Sometimes, genealogical research conundrums drive me to
distraction. Prepare yourself for another rabbit trail from said distraction.
As I plow through the ages and generations of Taliaferros
and their related lines, it begins to dawn on me just how many of those kin
could claim the name Mary Taliaferro.
It all started when I located the actual paperwork—digitized
online, of course—for the marriage of my third great grandparents.
I was first alerted to this documentation, thanks to the
much-maligned shaky-leaf hints at Ancestry.com. One hint linked me to a
typewritten statement transcribed from some Oglethorpe County, Georgia, official’s
records in the early 1800s.
Underneath entry number 1537 dated May 30th, the
record added the following:
FACT OF CEREMONY.
(Recorded Page 61, Original Book “A”.)
I hereby certify that
on the 9th day of June 1818 I joined in holy wedlock Thos. F. Rainey
and Mary E. Taliferro. Nicholas
Powers, M. G.
“M. G.,” of course, referring to the designation “Minister
of the Gospel,” informed me—presumably—of the name of the couple’s pastor, from
which I might be able to infer the church they attended. I began to think of
how I could determine which church
might have kept corresponding records of the family’s early years, and how I
could possibly locate more information on this nagging roadblock to my research
progress. You see, this is the couple
for whom I have no other confirmation of the wife’s name. According to other
records, Thomas was to be happily married to someone named Nancy, not Mary.
I also began to grouse about not being able to access the
original record books, themselves, where I could ascertain for myself whether
the transcription was handled properly. After all, people can make mistakes—and,
given the abysmal state of some officials’ handwriting, such mistakes were
often come by quite honestly.
What was “Original Book ‘A’” and how could I get a look at
No sooner said than digitally served up, for the shaky
leaves at Ancestry turn out to be prescient, as well. There, in all its abysmal glory,
was the near-illegible entry confirming that Nicholas Powers “joined in holy
wedlock” Thomas F. Rainey and Mary E. “Talafero
Looking back at the original transcript, I’d say that
unnamed transcriber got this one right—well, close enough, considering the
misspelling of that deceptive Taliaferro surname.
Somehow, in double checking the entry, my eye, caught once
again at the name of the minister, happened to slip below to the very next line
on the transcription, where, on the exact same day, an entry was made for the marriage of one Nicholas Powers.
Same man? Could the Rev. Nicholas Powers have been in to the Oglethorpe County offices to file the proper
paperwork on two of his parishioners, and then slip in the requisite forms
for his own marriage at the same time?
But there was more. On this same date—May 30, 1818
Nicholas Powers (at least, we presume
it was the same man) was not only declaring that he was marrying Mary
Taliaferro to Thomas Rainey, he was declaring that he was marrying Mary
How could this be? There must have been some confusion in
I looked back to the original, handwritten record, to see if
I could find the second entry in its original form. Now that I was taking a
close look at the original record, I discovered how disjointed it was. Nothing
was in date order. This was the record from the Oglethorpe “Ordinary Office,”
and apparently, when someone showed up to hand-enter a record, it got the next
empty line on the page—whether in date order or not.
It turned out that Thomas Rainey’s wedding was recorded on May 30, but apparently
transpired on June 9. Though I checked the page preceding and following the
duly noted page 61, I could not find any marriage of a second Mary Taliaferro.
Did two Mary Taliaferros get married like the May 30 entries declared? Or was
one merely a clerical error? And if not, who was the second Mary? Or was one of
the grooms’ names a mistake?
I was beginning to see my recently-acquired confidence over finding Mary Taliaferro’s husband fading into the ether.
Sitting down to think through this puzzle about the
consecutively numbered entries, I realized that entry number 1537—Thomas Rainey’s
entry—had the follow-up “Fact of Ceremony” entered below it, while entry number
1538—that for the minister, himself—did not. Did the second couple file their
intention, yet get cold feet before that fateful day in which they were to meet
at the altar?
History, thankfully, was on my side in supplying ample additional
evidence that Nicholas Powers did get
married to a Mary Taliaferro. But I had yet to figure that out.
I did, eventually, find another digitized, handwritten
record book of marriage records—yes, again thanks to Ancestry.com’s shaky leaf
hints—showing the two consecutive entries. Both dated May 30, 1818, and following
one after another on the same page, were the entries I sought.
In the end, it all came down to one specific detail that
allowed me to tell the Marys apart: their middle initial. Thomas Rainey, you
see, married Mary E. Taliaferro, while his pastor was wed to Mary M.
While I still cannot find what I need to confirm my
suspicions on this case, I believe the Mary who married Thomas Rainey was
herself the daughter of the Mary who married the minister. The elder Mary, you
see, was the widow of Warren Taliaferro, who apparently died before 1818. This
widow was the former Mary Meriwether Gilmer, daughter of Thomas Meriwether
Gilmer and Elizabeth Lewis Gilmer. Her 1818 marriage to Nicholas Powers would
have been her second.
The only rub is that, if
this elder Mary was indeed mother of the Mary who married Thomas Rainey in 1818,
both she and her daughter, at their respective first marriages, would have had
to have been quite young. You see, the elder Mary—if her headstone
believed—was born in 1786. The younger Mary was born in 1804
I’ll let you do the math and decide whether there’s enough
margin for this possibility.
All images above courtesy Ancestry.com, with specific document locations indicated by in-line hyperlinks.