Old Cookbooks Are Among New Online Record Collections

Old cookbooks are among new recent online records collections. So are British newspapers, British Columbia estate files, New Zealand WWII appointments, UK Parliamentary returns, UK military indexes, US newspapers (Arkansas, Kansas, and New York) and church records for Sydney, Australia; Norfolk, England; and Stockholm, Sweden.

Featured New Records Online: Old Cookbooks and Home Remedies

heritage recipes cookbookThe US National Library of Medicine has “recently embarked on a project to digitize and make available” its collection of historical recipes and cookbooks, according to its blog. Old recipes (also called “receipts”) may give you a glimpse into what daily life was like for your ancestors. Among these are “recipes and advice for food preparation and preservation, animal husbandry, preparing useful household concoctions, and allopathic medicines and treatments for maintaining personal health.” Find these at the National Library of Medicine Digital Collections.

Love these? Click here to find more old recipes and classic cookbooks on the Genealogy Gems website.

Australia – New South Wales – Church records

Nearly 125 years of baptism, marriage, and burial registers for the city and parish of Saint Peter’s in the greater metropolitan area of Sydney, Australia (1839-1963) are now available on Ancestry.com. Baptismal registers may include the child’s name, birth and baptismal dates, parents’ names, abode and profession of parent(s) and officiant’s name. Marriage records may list for bride and groom the names, occupations, residences, ages and marital status, along with the date and place of the wedding, names of those giving consent (if required) and the officiant. Burial registers may mention the name of the deceased; death and burial dates; abode; age; “quality” or profession, and officiant.

Britain – Dougal’s Index Register

A Findmypast.com collection of Britain’s missing beneficiaries and unclaimed estates (1910“contains over 500 records from Dougal’s Index Register to Next of Kin, Heirs at Law and Cases of Unclaimed Money Advertisements from 1910. The publication looks specifically at properties or estates registered in chancery court, which have gone unclaimed because a deceased person did not create a will or did not have any known descendants….The lists only provide an individual’s first and last name.”

Britain – Newspapers

Over 48,000 new articles and two brand new titles have been added to Findmypast’s collection of historic British newspapers. This month’s new titles are The Shipping & Mercantile Gazette and The Rutland Echo & Leicestershire Advertiser.

Canada – British Columbia

Findmypast.com subscribers may now browse among over 750,000 records of British Columbia Estate Files (1859-1949). According to the site, these “allow you to delve through probate estate files pertaining to the judicial districts of British Columbia; the County Court and the Supreme Court. Probate estate records are a valuable resource for family history research, providing vital details such as dates, names, and locations to help grow your family tree. Included in this collection is a probate index for the district of Vancouver, sorted alphabetically by last name.” Browsing tip: narrow results by year, document, court, and district.

Canadian genealogy research

Canada celebrated its 150th birthday in 2017! Click here to read tips for starting your Canadian research from Lisa Louise Cooke’s conversation with Library and Archives Canada staffer Claire Banton.

England – Norfolk parish records

Fifty-one volumes of Norfolk Archdeacon’s Transcripts (1600-1812)  and 123 volumes of Bishop’s Transcripts (1687-1901) are now browseable at Findmypast.com. According to the site, the collections contain records of baptisms, marriages, and burials from across the county.

New Zealand – WWII

Fold3.com hosts a new collection of WWII Appointments, Promotions, Transfers and Resignations, extracted from the New Zealand Gazette. These give information such as name, rank, event date, and regiment for members of the New Zealand Expeditionary Forces (including army, air force, and navy).

Sweden – Stockholm

Nearly 175,000 indexed names and over 14,000 digital images were recently added to a free collection at FamilySearch.org: Sweden, Stockholm City Archives, Index to Church Records  (1546-1927).

UK – Military

Ancestry.com has published a new collection of UK Military Indexes, 1920-1971. According to the site, “These lists comprise the names and service numbers of those who were discharged from the armed forces after 1920 and born before 1901. Details given for over 300,000 individuals found within this collection may include (where available): initial and surname, date of birth, their service, service number and Ministry of Defence reference number.”

