Original Marriage Certificates Held Privately

 
 
 
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cknox
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Original Marriage Certificates Held Privately

I have several original marriage certificates that were handed down to me that I now have in my personal archives.  These are the marriage certificates handed to the couple at the time they are married... not obtained later from the county or state.

The question is, do I cite them as an artifact as a private holding, do I cite them as a marriage certificate using the county, state, book no. etc. (info that is on the document) as you a marriage certificate obtained by the governing body or do I layer them using both?  For all I know, I may have the only marriage certificate that exists if the county records were distroyed for some reason.

Here is my stab at one of the marriage certificates... I've removed the groom and brides names.

Clark County, Nevada, Marriage Certificate, 1942, no. 77720, GroomsLastName-BrideLastName; original family copy, Henley-Knox Family Archives, privately held by Constance Henley Knox, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Wilmington, North Carolina, 2017.

EE
EE's picture

Connie, yes, you treat these as a family artifact. A marriage certificate handed to a couple at the time they married is a different document from what we would get if we went to the courthouse or town hall or state bureau of vital statistics and imaged the marriage record there. 

"Layering," is used when we cite an original document we have viewed as an image posted online. In those cases, we have two things to cite: (1) the document we are eyeballing, which needs to be identified by all the specifics that describe the kind of document it is; and (2) the publication--i.e., website and database--that provides the image. If the imaged copy does not depict sufficient detail to identify the document fully, we should also have a third layer that reports whatever details the website gives as the source of its image.

In your example above, you begin the document as though it were an official record of Clark County. It's not. The item that you have will not appear in any official register or file in Clark County. The information given on your item may appear in a Clark County register, but it will be in a different form and may offer more or fewer details.

EE 3.25 gives the basic format for privately held artifacts. Essentially, you woulf want to drop the first eight words of your citation above. Then after the identification of bride and groom, you'd want to add the date and locale.

Incidentally, in the brackets that say "ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE," you will want to actually put your own address. If you want to make it public, that's your call.

The Editor

Stephen Mills
Stephen Mills's picture

I dont know if this is a common twist on this situation or not, but thought I'd share. I also have a number of original marriage certificates. They were not handed down through the family, though, they were given to me (both by mail and in person) by the County Clerk. I don't know if this is true in other states, but some Texas counties still maintain original certificates if the couple did not pick it up after filing. Any relative can ask for them. My certificates are from Williamson and Fannin counties but I'm aware of the practice in several other counties. I also understand these counties have stopped giving these out due to a recent lawsuit where a family member claimed a right to a certificate that was given to her cousin. The court found for the county, but I was told by the Bastrop County Clerk that they're no longer giving them out due to the risk of litigation.

Anyway, in citing these I assume I won't refer to it as an original "family" copy, and that I'll describe its provenance by citing when and how I received it.

Thanks, Stephen

EE
EE's picture

Stephen, thanks for adding another quirk. Unrecorded certificates still held by county clerks are definitely situations that researchers need to know about and know how to handle. Your solution is on target. 

(But a pox on county clerks who give away the original documents so they don't have to continue to house them! Making a photocopy for an inquirer and placing the original back in the file would make that original available for all the other "family members" who would also treasure a copy and will later place a request that can no longer be filled!)

The Editor

cknox
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Thank you.  I learn something new every day.

Connie

cknox
cknox's picture

One question, that feels rather stupid, but I'm asking it anyway.  

Regarding family archives/personal artifacts....

If I choose not to use my address in a citation, would I then put "[ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE], Wilmington, North Carolina" or is that... [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE], mearly for demostration purposes within EE and this website and should be omited?  

City and state seems enough personal information to me.

Connie

EE
EE's picture

Connie, city and state are absolutely essential.  Specific contact information is essential for us on a personal level. If the holder of a record cannot be located, saying that a record exists but we're not going to tell anyone where it is, is worthless as evidence.

EE puts "ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE" in square editorial brackets as a flag saying that researchers should put an address here in our files (i.e., full contact info) but that the addresses of living people should be for private use and released only after discretion is applied. When we make printouts from our relational database, it should allow us the option of choosing whether to print those addresses or to substitute that phrase. When others contact us asking about that record and its provenance, we can then make a judgment as to whether to share that specific address.

The Editor

cknox
cknox's picture

I agree that city and state are essential and I've always used that in my citations.

To clarify my comment... I, as the evidence holder, "privately held"... and a living person... have mixed feelings about putting my street address out to the public (in published works). Private holdings are a different matter.  But if I'm publishing a document, it's EE's recommendation to use "ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE" within the published citation, correct? 

In other words, your advice is okay to use "[ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Wilmington, North Carolina"... knowing that if someone needs to reach me, they should be able to find me with city and state information—yes?

I was trying to determine if that [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE] was just a placeholder in EE as in... fill in the blanks... or if that text is actually recommended by EE to use in citations of published works.  I know I've seen it in published works, but I was unclear if it is recommended to be used that way.

Sorry if I was unclear.  This is why it feels like a stupid question.  Maybe I'm over thinking this.

Connie

EE
EE's picture

Yes, Connie, it's a placeholder. Always, when dealing with the living, we should be thoughtful about the nature and amount of data we give out.  As a practical matter, most of our addresses are all over the Internet these days, whether we put them there or not. Some few people are still exceptions, but it's not for us to decide whether to make anyone's personal data more available; and certainly we have the right to make that decision for ourselves.

In published works, as you may have noticed from the research journals that you read, private individuals who hold nonpublic records are identified by city and state/province, but rarely by street address. No editorial disclaimer is needed or used. With an individual's permission, an address is sometimes published—typically because the individual wants contact on the subject. With authors of published materials, the email address may be given.

The Editor