Friday, July 29, 2011

Way Back When the King of the Wild Frontier Was Jilted in Tennessee

When I speak about the importance of obscure local government records in my “Board of Supervisors” talk– the kinds of records that are rarely microfilmed and generally don’t turn up on the Internet – one of the things I talk about are the records relating to “near marriages” – those “almost weddings” that were planned, but never happened for one reason or another. 

That’s where one of the parties got cold feet, usually right before the ceremony but after the license was obtained.

For example, let’s suppose that “Mary and John” – prospective life partners - get themselves a license to marry in the appropriate local government office in 1868.  Mary – who turns out to be the archetypal “runaway bride” - has second thoughts about John. 

Mary says, “Thanks, but no thanks” and leaves John at the figurative altar.

Folks tend to forget that those marriage license applications are part of the public record. Even when the marriage itself never took place,  the license applications are great informational fodder for genealogists, since they contain the same background info about each of the parties, even though there was no wedding.  Generally, they’re overlooked, because they tend not to make it into the indexed marriage records.  The “Mary-and-John marriage” never took place, so it’s not a “marriage record”, obviously. 

Think about how many of your great-great maiden aunts might have had second thoughts and changed their minds before the deed was done…

Still, these records – often stuffed in out-of-the-way places in city and county clerks’ offices – may contain useful genealogical information. Genealogists need to be aware that such things exist  -often in the form of “loose papers” - and are part of what we sometimes call “the public record.”

Here’s an interesting news story about one of those “almost” marriage records – featuring none other than Davy Crockett – “King of The Wild Frontier” and best remembered today as a prominent Alamo-Person, not as a spurned bridegroom. 

The story is all about who owns what when it comes to government-produced paper and whether governments ever throw out stuff they think is “unimportant.”  Or whether government workers ever walk off with stuff.  There’s even a replevin lawsuit, now finally decided – just to keep things interesting!

When you read the story (and if you’re old enough to remember) try NOT thinking about Fess Parker and NOT humming the theme song to the famous TV series that started:

Born on a mountain top in Tennessee,
The greenest state in the land of the free,
Raised in the woods so's he knew every tree,
Killed him a b’ar when he was only three.

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