UK – Parliamentary Returns

The UK Parliamentary Archive has “recently uploaded the Protestation Returns for Berkshire, Cornwall and Cumbria,” according to its blog. “The Protestation Returns are the closest thing we have to a census for England in 1641-1642. They originate in the scuffling between Parliament and Charles I just before Civil War engulfed the country. It was decided that all men over the age of 18 in England and Wales should swear an oath of allegiance to the Protestant religion, Parliament, and the King. Around one-third of the records for England survive.” A companion map allows users to search for these records by location.

US – Arkansas, Kansas, New York – Newspapers 

Among new digitized newspaper collections at Newspapers.com are the following titles: The Frankfort Bee (Kansas, 1876-1898), The Southern Standard (Arkadelphia, Arkansas, 1878-1905), Arkansas Times and Advocate (Little Rock, 1837-1838), Cortland Register (Kansas, 1889-1924), The Frankfort Sentinel (Kansas, 1886-1892), The Marshall County Index (Frankfort, Kansas, 1905-1906), Epworth Advocate (Frankfort, Kansas, 1895-1896), Springville Journal (New York, 1867-1985) and The Ness County Pioneer (Sidney, Kansas, 1879-1880).

Are you listening to the free Genealogy Gems Podcast? This year Lisa Louise Cooke celebrates 10 years on the air. The show has more than 2.5 million downloads worldwide. Listen to hear for yourself her winning combination of technology tools, genealogy research strategies, inspiring stories–and tons of tips you can apply right away to your family history!

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

Discover Your Scandinavian Ancestors in New and Updated Genealogy Records Online

Look for your Scandinavian ancestors in new and updated online Swedish marriage records, as well as population registers and vital records indexes for the Netherlands. Also: English parish registers, an Israeli collection for the Six Day War, and several U.S. collections: biographies, WWII draft registrations, Indian wills, Arkansas, Florida and Georgia.

Netherlands – Population Registers, BMD

In May, MyHeritage published major new collections for the Netherlands. Among them are indexes to civil births, marriages and deaths, as well as church baptisms, marriages and burials. You’ll also find their new Netherlands, Population Registers, 1810-1936 index, with more than 16 million records from population registers across the Netherlands. “Records typically list name, birth date, birthplace, residence date, and residence place. Sometimes an individual’s age, occupation, and names of their parents or spouse is also included.”

TIP: Use the source information given to go to browse-only collections of register images at FamilySearch (free) or Ancestry.com (subscribers or library users).

Sweden – Marriage records

Over 6.5 million records are in the new Ancestry.com collection, Sweden, Indexed Marriage Records, 1860-1943. According to the collection description, “records in this database were created by Statistics Sweden (SCB), a government agency established in 1858 that extracted and transcribed birth, marriage, and death information from Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sweden parish record books from 1860 to 1941.” You will likely find the names (including maiden name), dates of birth, gender and number of marriage for the bride and groom, along with dates and place of marriage. Later records may add more details: occupation, residence, nationality, religion and previous marital status. TIP: See the collection description for an explanation of Swedish naming traditions.

FYI–Ancestry.com’s Sweden, Indexed Death Records, 1840-1942 has also been recently updated (it’s now got 12.5 million records).

England – Parish Registers

Findmypast.com has recently posted the following new and updated parish records:

Israel – Military

The Israel State Archives has released a digital archive from the Six Day War. According to an article at Arutz Sheva, the collection numbers over 150,000 pages and includes “minutes of 36 meetings of the Ministerial Committee on National Security from January-July 1967, Cabinet protocols and documents pertaining to the war from various ministries (Prime Minister’s Office, Foreign Ministry, Interior Ministry, Religious Affairs Ministry, Tourism Ministry, Justice Ministry, Housing Ministry and others), as well as sound and video files, still photographs and materials from the personal archives of Levy Eshkol, Yaakov Herzog, Aviad Yafe, Moshe Sasson and Rabbi Shlomo Goren.” Click here for the Six Day War Collection on the Israel State Archives website.

