Tip 02: Maps and Marriages
If you are researching in Connecticut or Massachusetts or Rhode Island, you will no doubt complain that the early records in the 1600s and 1700s are spotty. However, those of us in burned counties elsewhere frankly have little or no sympathy. Then there are the places like South Carolina which did not keep marriage records until about 1917.
To find marriages, you have to look at death certificates. These start in 1917 also. Or there are places like Mississippi which has marriages, but there is not even an index online to most of them. If you are living next door to the Mississippi Archives, that is fine. But the rest of us are floundering. Much of the transcription and indexing of marriage records in the US has been done by the LDS Church Volunteers or DAR Volunteers. If they are not in that area, nothing got done. . So sometimes we have to be creative. This is where maps can help. Below is corner of the 1862 landowners map of Madison County, Ohio, next to the Franklin County, Ohio line. There are Lilly families, Durflinger families, Cullumber families, and (hint) on the right hand side of this map in Franklin County, you would see the Clover family.
Now think about how boys and girls met in 1862. They did not drive all over the place to meet people like we do now. They met people at church, and they met neighbors and visiting cousins of neighbors. Within this group of people there were 12 marriages. I have never had to sort out the DNA of this group, thank heavens, but I have seen areas like this. You wonder why the people from Franklin County married people from Madison County? Well, on the west side of Franklin County, there is something called Darby Creek. It isolates part of the west side of the county from the rest of it. A boy could ride a horse or walk down the road across the county line. He had to get a boat to go east. So guess where they found their wives.
Examining local geography carefully can help you sort out a family. https://www.loc.gov/resource/g4083m.la000650/?r=0.88,0.522,0.062,0.024,0
When I originally looked at this, I had kind of a Eureka moment. I finally understood how all these marriages came about. Thomas Cullumber is my ancestor. He married the sister of Wesley Lilly and his children married into the Clover family just across the county line in Franklin County. When you see the map, it just seems so logical.
Sad to say, not every state or locality has good maps from the 1800s, but many do. They range from street maps of Philadelphia in 1802 to 1899 land ownership maps from Ohio to Plantation maps in LA. Some are in state archives, but the primary source is the Library of Congress. Most of theirs are available on line at this site. To maneuver, start by making sure everything is sorted alphabetically. Then narrow down the locality. Click on where it says enlarge, and use your mouse button to scroll in and out. https://www.loc.gov/maps/?fa=subject%3Alandowners&dates=1800-1899&st=grid . If you don’t know who the guy married, look at his neighbors. Become an expert in all the families in the area. Maybe a brother or sister left a death certificate that lists a mother. If you find nothing, look in everyone’s obituary. And if you still have nothing, examine the neighbor’s family. Be sure to check probate records if they owned land. A lot of probate records and court records are online at FamilySearch.org Note that some of the censuses mention owning land. There are tax records also. In the 1850 census, there is a column for the value of Real Estate property. In 1940, the census says whether they owned or
rented. If you can’t find where his children are, look in his estate records. Most of the time the Mary Smith you lost will be listed as being Maria Whatsis living in California. Try to follow the children who moved to TX or IL or CA or OH. They have the most available records.
Remember that the government actually cares about who owns land because they want to tax it. So if your ancestor owned land, you can usually find the heirs. And if you look at the estate records of the neighbor, maybe you will find mention of his daughters who married all around his farm.
The same kind of thing works in cities. Look at the city maps and locate the closest church to where your family lived. People did not drive across town to a church, they went to the closest church to them. And if your family left church records, that is where they will be. You may find that your German ancestor went to a Dutch Reformed Church in the 1800s. The reason is that there was a shortage of ministers.
So everyone went to church and if there was no German Reformed Church around you went to Presbyterian, or whatever was actually there. So, if you are looking for church records, do not assume that they went to a specific church. Also, there were ministers who were called circuit riders. They rode all over the area doing services and marrying people. One of my ancestors was a minister who married a couple living in Southern Missouri in 1817. He turned in the paper in St. Louis two years later. That is what happened with circuit riders.
The point of all this is that if you can’t immediately find the record, draw a circle around the locality and look at every record within that circle. Then expand the circle.