Sunday, February 6, 2011

More on the Vault

We’re looking through Georgia’s Virtual Vault, from the Georgia Archives and the Georgia Secretary of State’s, for more documents to use in genealogy research.  Last time I began covering marriage licenses.  All images in this post are screen shots of web pages from the Virtual Vault website and are intended for educational purposes only.  The copyright is held by the Georgia Secretary of State's office.

I know I called them marriage certificates a couple of times.  I tend to use license, certificate and record interchangeably, but there is probably an exact distinction.  It may be that they are more properly called “marriage records”, as the Virtual Vault’s section name Marriage Records from Microfilm does.   So I’m not really trying to confuse you.  In any case you shouldn’t expect to see a copy of the nice pretty marriage license that people get to frame on the wall.  These are the official records of the clerk of the Court of Ordinary charged with maintaining these records.  In early days they were often a line or two saying who the license was issued to and on what date.  Eventually they added a return that transcribed the license issued to the newlyweds and signed by the minister, judge or justice of the peace who performed the ceremony, indicating when the marriage was performed, and later the date the whole thing was recorded.

Here are a couple of examples.  

Go to the section page for marriages, Marriage Records from Microfilm, at  I know from the marriage index in (Georgia Marriages to 1850 – paid subscription required) that John Hendrix married Jemima Brewton got married on 12 Sep 1817 in Bulloch County, Georgia.  They were my 4g grandparents (that’s great-great-great-great-grandfather and great-great-great-great-grandmother).  I want to find the record of their marriage to support the date listed in the index.  So on this section page I scroll down to the bottom and under the heading Search the Marriage Records from Microfilm, below “County”, I select “Bulloch” from the drop down list, then click on the “Search” button.  This brings up the list of marriage books available for Bulloch County.

The top entry is Bulloch County Marriage Book, 1812-1856, so I click on that, either the picture or the words will take me there.  First, notice the link at the top that says “Reference url”.  If you click on that you open a small window with the url that leads to this page.  You can copy and paste that url into your citation when you reference this source.  Additional information for your source can be found by clicking on the “Go” button next to “View: document description”.  The other choice for the “View” drop down is “page description”, but I don’t find that as useful.

Now click on “Page 1” in the navigation pane on the left.  This is the first frame of the microfilm.  Note that the date range recorded on this frame may not agree exactly with the date range in the title as posted on the website.  “Page 2” is the microfilm’s info frame, stating where and when it was filmed, by whom, and the exposure used.  “Page 3” is the “BEGIN” frame and “Page 4” shows the covers of the book.  Most of the books follow this pattern.  If there is an index, the next few pages would be the index pages.  This marriage book has no index of marriages, so the “Page 5” is the page 1 of the actual book.  It’s important to remember what “Page” in the navigation pane corresponds to page 1 of the book if you are trying to look up a reference from an index that says a certain marriage record is on page 37 for
example.  Also, for most books and most “navigation pane pages”, there are two book
pages per frame.  If you can do the math in your head it helps to get to the right image quicker, otherwise, you can digitally “thumb through” a few images to get to the page you want.  
For John and Jemima’s marriage record I’m not so lucky.  Fortunately, I do have a date, though.  A little trial and error and I find the record on page 17 (navigation pane Page 13).  Now I can transcribe the text, or better yet I can right-click the image and “Save As” an jpg file to my computer.  Then I can use image software to crop or enhance the image.  The website will generally resize the image so the whole frame fits on one page.  

If I want a larger image to save, so that it’s easier to read, I click on the magnifying glass with the plus sign in it.  The viewing part of the web page will not hold the whole image, so I can use the arrows to maneuver around to the part of the page I want.  Usually I have to save several images and then use my image software to stitch those images together into a single picture.  So now I know that the marriage license was issued to John Hendrix and Jemima Brewton on 5 Sep 1817 in Bulloch County and they were married on 12 Sep 1817 in Tattnall County by William Johnson, J.P.

I’ve run on so long, I’ll go through a second example next time. Here’s your summary:
  • Georgia’s Virtual Vault is a digital document resource from the Georgia Archives and the Georgia Secretary of State’s office.  In it you can find a number of documents that qualify as primary sources of information.
  • To shorten your search try to find a published index of marriages for the county in which your ancestor was married, or a statewide index if you are unsure.  Some  example I’ve used are 37,000 Early Georgia Marriages by Joseph Maddox and Mary Carter; county-specific books compiled by Alvaretta Kenan Register, Frances T. Ingmire and Jeannette Holland Austin.  There are also marriage indexes built into the Search and Hints functions of (paid subscription required), and many lists produced on Rootsweb, forums, GaGenWeb.

Later y’all, 


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