Finding the maiden name for the woman later known as Sarah Stinebaugh was a coup. At least, that's what I thought when I stumbled upon that suggestion, gleaned from her daughter Margaret Melvina's death certificate.
However, we all know how unreliable an "official" document like that can be. Think of it: everyone stressed over the ordeal of the past few days—or, in the case of some terminal illnesses, the past few months—then suddenly expected to deliver the details of vital records to a stranger, when every mention of the topic might just bring on another volley of heaving sobs.
The way I see it, Sarah's maiden name might have been Kinslow, just as her daughter's family reported it.
Or, it could have been something entirely different. I had to go take a look.
So back to the records for the county in Missouri where I once found the Stinebaugh family living: Dallas County.
I began my due diligence with a cursory glance at the wiki posted for the county among the many pages at FamilySearch.org. It was interesting, in looking for possible marriage records of a Sarah Kinslow and our William Stinebaugh, to stumble upon this map of Missouri counties, along with a listing of what marriage records might be found in each county. Scrolling down the chart to the county I was seeking—Dallas—I was disappointed to see their marriage records only dated back to 1886.
That would be a far cry from our target date range of 1857 through 1859.
I headed over to the FamilySearch wiki for general information on the county. There, I briefed myself on the historic overview of the county: seeing that it was created in 1841, that it was carved out of territory previously belonging to Polk County, and that it was originally named Niangua County.
Googling for further information, I stumbled upon the resurrected Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness site. There, the landing page for the state provided some basic facts for the counties in Missouri—the kind of stuff genealogy researchers find helpful. I took a cursory glance at the list of counties, scrolling down to Dallas County and reading, basically, the same information I had just read back on the FamilySearch wiki.
And then I saw it: the clickable links in a navigation bar just above the list of counties. Sandwiched in between the choices, "List of Missouri Counties" and the intriguing entry, "List of Missouri Extinct Counties," was the middle choice: "List of Missouri Burned Courthouses."
Oh, yeah. Burned counties. I had heard stuff about that. No, correct that: I had been witness to grown adults melting down in vented frustration over their personal burned courthouse. Their own research Waterloo. The end of the line. The reason why so many people have impassible Brick Walls.
It looked like I was now going to join that statistic. I clicked on the link. (Cue murder mystery sound track here.)
The link led to a narrative, explaining the significance of burned courthouses. True enough, the opening paragraph expressed what I've learned from others who've faced this research problem:
Not only are these historic buildings ripped from each of our lifetimes, so are the archives they kept....
I scrolled down the long list of Missouri counties hit by this scourge. Sure enough, among the wounded and dispatched was Dallas County. Hit by Confederate troops on October 18, 1863, the remaining Dallas County courthouse records were subsequently also consumed by two fires occurring in their temporary replacement quarters in both 1864 and 1867.
Fat chance I'd find my marriage record for William Stinebaugh and his bride, Sarah, in that mess.
Perhaps, my ever-hopeful inner voice chirped up, there will be another way to find this...