Good news is meant to be shared.
Marriages are generally considered to be good news. Marriage records are a holy grail of genealogical research because they give up the maiden name (usually) of the bride, and possibly the parents on both sides. They open up lines, provide the links necessary to connect descent and add families that can be searched for clues. When a courthouse burns (or is flooded) and those records vanish, there is a void. Newspaper articles can shine a light in that void, listing the marriage applications on a daily or weekly basis, or printing a small article about the application, engagement or wedding. But those newspapers may not still exist or the marriage may have taken place prior to advent of a newspaper in that community.
A Huge Help with “Burned Counties”
Today a friend posted on Facebook that her daughter was engaged. Sometime in the last two weeks, she also posted that her son was engaged. I “liked” the news both times and posted something to that effect. That’s a lot of joy in one home in one month. I am thrilled that these four young adults have found partners with whom they want to spend the rest of their lives. I know one of them to recognize her on the street and I know her parents. While I won’t be invited to the weddings, I am certain I am one of any number of adults in the community, who are happy that these young people have the strength, love and fortitude to embark on a new adventure – life together.
Flashback one hundred or two hundred years, when the same was true of the neighborhood in which your ancestors’ families lived. Friends, not close friends, not close neighbors, but friends nevertheless, would know and share news. Births, engagements and weddings make people smile. Good news is to be shared, bad news rushes ahead without help. Check the manuscript files for letters from anyone in that town or county in the applicable years. There may be a throwaway line:
“Judy’s daughter Jane got engaged this week to Matt, that nice young man she’s been seeing.”
Not a surname in the sentence but completely understandable to the family or friend to whom the letter was written. Two hundred years ago, that may be the only surviving place with the first name of an elusive Judy. One hundred years ago that might be enough along with the date on the letter, the inside address identifying the town, to find this couple, Jane and Matt, in the census. When you are dealing with a burned county every clue matters.
Matt I met once at a wedding, Jane I have known peripherally for a decade, I don’t expect to dance at their wedding, they have tons of friends and relatives to do that. I will say as a friend and neighbor, I am happy they have found each other and decided to join forces for life. What a cool thing and what a joy to celebrate! I will be smiling all day just for them. You won’t find that in a manuscript file since email and facebook have nearly obliterated long newsy letters.
Check NUCMC, the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections in addition to OCLC wORLD CAT and FIRSTSearch for the possible collections and their repositories. Even the smallest library or historical society has a file cabinet filed with folders, hopefully archivally sound folders, containing clippings someone filed by surname or event. When I needed information about the Knickerbocker Theatre Collapse (prior to Wikipedia) I wrote to the reference librarian of the D. C. Library for copies of the articles in their vertical file. I found out quite a bit about John Lamber Walker and his wife Agnes Henritze Walker who both died 28 January 1922 in the collapse.