Friday, January 30, 2009

The Times They Have Changed

Last week I shared that I had picked up my family’s genealogy research. I am very fortunate to have many clues of our past, since my relatives tend live long. Even in the 1800’s they tended to live into their late 60s or even into their 80s. My relatives have also pretty much stayed in the same areas for generations. So far I can trace my family before the War of Northern Aggression (or to some of you the Civil War.)

In my quest for documentation I have been requesting copies from the court clerks and state offices. I have found that while the state archives have copies of much of the documentation the county clerks or local historical societies actually hold the originals. I have also found that the local sources have a much more reasonable rate for a certified copy of these documents. Can you imagine a relative’s 1850’s marriage record for $2.50? While the state archives will charge $10.00 or more just to see if they retain a copy. If they don’t you have just lost your money.

Not only do the documents I receive hold a key to my family’s personal history I have been given a glimpse into our country’s history. For instance, the current argument about seperation of church and state and the mind of the founding fathers. Just yesterday I received an official marriage license from Hawkins County in the state of Tennessee. The date of the marriage license is September 13, 1887, and begins with To any Minister of the Gospel, having the care of Souls, or Justice of the Peaces for said county-GREETING. Yes, that’s right—to a minister of the Gospel, not to a minister of the Koran or any other religous writing.

Wikipedia defines gospel as:

"In Christianity, a gospel (from Old English, "good news") is generally one of the first four books of the New Testament that describe the birth, life, ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus. The four canonical texts are the Gospel of Matthew, Gospel of Mark, Gospel of Luke, and Gospel of John, probably written between 65 and 100 AD. They appear to have been originally untitled; they were quoted anonymously in the first half of the second century (ie 100 - 150) but the names by which they are currently known appear suddenly around the year 180.

While Merriam-Webster defines it as:

  1. often capitalized: the message concerning Christ, the kingdom of God, and salvation bcapitalized : one of the first four New Testament books telling of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ ; also : a similar apocryphal book : an interpretation of the Christian message
  2. capitalized : a selection from one of the New Testament Gospels
  3. the message or teachings of a religious teacher
  4. something accepted or promoted as infallible truth or as a guiding principle or doctrine
  5. gospel music

While the Merriam-Webster definition does show that gospel can be used as teachings of a religious teacher the times it is capialized is when in reference to Christianity. Even the certificate for my grandparents who married in New York it states Be it known that on the 17th day of July in the Year of our Lord 1936.

It appears that the further I go back in time the more I find these references to our Christian heritage and not less. Many of the early records that the state archives hold are family Bibles and church records.

Even if the documents weren’t relatives, I would be fascinated with the language and formality of the documents. I am also amazed that the forms are filled out in such a cavalier fashion. The wedding license for one groom lists his name as M.M. Horner. It is only through his daughter’s death certificate do I find that his name was Milton. In another wedding license I find the name of the groom’s father is spelled incorrectly while the official certificate lists Dunkin it should be Duncan. Sometimes my grandmother’s maiden name is listed as Reese and at other times as Reece.

It’s a great big puzzle and I love seeing if the puzzle pieces fit. It can be very frustrating when the pieces don’t fit, but when that missing piece is found it is wonderful. With all the available information on the internet there’s no better time to begin a search for your past.

1 comment:

Mrs.RGS said...

I'm so glad you are enjoying uncovering your family history. Mom did hers during the 1960's when it wasn't as popular as it is now. She would often need to tuck a couple of dollars in a letter requesting copies of documents. Sometimes she would get the document back along with her money. Rarely did she need to send more money.
I think that some entities see it as a revenue maker today and I'm shocked that you've had to pay $10 or more for information (or lack of it)
Have you ever wondered what this country would look like had the southern states created their own country? I just can't imagine it myself.
Hope you had a great time at your Super Bowl party.