Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sources, Information, and Evidence: Marriage License Application Example

What is the Genealogical Proof Standard?

I'm currently reading Christine Rose's 56 page booklet titled Genealogical Proof Standard: Building a Solid Case, 4th Edition Revised. Chapter 1 was about the Genealogical Proof Standard and, more specifically, step number three in which we analyze and correlate all sources, information, and evidence. Although I feel pretty comfortable with these concepts, I am realizing my challenge lies in understanding how certain documents were created. The example I'll be using in this post is a marriage license application for my grandparents.

But, before we can analyze and correlate, we must start with a research question.

My Research Question

Who was the mother of Evelyn (Dickson) Kaechle (1915-2004)?

Document: Marriage License Application and Certificate

"Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013," database, FamilySearch ( : accessed 14 January 2017), entry for Sherman J Kaechle and Evelyn Dickson, 5 July 1941, Lucas County, page 152, application number 133454; citing "Marriage Records, Ohio Marriages."

Source: Original, Derivative, or Authored?

To determine what type of source this is, we must understand how the document was created. When the couple came in to get a marriage license, was the information written directly into this book which would make it an original? Or, did they fill out some other paper and the clerk transcribed into this book which would make it a derivative?

"Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013," database, FamilySearch ( : accessed 14 January 2017), 1941, Lucas County, pages 152-153; citing "Marriage Records, Ohio Marriages."

First, let's look at the book. Each two-page spread covers six couples. The top portion of each entry is the license application, and the second part is the marriage certificate.

"Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013," database, FamilySearch ( : accessed 14 January 2017), entry for Leo A Studivant and Marian Hancock, 5 July 1941, Lucas County, page 153, application number 133457; citing "Marriage Records, Ohio Marriages."

Another couple from this page is a better example showing the difference in handwriting. It appears the clerk filled out the information for this couple, including the marriage certificate, but the couple actually signed the document about 2/3rds the way down. The way the clerk wrote the groom's name, it appears as Leo C Sturdivant. But, the signature clearly shows Leo A Studivant. And, Marian Hancock's signature appears as a third example of handwriting on the page.

If you return to the top image, you'll notice differences between the rest of the document and the signatures of my grandparents, Sherman J Kaechle and Evelyn Dickson. So, it appears this document was the document that was created when my grandparents applied for a marriage license, so this is an original source.

[Interestingly, it appears the clerk filled out all of the information for the marriage certificate. Since he was probably copying from the actual marriage certificate, this would be a derivative source.]

Information: Primary, Secondary, or Indeterminable?

Regarding information, we must look at the specific piece of information in the source. In this case, the research question was "Who was the mother of Evelyn (Dickson) Kaechle?" So, the piece of information we are interested in is where the marriage application lists the name of Evelyn's mother as Nora Ward. Since Evelyn signed this document, I believe we can reasonably assume she provided the information. However, Evelyn's mother died when Evelyn was a baby. She would have no first-hand recollection that her mother was Nora Ward. So, this information is secondary.

Evidence: Direct, Indirect, or Negative?

In regards to evidence, we must also look at the specific item within the source that is in question. Again, we are asking, "Who was the mother of Evelyn (Dickson) Kaechle?" So, the piece of information we are interested in is where the marriage application lists the name of Evelyn's mother as Nora Ward. Since this piece of information directly answers the research question, this is direct evidence.


My grandmother, Evelyn (Dickson) Kaechle, was raised by her maternal grandmother, Sallie (Dickson) Ward (1860-1960). Her biological mother, Nora, died when Evelyn was a baby.

When I started doing genealogy 19 years ago, finding Nora (Ward) Dickson was a difficult task. I knew Nora died about the same time my grandmother was born, so around 1915, but I didn't know when Nora was born. I also knew that Nora was the daughter of Sallie Ward, who raised my grandmother, and her husband Reuben Ward.

The 1900 census was the only surviving census where Nora should have been living with her parents, and yet no one named Nora was listed in the household. A 1910 census appears to have Nora's correct husband, James B Dickson, and three oldest children, but the mother's name is listed as Martha, not Nora. Going back to the 1900 census of Nora's parents, we see a Martha L who is the same age as Martha Dickson, James B Dickson's wife.

A huge revelation for me was when I realized "Nora" was short for Lenora! And, in fact, Martha Lenora Ward, the daughter of Reuben and Sallie Ward, was also Martha "Nora" Dickson, my grandmother's mother. Records found later supported this conclusion.

As a new genealogist, finding Nora was my first "big" discovery.


  1. This is really interesting - I'm glad you're summarizing what you're learning.

    Isn't it amazing when the light bulb goes off and you realize that someone used a different name? I always though my 2x great grandmother was Francis (or Frances) and couldn't figure out why my 2x great grandfather was buried with someone named Frederick. When I finally saw a photo of the grave I realized it said Fredericka - I'm guessing she went by Francis to make her name more Americanized. And sure enough, when I got her death certificate it showed as Fredericka.

    1. Interesting, Debi! That might be another good study - perhaps using charts - of comparing the records and the names you saw. If you had a birth certificate, that might be the most reliable?

      My grandmother has a small, but confusing problem. We don't know which was her first and which was her middle name! Different records say different things. We think she went by her middle name. Anyway, her birth record is a delayed record, but I still should look at it again and see which order her names are listed.


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