United States – Miscellaneous

  • Biographies of Famous People: You’ve likely seen late 19th-century U.S. county histories with biographical sketches of prominent residents (perhaps you’ve even found your family among them). A national version of these “mug books” has been published and indexed on Ancestry.com. Appletons’ Cyclopedia of American Biography, 1600-1889 includes over 15,000 entries from annual volumes 1887-1889, with entries from most states. “Much of the information found within was compiled by either the subjects themselves or by their families,” warns the collection description. “Not all of the biographies found within the Cyclopedia may be accurate….Since contributors to the project were paid by space, there is speculation that the authors of the false pieces may have been financially motivated to add fabricated entries.” As always, use what you find to inform and guide your research: verify everything you can.
  • Red Cross: Nearly 20,000 newly scanned photographs from the American National Red Cross collection are now online at the Library of Congress website.
  • WWII draft registrations: Fold3 has added 21 new states or regions to its collection of WWII Draft Registration Cards. Draft registration cards are an excellent resource for determining where your family lived after the 1940 census; employer information, which can lead to business records or help you identify a relative in a city directory; and more.
  • Indian wills: Ancestry.com has a new collection of U.S., Indian Wills, 1910-1921. According to the collection description, for a time, “the Probate Divisions of the Bureau of Indian Affairs were responsible for determining the heirs of deceased Indian trust allottees. Ultimately, Native Americans submitted more than 2,500 pages of wills and probate records to the Bureau. These records span the period 1910 to 1921 and, with a few exceptions, pertain to Indian families living in the Plains and several western states. Researchers will find members of the following tribes represented in this collection: Chippewa, Sioux, Apache, Shawnee, Quapaw, Assinboin, Leach Lake Chippewa, Confederated Flathead, Ponca, Cheyenne, Crow, Sac & Fox, Nez Perce, Southern Ute, Omaha, Osage, and more.”
  • Arkansas: The Arkansas State Archive Newspaper Digitization Project has now digitized and indexed over 200,000 pages that will appear on Newspapers.com in June. Click here to learn more about this project.
  • Florida: Flagler College (St. Augustine, Florida) has digitized its archive of yearbooks and photos, articles, college catalogs, and more. Now available to the public online
  • Georgia: Now on the Georgia Archives is a digital version of its Bible Records Microfilm Index. These are images of the “card catalog (compiled by Georgia Archives staff) of the Archives’ holdings of Bible records on microfilm. The cards have been scanned and saved in PDF format.”

Got Swedish roots?

Then you’ll likely enjoy our current Genealogy Gems Book Club featured title, The Whole Town’s Talking by internationally-bestselling author Fannie Flagg. It’s the story of two Swedish-American immigrants to the U.S., who find each other and marry after the man places an ad in a newspaper. Their dairy farm becomes the core of Swede Town, which grows into a classic Midwestern town. This novel is the multi-generational story of that town. Click here to learn more about The Whole Town’s Talking and The Genealogy Gems Book Club.

Gretna Green and Marriage Records

Gretna Green is a term you need to know if you are searching for marriage records. In this video professional genealogist J. Mark Lowe joins me to discuss Gretna Green: what it means, why it matters, and how Gretna Greens may have affected your ability to find your ancestors’ marriage records.

This is part 1 of a 2 part series with Mark Lowe on marriage records. Next week, Mark will walk us through a case study for finding marriage records relating to a Gretna Green in the United States.

