last summer? It was during that time, while I focused on my D.A.R. application via my maternal line, that my husband dove into researching his maternal connection to First Families of Ohio status.

Somewhere in the midst of that hasty library visit, my husband stumbled upon some interesting trivia about Simon Snider’s bride: she was the daughter of a military man—and possibly the granddaughter of a patriot serving in the American Revolutionary War.

While we are still in the process of checking the record for ourselves, what we’ve seen so far looks promising—until, of course, I run into enigmatic “documentation” such as this clerk’s slip of the pen.

I’m stymied. Does this mean I need a second verification of Nancy’s surname? Where will I happen upon such proof in the midst of this no-man’s-land of public records, predating the era in which such details were duly captured by governmental officials (at least those not sleeping on the job)?

Since stumbling upon the siren call of Nancy Jackson’s double significance as both First Families of Ohio and Daughters of the American Revolution candidate, no matter what I end up doing, it will surely include serious attention to further documentation. I’ve never been so fiercely concerned about the difference between a Jackson and a Johnson before.


  1. Stories like this MUST be more common than most people are willing to admit. It makes you wonder how so many people can claim they descend from Charlemagne.

    1. Okay, Wendy, you made me take the bait! While I totally agree with you about the squishiness of some people's due diligence in handling documentation--not to mention the mistakes inherent in some documentation itself, as we've seen--I still can sympathize with those who claim descent from Charlemagne.

      It may simply be a matter of math at this point. Let's take Charlemagne, since you brought him up: with a life span that ended somewhat after the year 800, that distances him from our times by a rough 12 centuries or so. Say that each century produces three generations of descendants. Say also that each generation replicates his four sons (we'll discount the daughters just for the sake of mental math). If we start with descendant generation #1 in the year 800, that would produce 64 descendants by the newest generation of cousins at the end of that century.

      Not much, agreed. But the next century would start up with 256 descendants and close out with over four thousand. The following century would show the power of exponential math, closing out with over 262,000. And that's only after three centuries--nine more to go!

      Of course, there are those little detours like wars, natural disasters, and plagues to mess up our hypothetical numbers race. But even so, I'm sure you can see the possibilities--especially considering how many families of the past were quite sizable--many more children than the four we start with here.

      However, whether those bona fide descendants are actually able to produce the paperwork to prove it remains to be seen. After all, that's plenty of time for paper to disintegrate and grave stones to crumble.

  2. I think they did it to annoy us. Isn't it funny how something like that can drive you to distraction? I have similar instances, and will not rest til they are resolved. Good luck Jacqi!

    1. Ellie, driven to distraction it is! That's why I'm so fervently hoping for a second way to document the relationship.

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks, Grant! Appreciate the feedback. I think we can all relate to the frustration of these documents which are supposed to be accurate--but for which we know differently!

  4. There's a saying along the lines of, "A man with two watches never knows the time." Genealogy has a way of reminding me of this saying often.

    1. Interesting application, Chris! I certainly felt that way, looking at these documents!

  5. I feel your pain, Jacqi. I'm dealing with this same situation. My husband's great-grandmother's maiden name, which I believe was Beum, is literally never spelled the same way twice except in the newspaper. On her marriage record, it's Beum in the middle section and Beaum on the right. You'd think that at least a document could agree with itself, but no!
    A couple generations earlier, I'm struggling between Robeson and Robinson.

    By the way, I've added your blog to the list of Ohio blogs on my website. Good luck with your First Families of Ohio application--I'm sure it will be worth it in the end!

    1. Shelley, I'm thinking that there are several experiences like this out there among our fellow researchers. "Set in stone" is not so set after all, as it turns out for those of us sifting through these old documents with eagle eyes.

      Thank you for adding me to your list of Ohio blogs. It certainly is a handy go-to resource to find others writing about Ohio roots.

  6. Jacqi, I know the feeling all to well myself..I have family that is both huffman and hoffman. and ever though both family are separate they somehow seem to come together when it comes to in face..many generations back my family was Hoffman...then Huffman and now it keeps gets written differant depending on what document your looking at...another name I find in my family that this is happending in is the Johnson family.Which I am trying to document for the reaons of becomming one of the first familys in Crawford County Ohio. but .yeah we get johnston , and johnson once again depending on what document you are looking at..
    So I think they needed better handlers doing the records all those years ago..

    1. Lisa, it is indeed frustrating...but something I guess we as researchers learn to keep an eye out for.


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