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Overheard on the Message Boards: Marriage Information
by Rhonda R. McClure

Each week Rhonda answers a question from the GenForum message boards and gives her expert answer here. We'd love to hear anything you have to add. Go ahead and leave your comments on GenForum with the original message.

September 05, 2002
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Q: I am looking for information on the marriage of Richard David White and Lucy Francis (don't know if this is the last name or not). They may have been married in the Richmond, Virginia area. My grandmother, Myra D. White was born on 28 Oct 1893 and had an uncle named Henry/Harry White. They had lived in Oregon Hill area. His obituary stated that his funeral services were held at Pine Street Baptist Church. I'm looking for additional information on siblings of both sets of parents. -- Judith

A: There are a number of different resources you will probably find yourself turning to in this research. Vital records, census records, perhaps newspapers, and church records come immediately to mind. In order to get the information you seek, as you may see, you will probably need to cast a wider net where your research is concerned.

While there are those who say that your research should be easy given the timeframe, if there is one thing that I have come to discover in researching family trees it is that there are no guarantees in this hobby. While some time periods are easier to research than others, just because you are in one does not mean that you will definitely find what you are searching for.

Exhaust all records to increase your research odds.

What You Know

Armed with what you already know it was possible to identify Richard and his family in the 1900 census. You will find them living at 213 Canal Street in the Monroe Ward of Richmond City, Henrico County, Virginia. This is Enumeration District 69, sheet 1A, line 1.

The 1900 census is useful for many different reasons. First it supplies the month and year of birth for each person enumerated in a household. Since you shared Myra D.'s birth date and I found Richard D. White, with wife Lucy F., and a daughter Myra D. who was born October 1893, I felt confident that this was indeed the family you are researching.

The 1900 census told me that Richard D. White was born June 1859 in Virginia of parents also born in Virginia. His wife Lucy F. was born March 1861 in Virginia of parents born in Virginia. There were two children listed, Myra D. from whom you descend and also a younger sister, Mabel Earl, born June 1899 in Virginia. According to the census, Lucy F. was the mother of two children and two children were living, which indicated to me that the two daughters were the only two she had. Under the number of years married for Richard and Lucy was listed 19 years.

The 1900 census offers a lot of information from which to work from. When coupled with other records, such as the obituary you mentioned, it is possible that you have quite a bit of information to continue your research.

Where to Turn?

Armed with the information listed, I turned my attention first to the Family History Library and its vast holdings. Through their microfilmed collection, it is often possible to gather a lot of information with minimal expense. Instead of either having to travel to the location in question or perhaps paying $10.00 to $15.00 for a certificate, it is often possible to get the same information by renting a few microfilm through your local Family History Center at a fraction of the cost. The Family History Library Catalog is available online with entries through August 2001. There is a CD-ROM version available with catalog entries through April 2002. This is probably the most up to date version with the exception of the catalog available on the computers at the Family History Library itself, which are updated weekly.

I will admit that I was surprised to find that marriage records for Richmond City, which is an independent city, did not go up to 1900. In fact, the birth records for the city that are available on microfilm covered an impressive time span, beginning in 1878 and going up to 1953. The marriages however, go only up to 1878 and are not the microfilms of the originals, but instead are primarily published abstracts. There is one microfilm reel of the marriage register from 1853 to 1878, but this is a short period of time given the history of the state. So unfortunately, while you can get the microfilms for the birth records of Myra D. and her sister Mabel Earl White, you cannot get the marriage record this way.

Ordinarily the next step would be to turn to church records. Whenever you are turning your attention to church records, it is a good idea to be familiar with the record-keeping practices of the denomination in question. For the Baptists, you will want to check out the Encyclopedia of Southern Baptists, in 3 volumes (Nashville: Broadman, 1958); F. Wilbur Helmbold's "Baptist Records for Genealogy and History,"National Genealogical Quarterly 61 (September 1973); pages 168-78. And I think you will find that in the Baptist faith that marriages were not usually recorded in church records. A few pastors may have made some notations in their personal records, but those are few and far between. However, you may want to visit or contact the Library of Virginia, as they have some extensive holdings of Southern Baptist church records.

Finally, you want to write to main archive for the Southern Baptists. Your first letter to them should be to inquire as to the holdings and if they would have the records you need. I would also suggest that you include a self-addressed stamped envelope when you send your inquiry. You can write to them at:

Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archive
901 Commerce Street, Suite 400
Nashville, TN 37203-3630
Telephone: 615-244-0344

A Little Further Digging

Because Richard D. White and Lucy F. were not married until 1881, I did a little further digging. I did some research in the 1880 census, and discovered a Richard D. White, born circa 1860 (which means he was listed as age 20 on the census) living in the house of a brother, Richard R. White, age 24. The family, which includes other brothers and sisters and a mother, Lucy A. White, age 42, are living in Huguenot, Powhatan County, Virginia. As this is a county adjacent to Henrico, in which the independent city of Richmond is found, it certainly should be further investigated. You will find the family on page 142C.

If you haven't done so already, you will want to visit the Henrico County, Virginia USGenWeb page to learn more about Henrico County and the Independent City of Richmond. Specifically, you will want to learn about requesting vital records.

It appears that Henrico County's courthouse is where you will find the marriage records. You can write to them at:

Henrico County Courthouse
4301 E. Parham Road
Richmond, Virginia 23228

In Conclusion

As you can see, some of your research will be done on the Internet, but more of it is likely to be accomplished either through correspondence with the court house or the various archives mentioned above. At least with the information in the 1900 census, you have a potential year of marriage, 1881. I would however, consider marriages from 1880 to 1882 as well. Also, the birth record for Myra D. White through the microfilmed records will at the very least supply you with the maiden name for Lucy F., and then perhaps you can look for her in the earlier census records as well.

See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at

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