Show Notes

(This transcription was edited for clarity)

About Professional Genealogist J. Mark Lowe

You can contact Mark through the Kentucky – Tennessee Research Associates

Mark: I’m getting old enough now that I could forget some of that. I really started realistically started when I was about seven years old. Not doing the same kind of work, not professionally, that sort of thing. But I got interested.
Lisa:
We have so much in common. And I think one of the biggest things, of course, is genealogy. And I think most folks watching probably have seen you at some point, tell everybody how long you’ve been doing genealogy. When did all this start for you?

I lost my paternal grandmother. And so, with her loss, there were questions that I needed answers to. And I would ask my dad, and he knew lots of stuff. But he didn’t know everything I wanted to know, including, where everybody was married or that sort of thing. And I had an interest in that. He took me to an aunt, I had a couple of aunts who were in the DAR and there were interested a little bit, and he took me to visit one of those who took me to the county court clerk’s office up in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Mr. Oval Motley was the clerk at that point. He was willing to work with a seven-year-old. He took me into the bowels of the courthouse and let me unfold marriage records and he made me explain to him, and he would ask “now do you understand this?” He and I transcribed – remember those great big pencils that we used in first and second grade, those great big ones the size of your thumb? – he had me transcribe whatever I was looking at, and then I would tell him what it meant. Or if I didn’t know, he would explain it to me. Now, I still had a seven-year-old mind, and I was loving it! I was learning it. And he said to me, “Do you see where the story goes?” And he said, “the story of your family and every other family who passed through this area are in these records.” And he said, “so if you learn how to listen to that story, you can hear what happened to them then.” I was hooked!

Lisa: I can imagine. What a great experience! How wonderful that he spoke to a seven-year-old like that and didn’t underestimate your interest or your capability.

You’ve got me beat by a year because I think I was eight years old when I first became interested in family history. I always tell people I was the only kid in grade school using her allowance to buy death certificates! But my grandmother hadn’t passed. But like the gentleman that you met at the courthouse when I asked her during a visit over the summer vacation, “Who are these people in your in your scrapbooks? I don’t recognize them. Why do you have strangers? You’re my grandma!” and she said, “that’s my family!” She stopped everything and sat down with me and answered questions and wrote things down. It’s that love and attention of an adult who’s willing to talk to you about it, right? I mean, what a difference that makes our kid!

Mark: It really doesn’t. In fact, my grandmother, when she was living, was someone who would give you attention. I would make up homework because I was not yet in school when she would come and stay with us. She would help my older brothers and sisters with homework. And so, I would say “you know, Mama Lowe I have homework too!” And she would do what you say and we would go through something, whatever I made up to go through, and I think that was why there was such a loss in part of that. And so, I think doing the research often about her family, those folks that I’d heard her talk about, helped me feel like she was there again. Telling me those stories.

Lisa: Yes. You get to uncover another connection, and another connection, and another connection to those beloved relatives that we knew. I still feel that way. When I find people I say to my Grandma, “I got one!” It’s exciting to know that we have that ongoing connection.

So, you called her mama Lowe?

Mark: Mama Lowe, yes. She was my dad’s mom. And my other grandmother was just Granny.

What Does Gretna Green Mean?

(06:29) Lisa: Let’s talk about marriage records. I know that you teach a lot on this subject and kind of blend it in with this concept of Gretna Green. I’ve heard of Gretna Green.  There’s a place in Scotland. But you really help explain to people how this applies even to those of us in the US, and other countries. Let’s start off with talking about Gretna Green as a real place, and as an idea.

Mark: Exactly. There really is a place called Gretna Green. And as you mentioned, it is in Scotland. And the reason that it became famous is that England’s marriage laws were more rigid. Many couples found out that they could just cross the border over into Scotland, and they could get married much quicker, much easier without the same restrictions. It became so well known as people shared it with one another then they went to this little community called Gretna Green.

The marriage registers for those are available. So, if you actually have family who went to the Gretna Green in Scotland, the records are a database that’s available, both on FamilySearch and Ancestry. You can search those.

