The Heritage Gazette

March 2009 Vol. 1 No. 1
Dear Cousin Heathcliff,
      I recently found some information on my 4th great-grandfather on family trees.  They say he was born around 1748 in Bedford County, Virginia but when I check out Bedford County I can't find him any where.  What should I do?      
                                                         Thanks, Confused
Dear Confused,
       This might ease your confusion.  There could be several reasons why you can not find your 4th great-grandfather in Bedford County, Virgnia.  One reason could be that Bedford County was formed in 1753 - 1754.  Bedford was formed from Lunenberg County.  Therefore, if your 4th great-grandthater was born in 1748 he could of actually been born in Lunenberg County.   Research county formations as Lunenberg County was formed in the 1700's too.  
Dear Cousin Heathcliff,
     I'm new at genealogy research and have a lot of information on a certain ancestor.  But I would really like to research a different ancestor who I find very interesting but I don't have much to start with on this ancestor.  Which ancestor should I research first?
                                                         Sincerely, Beginner
Dear Beginner,
    The choice is yours.  But if you go with the ancestor that motivates you the most you just might make more progress!     
When searching for marriage records there are different types of records to look for depending on the time period your ancestor was married.   
Marriage Banns - In colonial America, for a marriage to take place, the prospective bride and groom's up coming marriage was announced in a Christian church on three consecutive Sundays or in a public place.  This gave time for any person to bring up any legal problems to the marriage such as if either the bride or groom were already married or they were too closely related.  This was the precurser to modern marriages where anyone who is against the marrage is asked to come forward.
Marriage Bonds - These bonds became law in Virginia around 1660.  Before marriage the groom was required to take out a bond in the county where his bride lived.  The bondsman (surety) was usually a relative of the bride (not necessarily her parent) and less frequently, a relative of the groom.  Bonds were to guarantee that the proposed marriage was legal.   No money was exchanged unless the proposed marriage did not take place.  Bonds disappeared around the mid 1800's.
Marriage License -  Marriage licenses have been around for a long time.  In the past, a marriage license could be obtained from clergy or a government official such as the county clerk.  A fee was paid for the license and said marriage between the bride and groom could legally take place. 
Certificate of Marriage - This certificate is usually filled out by the person conducting the marriage, signed by witnesses and indicates that the marriage did happen.  This information can also be included on the marriage license.
Consent Affidavit - A consent affidavit is used for anyone under the legal age to marry.  In colonial America, anyone under the age of 21 had to have the consent of a parent or guardian.  The parent would accompany the couple to the church or county clerk and verbally give consent for them to marry. 
Marriage Records 
     The census have come a long way since the first U.S. Federal Census in 1790.  The 1790 census was short on information with only the name of the head of household listed. All others were just a mark under free white males sixteen or older, free white males under sixteen, free white females, other free persons and slaves.  The state, county and sometimes townships were also listed.  Through the early 1800's the census changed where the age groups were divided up into smaller categories but it wasn't until the 1850 census that other family members who lived in the same household were listed by name.   
     In the days of yore, it was a real challenge to collect data for the census.  Many census takers were chased away by animals and people who were suspicious of these strangers coming around asking questions.  Early census takers were paid for their work but it didn't always cover all their expenses. For example, they had to provide their own transportaton and in the early census their own paper.  For some years census takers were paid by the number of names listed which led to census takers creating names and adding them to their list.  Now most censuses are mailed to the public and mailed back to the census bureau.  It is required by law to complete the census.  Among other things, the census is used to distribute federal funds to the states, determine congressional seats and community services.  Family historians and genealogy researchers use the census to discover their ancestors and to learn more about them such as where and when they were born, occupation and if they could read and write.  No doubt future generations will glean lots of information about us.  To learn more about the census go to .
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