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Posts Tagged ‘genealogical research’

Today we are required to register all life events we experience with a government agency. The birth of a baby means a birth certificate, a loved one’s death requires a death certificate {insurance agencies and social security demand one before they will pay out}, if you want to get married then you have to obtain a marriage license, and a divorce means going before a judge to obtain a divorce decree.

Certificate of Birth
Time has changed considerably in the last century. A hundred years ago many of these documents either didn’t exist or in the infancy stages of existence.

So let’s take a closer look at these documents:
A birth certificate registers the birth of a child. A hundred years ago women seldom went to the hospital. Usually they would give birth at home with a midwife or town doctor. {These were the days when the doctor would come to you.} Before birth certificates a birth was recorded in the family bible. In doing genealogy research you may also find a record of the infant’s baptism in church records or if they were born in a census year you can sometime narrow it down to the month of the birth.

Today we have a social security number assigned to us shortly after birth. In 1912 they did not exist. The first social security numbers were assigned in November 1936.

A death certificate registers the death of an individual. People that were ill usually stayed home, although they may have gone to the hospital, if one was in the area. Nursing facilities did not exist in the abundance they do today. A death was recorded in the family Bible, church cemetery records, or in the mortality census for the years 1850, 1860 and 1870.

So when did birth and death certificates originate? It varies per state, although most states had them by the 1920s. You can find out for your state by searching vital records. However, here are the dates for five states to show you how broad the range is: North Carolina-1909; Virginia-1913; Tennessee—1914; South Carolina-1915; and Georgia-1919.

A Marriage Record in An Old Bible

A century ago to get married you did not have to obtain a marriage license. All you needed was a minister to marry you. Some states did have marriage bonds during the Nineteenth Century, which was a monetary guarantee that there was no impediment to the marriage. Again the dates of these records vary. North Carolina began in 1868 on a county level, but did not begin on a statewide level until the Twentieth Century. Let’s look at when some other states began: South Carolina-1911; Virginia-1936; Tennessee-1945; and Georgia-1952.

Although she had been married for fourteen years and had three children, my great-grandmother was unhappy in her marriage. I searched everywhere for divorce records and discovered that they did not exist in the early Twentieth century. My great-grandmother left her husband and returned to her family. When I obtained a copy of the marriage license to my great-grandfather, I was surprised to realize she listed herself as a widow {her first husband did not die for another 20 years and lived nearby}. This was often the way women handled a “divorce” and “remarriage” a century ago. Divorce was taboo then compared to today. Many women stayed in unhappy or abusive marriages because they had nowhere to go and no money to leave. Divorce was one in one thousand in 1912. I’ve not been able to find exact dates when a divorce decree was issued, but I have seen many references to it being in the 1950s, just to give you an idea.

In what ways would the lack of vital records affect your life today?

Vital Record Books

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