It became famous for an anvil, like a blacksmith anvil there. Often the story would go that they would go there to say they wanted to get married. The smithy was kind of a central place in the community. (Image Source: New Britain herald. [microfilm reel], July 10, 1924, Image 10.)

Gretna Green in the newspaper

(Image Source: New Britain herald. [microfilm reel], July 10, 1924, Image 10.)

It was just a place that was close to get to, was not far away, where folks could just cross the border, go to Gretna Green. They would get married at that location, and then return home. It became kind of synonymous with the idea of going somewhere else to get married.

As we know, in the States, there’s been lots of “famous” areas where people wanted to get married, not always just because of marriage laws. Like often that would be going to Niagara Falls. A lot of folks went to Niagara Falls either on their honeymoon, or in many days earlier to get married It became a destination. And so, the Gretna Greens are not those necessarily romantic locations, but where perhaps the laws were easier. In fact, let’s look at some of those reasons.

Reasons Why People Married at a “Gretna Green”

  1. Age Requirements

(09:54) I think the biggest reason that many of our ancestors married somewhere besides where they lived was because of age requirements. That still applies today. That was the case in the first one I went to find in my family. There was a courthouse where I thought they would have gotten married. That’s where they lived. But there was no marriage record from my grandparents there. There could have been age requirements.

  1. Waiting Period

In some states, there’s a waiting period. So even though we could go get a license, it might be two, three, sometimes five days, sometimes a week, before the couple could actually get married. And for many folks, that was just too long.

  1. Medical Test Requirements

In the 20th century in particular we began to add some medical test requirements for marriage. And in many states today, there still is a blood test or various requirements, and that delays the marriage. Even today, in this county, several years ago, Tennessee required a blood test, and there was a lab that was set up just across from the courthouse where you could get your blood test done in one day. And so, we became kind of a Gretna Green for even other counties, because you could come here and

 get your blood test and get married in the same day. That wasn’t true in other places. So that’s another reason.

  1. Costs

Sometimes it’s the cost of the license, or specific restrictions to clauses. Sometimes, besides age, there would be where you would have to have the proof of good conduct. Somebody had to actually, in some states, say that they knew you and that you would stand up for a good marriage and that you were of good conduct and that sort of thing. And in some cases, that would have prevented folks from going to a particular area.

  1. Alcohol and Party Restrictions

Certainly, near state lines and that sort of thing, people would want to have a party at their wedding. Perhaps they lived in a dry county. I grew up in a dry county. If you wanted to have alcohol or a party, then you would go somewhere else to get married.

  1. Train Transportation

For many folks going away is an important situation. They might hop on the train, or certainly, the whole idea of ‘oh, we want to get married somewhere special’, they would do that. So, I mentioned Niagara Falls. One of the other big areas where people went, if it was a destination wedding was Mammoth Cave. They wanted to go down in the cave. And particularly after the Civil War, 1870s and 1880s, there were many folks who would come down to Kentucky to do that. They would have on a fancy dress, but they would cover it with some kind of coveralls so they could crawl into the cave. Then they would get married and try to take some pictures. And so that would be a reason.

Lisa: It sounds like something kind of becomes a Gretna Green when word gets out that there’s an advantage to going there versus going here. I think about all the old movies in which they would go to Reno to get a divorce. That’s kind of the opposite Gretna Green, isn’t it?

Mark: It is, but it’s the same. It’s exactly the same thing. Same concept. People would get excited and would tell the information. So yes, yes, you can go there and a get a divorce quickly – same thing. And it’s amazing how the word got out about certain squires or JPs (Justice of the Peace). If you watched Andy Griffith growing up, people would come to him as the JP and get married.

Researchers like you and I, we’ve looked at these records, and we think “Wait, the record would have to be created in that place. And in some areas, it was he ease at which a JP could create a license where you didn’t have to go to the county seat. You could get married in that area with that JP. You could do everything right there. That certainly would have sped up the situation of having to go to a big city and wait in the long line and wait to be seen and go through the information. That’s certainly the reasons that they existed. and still exist today. They still do exist.

