An 1884 Witness: What It Means and What It Does Not

reprinted from our old blogsite of 2 May 2015

On the list of things I wished they had indexed in the “Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Records, 1875-1940” at Ancestry.com are the witnesses. This 1884 marriage reference makes the case pretty clearly.

Being a witness to a marriage is not proof of a biological connection between the witness and the marrying party, but the notation that someone is a witness is evidence that there was at least some connection between the couple getting married and the witness.

This 1884 marriage entry from Christ Lutheran Church in Gothenburg, Nebraska, indicates that Tamme Tammen and Eke Borcherts were married on 29 March 1884. Two of the witnesses were Fokke Goldenstein and his wife.

Focke Goldenstein is known to have had a nephew Tamme Focken Tamme born in May of 1856 in Velde, Ostfriesland, Germany.

Does this mean that this Tamme Tammen is the same one who was the nephew of Fokke Goldenstein? No. After all, no where on the record does it state that Tamme is Focke’s nephew? It does not–and researchers need to be constantly cognizant in terms of what a record states and what it does not state.

But, Tamme Tammen on the marriage record has an age consistent with a date of birth in May of 1856, when Fokke’s nephew was born and the presence of Fokke Goldenstein as a witness does indicate that the two men knew likely each other.

Of course it doesn’t hurt that the names are not all that common either-that helps in this case.

In some cases, witnesses to a marriage were other “warm bodies” who were hanging around the marriage location. In this case, that does not appear to have been the case.

Note: This image was obtained in the “Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Records, 1875-1940” database on the Ancestry.com site. As of this writing the names of witnesses to marriages are not a part of the index. My advice is to manually view the church registers to see if you person of interest appeared as a witness to any marriage within the church. The names of the groom and bride could be pivotal to your research.  This marriage reference was located by searching for references to Tammens in the “Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Records, 1875-1940” in Nebraska.

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