Is the Proof in the Pension Good Enough?


“Good enough” is a phrase that sometimes really isn’t actually good enough.

The widow’s pension application of Eliza Jane Ramsey based on her husband, Harrison Ramsey, having served in the Mexican War contains a “certified copy of record of marriage” made in 1892.

The certification indicated that the couple was married in Mercer County, Missouri, on 1 October 1855 by Hiram Fletcher, Justice of the Peace.

It was good enough for her pension application. Whether it is good enough for my research is another matter entirely. If the original records are not extant, it may be the only record of their date and place of marriage that I will be able to find. If all I need is a documentation that they were married, then it’s “good enough.”

But what was good enough for the pension office may not be good enough to me. It’s partially because the pension office was concerned about documenting her marriage to the veteran. That’s something I need to document too in my research. But I may need more than that. There may be additional information on the marriage record–some clue perhaps that is not included in the certified handwritten copy. There may be a letter of consent from a parent. There may be a notation about the bride being a “Mrs.” or something else that matters to someone researching the family.

The pension office is not usually interested in those details. But at least this certified copy gives me a date and place of marriage. If I cannot find them in marriage indexes, I have a time frame to look through the local records manually in an attempt to find the record. That’s a good way to use pension records as individuals often had to provide evidence of certain events and that evidence (often in the form of certified copies or affidavits) can lead us to additional information.


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