Lisa: Well, I imagine if a town or a city wanted to encourage people to come and kind of bring their filing fees with them, they would create a scenario where it’s really easy and they get that word out.

Mark: Sounds like a tourism opportunity! Yeah, come and get married here! We’ll make it work.

By the way, if you go look for that, you’re going to find that that exists, certainly. There are wedding chapels around the corner in certain cities just waiting for the opportunity.

Understanding Context: Marriage Statistics

(15:07) My grandparents would have gotten married right after World War I.  I could see that they were married. But depending on the time period and where you are, if you’re in the States, there are records of agencies, around the world in virtually every country. For example, a book of marriage statistics. There’s one compiled by the Bureau of the Census. We’re used to looking at their populations counts and that sort of thing. But they also put out a marriage and divorce report, probably starting in the 1860s and continuing through today, actually. They are available on Google Books.

I’ve used the marriage statistics report. They don’t always have the marriage statistics report in every annual report. They’re also available on Hathitrust. This is the 1922 Report: Marriage and Divorce, Bureau of Census.

In it you can see counties where the marriage rate is higher than the state marriage rate. So, for example, if you were looking at West Virginia, Brooke County has a marriage rate higher than every other county in West Virginia. The next thing to do is pull a map up of that time period. If you look at Brook County, West Virginia it has that little lip that fits up between Ohio, and Pennsylvania. So, Brooke county is in West Virginia, and lays right between Ohio to its west, and Pennsylvania to the east. Ohio’s laws in Pennsylvania laws were more stringent than West Virginia’s law. So, Brooke County, was a popular destination. Number one, it’s close. And so many couples from Pennsylvania and Ohio, and sometimes folks who married somebody from Ohio, would meet in West Virginia, and have the marriage.

This statistical data kind of helps you predict an idea. If you have somebody and you can’t find their marriage record, you could start looking at the law in that time period and see which counties had a higher rate nearby.

I think that the next step is to take that one step further. Besides the statistics, try to figure out what was the cause. Hathitrust has lot of years listed of the Bureau of the Census Special Reports Marriage and Divorce. You can actually look based on the time period that you’re looking for.

If you’re interested in the laws for other countries, they’re often included in some of this book of the US Census, because it’s showing us what’s the comparable laws in France or Germany or Spain. They’re in the same book. So, you don’t have to go look necessarily outside. Sometimes you can actually use the same tools for that. So let me give an example.

In the 1909 edition I pulled up the requirements for Kentucky and Tennessee. When I’m looking at my grandparents who were living in Kentucky, I wonder why would they possibly go somewhere else to get married? This is the age before a parental consent is required. In Kentucky, you had to be 21. In Tennessee at that point, you only had to be 16. That’s five years, a significant difference right there, don’t you think? You can imagine that there would have been a lot of people who thought, wait a minute, we’re eighteen, and we want to get married. We’ve got to have parental consent? If that were the case, if  your parents were all for that situation, then you could still do that. But if there was some question, then in Tennessee that wasn’t required at 16. In fact, before 1899 it mentions that that was put into place, that you had to be 16. Before that there wasn’t a specific written consent age. So that could have been the situation.

Those of us who research in Kentucky, for example, we understand the process that people who lived in the northern part of Kentucky crossed over to Indiana, because there was the lower age there. And the folks on the southern border, which is Tennessee, they crossed over into the northern Tennessee counties and got married, because it would have been easier.

With that in mind, you want to look at the laws that are in place. One of my favorite places to do that to quickly looking up the laws and statutes for the various states is one of the great summaries. Cornell law school has Marriage Laws of the Fifty States.

They’ve got it by state, and it helps you see the changes over time. It will tell you what the current marriage law is, but it will also help you see the changes in the past decades. I think that’s helpful for us to know. What was the law in place when your great aunt and uncle got married, and you’re trying to find where they were married? So that’s a great tool.

