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 gave one example of a marriage license found in an early marriage book that had no index. I promised an example from a later marriage book that has an index. I’m not talking here about the online database indexes where you can type in search terms and find a person. This is a hand-written index written in the front of each book by each clerk as they entered the license in the court record. One of the nice things about this type of indexed book is that even if you can’t find an online database index of a marriage, if you can narrow down the approximate time and county of marriage you can often find a record of the marriage in the index without having to search through each page of each book.
Dropping down a couple of generations from last time, my 2g grandparents were Jacob Jones and Nancy Rosanna Barnes. Based on census records I can make an educated guess that they were married about 1891, plus or minus one year. The Georgia marriage indexes in Ancestry.com won’t help me here because none of them cover Bulloch County for that timeframe. So I have to search the books for the marriage record. Fortunately, marriage books by the late 19th century for the most part all have content indexes by the groom’s last name.
As before I start in the section of the Virtual Vault called Marriage Records from Microfilm. At the bottom of the page, in the search section, I select “Bulloch” from the drop down list, then click on the “Search” button to bring up the list of Bulloch County marriage books. There are three possible books that might have the marriage record I want, so I start with the first one, Bulloch County Marriage Book, 1875-1892. I click on it to start my search. Here, unlike the previous book, I have and entry in the navigation pane for “Index”. If I click on the plus sign to expand it, I can see all the index pages listed out. I click on the “J”.
The “J” index page in this case is fairly brief. Sometimes a letter will span two or more pages. Scanning quickly down the page I spot the next to the last line: “Jones Jacob & Mifs Rosie Barnes 498.” Remember that often in earlier times they used a different form for the letter “s”, so that would be read as “Miss Rosie Barnes.” And the record should be on page 498. Now I go back to the left-hand navigation pane, click on the minus sign next to the work “Index” and click on the plus sign next to the word “Contents”. As I scroll down the list I can see that it is quite long, so there is probably one navigation page per book page, making my search even easier. Scrolling all the way down to 498 I click on it.
And voila! I have their marriage license. As with so many images on the internet I can now right-click on the image and save it to my hard drive. If I want a larger image I can increase the magnification and stitch together the parts as I discussed last time. Note that they have switched to a printed form for the marriage licenses. The license was issued on 22 August 1891 and the marriage was performed by J.B. Lee S.P & J.P. on 26 August 1891. Notice however that the license wasn’t recorded (entered into the book) until 8 June 1892. This can be critical to notice throughout the marriage books no matter what century or county, whenever a separate license was issued and the recording wasn’t done until the return was made to the clerk’s office. If a clerk failed to keep the licenses in order, or if a license wasn’t returned right away, the license could be considerably out of chronological order compared to the rest of the licenses. I have read that it wasn’t unheard of for a whole group of licenses to be returned at once when the youngest child got married. So particularly when there isn’t a groom index in front of the book don’t give up because you don’t see a marriage license where you expected to. It could just be a little out of sequence.
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 examples I’ve used are 37,000 Early Georgia Marriagesby 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 Ancestry.com (paid subscription required), and many lists produced on Rootsweb, Ancestry.com forums, GaGenWeb.
Google, Google Books and WorldCatcan all help you find printed resources; some of these may be available in digital form for free and others will be found at your local public or university library.