Saturday, January 25, 2014

Gretna Green, American Style

Where's that marriage record?

You've searched everywhere you can think of and you can't find the marriage record for those family members. Based on the time and place where they lived, you know there must have been a license. But you're stuck! Today I'm going to suggest six places to look for a marriage record, including the nearest Gretna Green.

Don't head for your favorite map site just yet. If I told you that I live in Timbuktu, you wouldn't look at a map, but rather you would understand that I live away from the action.

Gretna Green is a place name that is used to express the concept of a place to elope or have a quickie wedding. Use your favorite search engine to read about the origin of the term -- it's really quite a fascinating look at marriage customs in Scotland and England.

When you're looking for an elusive marriage record, you need to understand the customs and laws of the time and place. Those laws may cause a couple to marry somewhere unexpected.

Six Places to Look

When searching for a marriage record, remember to also search jurisdictions surrounding each of these places:
  1. The bride's place of residence.
  2. The bride's parents place of residence.
  3. The groom's place of residence.
  4. The groom's parents place of residence.
  5. The nearest Gretna Green. Also, Nevada in recent history.
  6. Destination wedding spots. This is a new and difficult category.

Here are a few examples from my own family:
  • For Eastern Arizona and Southern Colorado, look in New Mexico
  • For Southern Michigan and Eastern Illinois, including Chicago, look in Indiana
  • For Washington, D.C., look in Maryland, Virginia counties and also Virginia independent cities
Figuring out where the nearest Gretna Green may have been is the hardest part of going to step five. Consider asking the local historical society or genealogical society whether there was a popular Gretna Green used by people in the area.

Having thought for a while about this post, I realized that I need to take my own advice.

I have an ancestral couple who married in the early 1800s and I can't find any record. He was born in Delaware, she was born in Maryland and the only known child was also born in Maryland. I assume the marriage took place on the Delmarva Peninsula.

Where have I forgotten to look? If you said Virginia, you are correct!

1 comment:

  1. So you need to go search in Virginia and best of luck to you finding them.