Lisa: Absolutely.

You specialize in your professional research, but many people who do it as a hobby don’t necessarily specialize. The advantage in specializing as a professional genealogist is that you really get to know all that context of an area. But that’s a strategy that all of us can use. We don’t have to be doing client work to take the time to get these kinds of resources. This is brilliant.

Mark: Yeah, because that is the question sometimes. I think that’s the one area that we can help sometimes is that people will say, “where do you where do you find that?” Well, it’s because you’ve already found it before. I think it’s when we share “hey, wait, this is a resource I would use” wherever I was. And I think I shared kind of three places there that would help you quickly, without getting into anything complicated.

And by the way, it would mention in the Census Bureau summary of laws, it would mention, if it required blood tests at a certain time period, what the tests were, it would indicate if there were special bonds. So, in regard to all those other reasons that folks might have gone to another location, those are in some of these summaries. So it’s not just an age thing. It’s got lots of other reasons. So again, it helps to know where to look, absolutely.

More Reasons to Go Looking for a Gretna Green Marriage

(23:45) In the case of my grandparents, I couldn’t ask her at that point, you know “where did y’all get married?” But sometimes there are clues that will cause you to look for a Gretna Green marriage.

I did look in the newspaper, but it just indicated their marriage. It did not indicate where they went to get married. I did find that in some other folks that I’ve looked for. In the newspaper account, it indicated that they went to a certain place or perhaps it was solemnized with the justice of the peace. Maybe the name was included. So, I would always do those newspaper searches.

Another reason to look for a Gretna Green marriage is rumors. They are often the best possibility. Somebody might say, “I think they ran off to so-and-so”. Occasionally that does pan out that people went pretty far to get married.

I always want to make sure that I’m looking in the right county. I love using the tool called the Atlas of Historical County Boundaries at the Newberry Library in Chicago. If I had grandparents who married in 1860 in a certain county, I want to know what the county boundary was at that time because maybe the current county didn’t exist yet. Maybe they were living in a different county at that time, and that’s where the marriage is. So, it’s always wise to make sure we’re looking at the same information and consistent across time.

atlas of historical county boundaries

The atlas of historical county boundaries

Learn more about the Atlas of Historical County Boundaries in these two articles:

Lisa: I know that a lot of beginners in genealogy don’t always realize that you don’t always go to the current county seat for genealogy records. That what you were just showing there with that Atlas of Historical County Boundaries interactive map was the ability to be able to pick a point in time and see where the boundaries were at that time, because that’s where you would then search today. And it’s one of those things that until somebody tells you, you don’t really know when you’re new in genealogy. That’s a great tool.

Case Study: Finding Records for a Gretna Green Marriage

This is part 1 of a 2-part series with Mark Lowe on marriage records. Next time, Mark will walk us through a case study for finding marriage records relating to a Gretna Green in the United States.

Resources

Downloadable ad-free Show Notes handout for Premium Members. (Learn more and join Premium Membership here.)

 

West Virginia Genealogy Research and Working with Changing County Boundaries

As many American’s know, the state of West Virginia was formed in 1863 from the state of Virginia during the Civil War. Those researching their West Virginia roots prior to that year, may wonder which counties to search and what records are available. We have some tips to make your West Virginia research a little easier!

West Virginia genealogy research

The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, Boston Public Library collection, Wikipedia Commons.

County level research is important when trying to find the vital records of our ancestors. Birth, marriage, and death records typically are found on the county level. This means you will need to obtain a copy of these types of certificates from the local courthouse or other county repository, such as a county archives.

But what happens when the state or county wasn’t around when your ancestor lived there? Such is the case with this Genealogy Gems reader. Here is her question regarding West Virginia research:

I have a 3rd great-grandfather I am trying to find with his parents who may have been born in Greenbrier County, West Virginia. He was born in 1814. My question is that Greenbrier County was in Virginia at the time of his birth. Now it is in West Virginia which was made a state in the 1860s, so where do I look for his records? Finding his parents has been a brick wall! What would you suggest?

