Genealogy question!
November 22, 2012 2:16 PM   Subscribe

Genealogy question! What does the bolded mean in this record of marriage taken from a 1911 genealogy: Margaret Harris, b. Dec. 12, 1810; m. (1st) Abraham Mitchell. (Barrow, Ind.)

I changed the names and dates for privacy but if anyone wants to see the original, mefimail me.

I'm pretty sure it means first marriage but I want to double check.

posted by the young rope-rider to Grab Bag (7 answers total)
Yes, I would have said it means first marriage, particularly if it's followed by another husband's name. You see this kind of notation in noble/royal genealogies sometimes.
posted by jb at 2:34 PM on November 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

Yes, it will mean first marriage. I've seen this done even in everyday genealogies.

Be careful though, and make sure that the person really did have a second marriage. Sometimes bad genealogists rack up marriages for a forebear because they get several people confused as one.
posted by Jehan at 2:51 PM on November 22, 2012

Jehan, excellent point.

I suspect that she died sooner than the genealogy thinks, and that her "second marriage" is wrong, because there are a gap in Abraham Mitchell's children and he is listed as being married to someone named "Cynthia" in multiple original census records (and they are both listed as living with all of the Mitchell children, so I know it's the same Abraham Mitchell).

Or they divorced while they had small children and both remarried, but I think that is less likely than an early death.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:16 PM on November 22, 2012

And some amateur genealogists mark a person's only marriage as 1st, which is confusing since it can lead down a rabbit hole of trying to find the second marriage that never existed. It's one of those things that may be technically accurate to the new participant, but is not a widespread convention.
posted by catlet at 3:34 PM on November 22, 2012

Well, her alleged second marriage (without issue) is definitely listed in this 1911 genealogy, but her husband's second marriage (with issue) is not listed and the children of that marriage (who would have been the half-siblings of her children, but no relation to her) are listed as her children.

The census records, which I'm using to check the 1911 genealogy, suggest to me that she became ill or incapacitated at some point, and as a result her youngest children were taken elsewhere to live. Then when she died (or left, which is less likely), her husband remarried and brought the youngest children back into the house (and had more children with his second wife).

Does that sound plausible to people? This would have all been happening in the 1850s.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:41 PM on November 22, 2012

It sounds plausible to me, yes. But you really need to prove the 1911 genealogy wrong. Whatever they based their thoughts on, yours need to be based on something stronger.
posted by Jehan at 3:57 PM on November 22, 2012

Puzzling! Some possible questions:

-Court records for that county that might show a divorce?
-Do you have a name for the purported second husband and if you do does he show up in the Census?
-Have you checked cemetery records for the area?
-Do you know who her parents were and where they lived? She might have gone home to live with them if she was very sick. Or with a sister.
-It's also possible that there was never a divorce and he just took up with "Cynthia" and called her his wife.
-Have you tried contacting the local historical society? They may not yet have digitized all their resources. They usually have cemetery records, obituaries, and all sorts of other stuff. Be sure to give them all the names you know, including the children. One of them might have written about their mother.

Divorce was pretty rare back then, and husbands often did get the kids. So, if she left her husband she might not have been able to take the kids.

I just looked at a few pages of Framing American Divorce: From the Revolutionary Generation to the Victorians, By Norma Basch, on google books, and it suggests that Indiana had more liberal divorce laws then than other states.
posted by mareli at 5:15 PM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

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