Friday, May 6, 2011

Darned Indexes!

Records say the darnedest things

We depend upon records to reveal the “truth” about our pasts.

Yet sometimes records have anomalies.
Some are amusing or humorous.
Some are interesting or weird.
Some are peculiar or suspicious.
Some are infuriating, even downright laughable.

Yes, Records Say the Darnedest Things.”

Records Say the Darnedest Things: Darned Indexes!

An index or other textual derivative may not always represent what a record actually says. Take this example.

The index states that these two were married

Travis Roach married Juanita Hardy on 7 August 1941 in Jackson County, Oklahoma, right? That’s what the index says.1

The image tells a different story

Wrong! This license was canceled; no marriage took place.2

Should this record be in the index if it will be misunderstood? Absolutely!3

This record might tell the story of two star-crossed 17 year olds whose parents denied them true love (judging from the lack of parental signatures). Or the information may be absolutely critical to someone’s research; no doubt there are records just like this one that are the only source of an illegitimate child’s father.


Yes, records say the darnedest things.


Postscript: Doesn’t your heart go out to young girls named “Pet” who fall in love with young men named “Roach”?!

Not that “Pet Roach” is not a perfectly fine name. Don’t write and complain!

I know some perfectly wonderful people named Roach. (Have I gotten my foot out of my mouth yet?)

And there are perfectly wonderful people who have pet roaches. (Maybe I should just stop talking…)


     1. “Oklahoma County Marriages, 1891-1959,” index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 5 May 2011), Travis Roach, married 1941; citing “originals housed in the clerks’ offices of the district courts in various counties throughout Oklahoma.”

     2. “Oklahoma County Marriages, 1891-1959,” index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 5 May 2011), Travis Roach, married 1941; citing “originals housed in the clerks’ offices of the district courts in various counties throughout Oklahoma.”

     3. My thanks to BAMaxwell for bringing this record to my attention. See BAMaxwell [alias], “"Canceled" Oklahoma County Marriage,” forum post, 12 October 2010, FamilySearch Forums Beta ( : accessed 5 May 2011), FamilySearch Support > FamilySearch Indexing > Indexing Projects  > United States and Canada Projects (post 17045).


  1. And interesting how just one slip of paper, with one scrawled word might tell the story of a whole life, or of broken lives and heartaches. In all our databases, with all our collected evidence and sources maybe we forget sometimes how those slips of paper relate to real people with real things happening to them, how they mark the life changing events that happen. Makes me think; if I had to find one piece of paper, one record that marked the most important event/change/happening in my life - what would it be? What would it be for each of my ancestors?

  2. Martin,

    Well said. You've made me think, also.

    -- The Insider

  3. It would be interesting to see what newspapers say happened around the time this marriage was supposed to take place.
    Perhaps that would give a clue to why it didn't happen!

  4. The other issue with this particular record set is the name. There is a county in Oklahoma named Oklahoma. Many of our customers--and even a staff member-- at the library look at the title and say "My relatives didn't marry in Oklahoma County, so why look at this?"

    Have to look beyond both indexes and titles--


  5. Who is the "young girl" named Pet? This is given under the husband's parent, which could as easily be Travis's father as his mother--I think it likely that both parents names given are those of the fathers.

  6. Dear Bib,

    Wow! Nice catch. FamilySearch interpreted the data and didn't inform their patrons! That is a big no no for genealogy record providers.

    -- The Insider

  7. How'm I supposed to do some work if you guys keep making interesting comments?

    Looking at this image for the first time, I think it highly likely that the form has actually been completed incorrectly anyway!

    The consent sections have been filled in using this format:
    I the undersigned [name-of-parent] of [residence-place] named in the above application as being of [age = 17 ] years etc, etc

    This actually doesn't make sense as if you read it, as it implies the undersigned is 17 as well. So all of Travis Roach, Pet Roach, Juanita Hardy and Birdie Hardy are all 17 years old!

    If you go to the next image, the format used is different - and it's a pasted correction, so that it reads:
    I the undersigned [name-of-parent and relationship] of [name-of-party-to-be-married] named in the above application as being of [age = 19 ] years etc, etc

    Now that makes sense - instead of "of" referring to the residence, it refers to "mother of" and the age refers just to that of the person being married.

    So how are we supposed to interpret records if they're not correctly filled in in the first place?!

    Adrian B


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