Birth Records in the 1800s

The first thing we want to address is the hope that this reader will find a birth record for 1814. Early birth records of this time-frame were typically kept by the churches in the form of christening or baptismal records. Civil registrations of births, which were created by the local or federal government, were not kept regularly for American states until much later. The earliest cities and states to require civil registration can be seen here, but a few examples include: New York in 1880, Virginia in 1853,and Florida in 1865. [1]

Because birth records can not always be located in church or civil registration for this early time period, we suggest using alternate records as your supporting evidence. Substitute birth records might be, but are not limited to: school records, censuses, pension records, marriage records, and biographical sketches. (Click these links to learn more about each type of record.)

West Virginia Genealogy Research: County Level

Next, let’s discuss the uniqueness of researching in West Virginia. West Virginia was created in 1863 out of the state of Virginia. Many of the counties that were once in Virginia, kept the same name and retained their records when they became part of West Virginia.

There is a wonderful resource in the book titled “Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources” which was edited by Alice Eichholz. This book has a chart for each U.S. state listing the year each county was formed and from what parent county. To find the chart, flip through to the West Virginia section. Each county is listed in alphabetical order. In this case, we would locate “Greenbrier” and take note that according to the chart, Greenbrier County, West Virginia was formed in 1778 by portions of both Montgomery and Botetourt County, Virginia. A chart like this is helpful for any genealogist in determining which counties should be researched.

Greenbrier County, West Virginia: A Timeline of Changing County Boundaries

I took the liberty of looking further into Greenbrier County, West Virginia by examining more closely the changing county boundaries of this county over time. I did this by using the chart I mentioned above found in the Red Book. First, I found Greenbrier county and it’s parent county, then, I searched the list for further instances when parts of Greenbrier county were used to form newer counties. You see, we want to see the changes of this county’s boundaries so that we know what possible places to look for records. Let me show you what I found. We are going to need a time line for this!

  • 1778: Greenbrier county was originally formed in 1778 from two parent Virginia counties: Montgomery and Botetourt.
  • 1788: part of Greenbrier County, Virginia became Kanawha County
  • 1799: Greenbrier shrunk further when a portion of its boundaries became Monroe County, Virginia
  • 1818: Nicholas County, Virginia formed from Greenbrier
  • 1831: part of Greenbrier created the new county of Fayette, Virginia
  • 1863: Greenbrier county, Virginia became part of the State of West Virginia
  • 1871: Summers County, West Virginia was created by a small portion of Greenbrier

As you can see, our Genealogy Gems reader may need to visit and research several county repositories both within the state of Virginia and West Virginia.

Greenbrier county is rather unique, as it had boundary changes quite regularly. It may be difficult to visit each of these county courthouses, spanning many miles apart, in hopes of finding targeted records for their ancestor. For this reason, our reader may wish to begin at the West Virginia State Archives. At most state archive repositories, records for all the counties can be easily looked at via microfilm. This may save valuable travel time. (Note: Before visiting any state archives facility, call ahead to verify what information and records they have, so that you do not have a wasted trip.)

There is also a free guide at Family Tree Magazine for West Virginia genealogy research that we highly recommend.

More on Advanced Research Strategies

Creating a FAN club tipsChanging county boundaries is just one area that must be mastered to ensure accurate genealogy research. Here are 3 more articles that will help you beef up your genealogy research skills:

The Genealogy FAN Club Principle Overcomes Genealogy Brick Walls

Missing Census or Missing Family: Legacy Tree Genealogists Answer

Resolving Three Common Conflicting Evidence Problems in Genealogy

ARTICLE REFERENCES

[1] Johni Cerny, “Births and Deaths in Public Records,” originally written in “The Source: A Genealogist’s Guidebook to American Genealogy,” online article, Ancestry Wiki, accessed 20 Feb 2017.

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