Typical Genealogy Research Problem: Here’s What You Want to Do

Marriage Bride and Groom Shutterstock-110347556

Here is my task: find documentation for the marriage of Benjamin Walter Tribble and Lilian Blanche Mathias, who were married on 30 December 1906 in Irmo, South Carolina.

That should be easy.

Step One

I’ll go to FamilySearch.org and look for their marriage certificate.

With billions of records online, this should be quick.

FamilySearch has an online database: South Carolina Marriages 1709-1913.

A close look at this collection shows that so far it has only 4,154 South Carolina marriage records online. Clearly this is a work in process – there must have been hundreds of thousands if not more than a million marriages in South Carolina during those 200+ years.

Let’s search this database and see if their marriage certificate is online.

No. Not there.

I can keep checking back and see when it is uploaded to their site.

Step Two

Digging deeper into FamilySearch’s certificates, I next looked to see if they had records for Irmo, South Carolina.

Irmo is located in both Lexington and Richland Counties in South Carolina.

Let’s look in the FamilySearch online catalog and see if they have microfilm or published marriage records for these counties.

Search the FamilySearch Catalog here: https://familysearch.org/catalog/search

Looking at the records for Lexington County – great – they have marriage licenses and indexes for that county – but only for 1911-1950 and 1911-1958 respectively.

Benjamin and Lilian’s marriage was in 1906 – so I won’t find it there.

Turning to Richland County, South Carolina, I find that FamilySearch has their marriage licenses from 1911-1922 online – but again, no coverage for 1906.

Step Three

Let’s see if there is a record of their marriage in GenealogyBank.com, searching through the South Carolina Newspaper Archives.

OK good.

GenealogyBank has newspaper coverage for South Carolina from 1735 to 1996.

But – I see only seven South Carolina cities are listed and Irmois not one of them.

So – is my search over?

No – wait – there’s more.

Important Genealogy Tip:Marriages, obituaries, etc., were routinely reported by newspapers from around the state. You want to search all the newspapers in your target state and not limit your search to only your ancestors’ local newspapers.

A quick search across all South Carolina newspapers for their wedding announcement quickly pulls up a record about them.

I found their marriage notice.

This newspaper article from a Columbia, South Carolina, newspaper provides a long description of their wedding.

Where else would we learn details such as this:

“The church was darkened and decorated in white and green. Just in front of the pulpit a double arch of evergreens had been erected and from the intersection hung a large white wedding bell. The arch was studded with lighted tapers.”

Wow – a candlelight wedding. That is an image I won’t soon forget.

Bottom Line: Take a balanced approach in your family history research. In searching for marriage records I always look in FamilySearch and GenealogyBank. I want a copy of the original marriage certificate that FamilySearch provides – AND – a firsthand account of the wedding itself that can only be found in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives.

Find and document your family history – gathering the old marriage certificates and also the newspaper articles about their candlelight weddings beneath a canopy of evergreens.


Source Information:

Source #1: GenealogyBank.comSource #2: GenealogyBank.comSource #3: GenealogyBank.com, State (Columbia, South Carolina), 31 December 1906, page 2


Thomas Jay Kemp is the Director of Genealogy Products at GenealogyBank. Tom is an internationally known librarian and archivist. He is the author of over 35 genealogy books and hundreds of articles about genealogy and family history. An active genealogist, he has been working on his own family history for over 50 years.

Tom previously served as the Chair of the National Council of Library & Information Associations (Washington, D.C.) and as Library Director of both the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and the New England Historic Genealogical Society.


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