FamilySearch Indexed My Ancestor As Marrying His Sister

Indexes are not the same thing as records. Indexes are finding aids.

One may be tempted to think that just because the index says that Augusta Newman and Sophia Thomas  were married in Nicholas County, Kentucky, in 1829 that they actually were. Researchers whose prime interest is in speed and collecting names may simply copy the information into their database and go from there. That would be a mistake. Augusta and Sophia are not husband and wife.

They are brother and sister.

That’s just the first lesson in the “marriage” entry for Augusta Newman and Sophia Thomas in “Kentucky County Marriages 1797-1829” at FamilySearch: look at the actual record from which the index entry was created.

First of all, it’s not even a marriage. The index entry links to an image of an oath made by Augusta Newman in regards to Sophia Thomas. But that oath had nothing to do with their marriage. It states:

Nicholas County Sct. Augt 8rd 1829.

Augusta Neuman this day made oath before me that the within named Sophia Thomas acknd this certificate in his presence for the uses therein mentioned.


E H. Parks DC

The use of the word “within” in “within named Sophia Thomas” and the phrase “this certificate” suggested that there was more to this oath. Sophia must have signed some document that Augusta witnessed.

To navigate to the previous image in hopes of locating more information, I clicked on the left navigational arrow. That resulted in the following screen.

That document did not mention Sophia Thomas. It was signed by William A. Thomas and James Campbell and mentioned the impending marriage of Thomas to Lorana Campbell (it was the marriage bond). Sophia Thomas was not mentioned. I zoomed out of the image and realized there was another document at the bottom of the image. One picture had been taken to capture two pieces of paper. The upper item was the marriage bond. The lower item was the one to which Augusta Newman was referring.

There it was. This was apparently the document signed by Sophia Thomas and attested to by Augusta Newman. While I have not compared the document images to see if the edges are a perfect match, there seems little doubt this is the other side of the document image where Augusta Newman made out an oath regarding the validity of Sophia Thomas’ signature.

Sophia and Augusta were not getting married. Sophia gave permission on 3 August 1829 for her son, William A. Thomas, to marry. Augusta Newman attested to her actual signature. Augusta Newman took the document to the courthouse and swore out an oath that he witnessed her signature.

I could be irritated that the index indicated Augusta and Sophia married when they actually did not.

However I might not have located the item had their names not been indexed in this fashion. Sophia and Augusta were brother and sister–that’s not stated anywhere in this record and is information that’s been located in other records. Sophia’s husband was dead and Augusta was helping her arrange for her son to get a marriage license. It even appears that Augusta wrote out the letter himself for Sophia to sign–actually make her mark. That’s a neat discovery for someone who is a descendant of Augusta to make.

One difficulty with using digital images of local records is that they often come in a variety of sizes with important details written on both sides. Sometimes the details on one side help explain what is on the other side. Sometimes it can be difficult to know which “front” goes with which “back.” It can also be easy to overlook records–particularly if one does not make certain one has viewed all that has been digitized.



One thought on “FamilySearch Indexed My Ancestor As Marrying His Sister

  1. Charles Hansen says:

    Indexing old records is hard sometimes. I was cleaning out my grandparents house and found a graduation notice of someone I did not know, but the same surname as my grandma, so I went to family search and found this person and an obit for his father from Gene Bank. It also listed his grand mothers, Bernice and Lola. Problem is Bernice was his grandfather, I have several photos of Bernice and he is very much a man.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>